I recently spent 30 days in Thailand. Local currency (baht) was down, affording me an opportunity to stay in good hotels. Getting around was a breeze, a variety of means available at any time of day or night: buses, coaches, rickshaws (tuk-tuk), trains, boats and planes.
Thailand has a bit of everything: golden shrines, majestic ruins, rain forests and palm-fringed beaches. One can spend all day sipping cool and fresh coconut juice in a long tailed boat floating lazily in Mekong River. Or one can join an action-packed tour involving elephant trekking, horse riding, canoeing, mountain biking and adventurous safaris.
By far the best (or worst) was trekking in the north. Over-estimating my physical condition and underestimating the age-factor, I joined a group, mostly girls from USA and Australia. Initially, it was fun to rub shoulders with young ones and be among heaving busts. Soon the truth dawned at me. I was no match for them.
The trail snaked through dense jungle in a steep rise and fall. The rainy season had made the path slippery and dangerous. There were deep river valleys, waterfalls and caves. There were swarms of mosquitoes, bees and insects leaving swollen red-hot marks on white thighs and bare shoulders. It required the skill of a tight-rope-walker, stamina of a commando, and an ability to adapt to unusual situations to keep moving on in one piece.
Soon I was exhausted and stayed behind. I lost concentration and had blurred vision. Was it the altitude or end-of-endurance? My heart was pumping heavily, throat went dry and lower jaw moved uncontrollably. I barely managed to grab a tree, rotated myself a little and rested my back on it. I couldn't stand still for long and fell on my butts. I tried to shout to draw attention of the tour-guide but it seemed I was speechless besides being breathless. The end was in sight. I thought of those things which I had done but shouldn't have, and of those I've not done which I should've. I planned what I would do if I survived. Realizing how powerless a man can become I uttered Allaho-Akberö - God is great.
Luckily, the trek guide found me and gave a helping hand to reach stop number one. A grand welcome was in store for me, many hugged and kissed me out of sheer sincerity and concern. A mug of hot coffee was passed on to me, followed by traditional Thai massage by a villager, rekindling my desire to continue on. Clare, an English girl backed me up. The hike involved fifteen hours of trekking, ten miles of bamboo rafting in a wild river and three miles of unruly elephant ride. It lasted for three days in all. I must say I could make it only because I was either pushed or pulled by the guide or the trekkers.