Published: January 30th 2012January 29th 2012
From the hectic pace of Bangkok, Aoife and I headed for the more laid back city of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. The main reason for going to Chiang Mai was to go trekking in the jungle. We booked a 3 day 2 night trek with a travel agent that included the bus and our first nights accommodation in Chiang Mai. The trip didn't start well. Someone with the bus company stole a few things from my rucksack including a watch, sunglasses, earphones and my new Robbie Fowler t-shirt. Thankfully I had mailed home to Ireland the Muangthong United jersey that Fowler had signed for me!
We arrived in Chiang Mai around 6am on December 17th
. After we checked into our hotel and had some breakfast we tried to get some sleep. Not as easy as we thought. The room beside us decided to play some crap dance music full blast. After about an hour of that a domestic kicked off in the room below us between some English couple. The chick was basically roaring at the guy about his lack of input into their wedding plans. “Get out while you still can” was what I shouted down. They eventually
shut up and we managed to get a couple of hours sleep.
We spent the day by the pool and went for some dinner in the city centre. We didn’t see much of the city but it seemed nice enough. Lot of rats along the river though! We were leaving early for our trek to the jungle so we stayed off the beer and watched some soccer. I’d a bit of good fortune when a €5 bet on three soccer results came up netting me around €220. I felt like it was a bit of deserved karma after being robbed.
Staying off the beer turned out to be a bad mistake as the hotel was even worse at night. A party kicked off in our hallway, there was another domestic and at around 4am there was screaming as if someone had been killed. I heard some guy shouting "that's it we're out here, she has been bitten". There was mayhem. Everyone on our trek the next day was wondering what it was that bitten her! Thankfully we got out of that hotel, never to return, and headed for the more tranquil jungle. Sleeping on bamboo in the middle
of nowhere would be heaven compared to that hotel!
The bus left at 9am and brought us out to the edge of the jungle and we began our trek. There were 13 of us in total led by our guide “Jungle Joe”, a real character. His favourite phrases were "Oh my buddha" and "love you big like mountain". We had a really nice group of people on our trek, many different nationalities. There were four South African lads with us for just one night and the rest of us were doing the 3 day 2 night trek. These included 2 girls, one from England and one from Spain and the rest were 2 lads from New Zealand, 1 from Oman and 1 from France. We all got on well and it made the experience much better craic.
We trekked till lunchtime with a couple of 5 minute breaks along the way. The trek was challenging enough and there were some steep hills that we had to climb but it was really enjoyable. We were spurred on by our surroundings. The air was so fresh and clean, the scenery was amazing and there was something peaceful about been out
in the jungle away from the noise of regular life. We had an hour break for lunch and then we trekked until about 6pm, where we reached a small waterfall to freshen up. One last steep hill and we arrived at the huts where we set up camp for the night. We all shared a big bamboo hut, each with our own mosquito nets. After some cold showers, we sat down to a nice meal cooked by Jungle Joe. After dinner, we gathered around the fire sharing stories drinking some well-earned beer, late into the night. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, just a blanket of stars above us. We were at one with nature!
The next morning was a different story. I had a brutal hangover! It was a real struggle to keep going on the trek. Every time we took a break I planted myself amid the vegetation and insects, head against my rucksack even if just for a few minutes shut eye. At lunch it was a similar story and after a nice kip in a hammock I was feeling myself again. We trekked till about 6pm till we reached a big waterfall that we
were all looking forward to. The water was freezing but we all braved it even after one of the lads spotted a snake slithering off the rock and into the water nearby! Our bamboo huts were just down from the waterfall beside the river and we had our own hut. It was nice at night hearing the sound of the river flowing by. Jungle Joe cooked us dinner again and it was a bit of a quieter night for me than the one before!
The next morning we trekked for about an hour where we all bailed into the back of a pick-up truck. We were driven off to an elephant sanctuary where we went on the elephants. Two baby elephants kept up with us, causing a couple of hairy moments when we were going down a few steep parts. After the trek we bought some bananas and fed the elephants, which was good fun. After this we drove on a bit further for some bamboo rafting down the river, 3 of us to a raft. It was fairly shallow and the rapids were small but it was a good laugh.
Waiting for our bus back to Chiang
Mai, we all had a few drinks celebrating the fact that we made it to the other side and we brought a few with us for the road. One of the lads, I think it was Az from Oman, always up for a bit of craic, put forward a game where each one of us would have to do a different laugh that was given to them by the group and then the group would judge pass or fail. It’s funnier than it sounds. I had to do ‘hysterical laugh’ while Aoife had to do ‘elephant laugh’. Some of the other ones were ‘evil laugh’ and ‘laugh like a pig’. Very funny, and I’m sure the few beers helped!
When we got back to Chiang Mai, Aoife and I made our way to the Top Garden hotel while the others stayed at the nightmare hotel. (I’d booked it before we left for the trek; it was a really nice little guesthouse) We went for a nice dinner and then met up with everyone from the trek. Jungle Joe had organised for us all to go see some Muai Thai boxing. We all chipped in to buy him a bottle
of whiskey and we threw a few quid in with it to thank him for everything. He was a good guy.
Muai Thai boxing basically combines boxing and martial arts. They rarely slug it out and it is more about tactics, waiting for the right opportunity to attack without leaving your guard down. One of the fights was between two girls which attracted plenty of attention. The last fight was the most entertaining as we had a fighter to shout for, the legendary Duho. His friends, who had a few placards and were fairly quiet to be honest, asked me to get our group to shout for him. I asked everyone to shout for him but I was definitely the one leading the line! Probably what can only be described as a mixture of Will Ferrell in Old School cheering on Blue, in my case “You’re my boy Duho” and the enraged Mickey shouting at Rocky. We were certain it helped, earning him a hard earned draw. You could tell he was appreciative of the vocal support and he posed for a bad-ass photo before he left the ring. Duho fan club coming soon!
The night didn’t end
there and we made our way to a few more bars. There was a series of dance offs throughout the night! At one stage it turned into a push up competition. I’ve since found out that red bull is eight times stronger in Thailand than at home. It would explain a lot!
Our time in Chiang Mai was one of the most enjoyable parts of our trip so far. The 3 day trek in the jungle was class and I couldn’t recommend it enough to anyone planning to visit Thailand. The trek is a bit of a challenge in parts and you are roughing it out in the jungle so it might not be for everyone. But for us, the challenge of trekking through the jungle, the amazing scenery, the fact that there was nobody else around for miles, and a few cold ones at the end of the day all served to make it an unforgettable experience.
There are more photos below