As I mentioned in my post about Chiang Mai, trekking is one of the major reasons that tourists come to northern Thailand. Being the obliging backpackers we were we set off on such a trek for two of our 7 days in Chiang Mai.
The trip was organised through the guest house which worked out well for us because it meant that isntead of being like other treks with group sizes up to 24, it was just our group of four, plus Toto the singing guide. The first day was spent visiting waterfalls and hot springs outside of the city followed by a 10km walk to the village where we would spend the night. The trek, as Toto described it consisted of three hills – baby mountain, mumma mountain and pappa mountain. Named so because baby mountain was very naughty and was at about a 75 degree angle the entire way whilst mumma mountain was nice and gradually inclined. As it turned out baby mountain was much like its father who also gave us a steep angle to trek up. Along the way we stopped at various hilltribe villages who lived in traditional bamboo huts and still hunted a lot of thier food etc. However Thailand wouldn’t be Thailand without someone trying to make a sale and below you’ll see a picture a of Trav getting the sales pitch from a young girl at one of the villages we visited.
After conquoring the family of mountains and reaching the village, which was definitely bigger than any of the others we had seen on our way we went for a swim in the icy waters of the river to cool down followed by a nap. Only two of us managed to wake up for dinner and to spend a big of time around the fire with the villagers. Here we sampled homebrew “happy water” or, rice whisky as well as sending a lantern up into the sky with a few fireworks tied to the end for good measure before heading to bed.
The second day began with a big breakfsat accompaniedd by a sampling of tea and coffee from the surrounding villages. The coffee was actually really nice and the first I’ve been able to enjoy black, although I still had to add half a teaspoon of sugar to take a bit of the edge off. Afterwards we saw our elephants arrive at the village from somewhere nearby and have a bath before we hopped on the huge creatures for an hour and a half walk down the river. Their skin felt so strange to the touch and I’m still not sure what the purpose of all the hair on their body is for but they are such amazing creatures and a pleasure to spend a little bit of time with. We knew the end of our time on the elephants was near as we could hear Toto singing his way down the river on a bamboo raft which we would soon accompany him on for the next two hours.
The bamboo rafting was probably the most fun of the trek as it was a completly new experience and so much fun! When we werent trying to sink the raft or drench each other with water Toto kept us entertained by trying to teach us a Thai song, passing around the happy water and playing with the slingshot. Not to mention the small rapids we had to navigate our way through and avoid becoming “titanic raft” as Toto so eloquently put it. We stopped at another riverside village along the way where we laughed at the large group of tourists coming down the river all wearing life vests in rafts much more buoyant than ours whilst we had no vests, a raft that was falling apart, and happy water.
We followed the river down to where the white water began, an area where our already sketchy raft certainly couldn’t continue and had lunch. Stomachs full of pad Thai we began our white water rafting which was good fun, however when the boat leader stopped and started breathing air into the boat himself we became slightly worried. Nevertheless we continued down the rapids, yet the problems did not. Selke and Trav managed to break their paddles in a waterfight with another raft and when we made it to the end and lifted the raft out of the river two of the handles ripped off the side.
Trekking in Chiang Mai is defintely something that anyone travelling through the region should look into. The scenery both on top of the mountains and rafting down the river is at times breathtaking and well worth the money you spend – which is far less than any comparable trip back home.