Published: February 10th 2006January 29th 2006
Visiting the longneck tribe
Chiang Mai is the second largest town in Thailand, but has a completely different feel than Bangkok. The climate seems to be much more temperate due to its northern location. You can actually wear jeans and not sweat your *#$%^ off. The town has a slower pace then the bustling capitol and makes a distinct effort to cater to the western crowd. You can see why the place is filled with Expats. Trek
After one day of exploring the city I was off on a 3 day 2 night trek. Around 10 am myself and the crew of 6 other trekkers piled into a Songathew (think pickup truck with two benches and a metal cover), and drove north for a few hours. I was fortunate to be matched with a great group of people: a married couple from England (Bob & Kath), an Australian (Brenton), a Ukrainian Girl (Marsha) and a french couple. We had a quick lunch followed by a quick visit to the "long neck tribe" before piling back into the Songathew for another 20 minute ride.
We were finally dropped off a little after 2 pm for our first climb of
For every liter of water I drand it seemed like I sweated out 2.
the trip. The first day was about three hours of walking, ascending to around 1000 meters (if our guide was correct), but I swear we covered every meter at least twice with all the up and down. We had a quick stop for a swim under a waterfall (Freezing!!) and then we were off again.
Our guide for the trek, Sing, was one of the friendliest people I've met on the trip. A real nice guy. Unfortunately, since he treks 6 days a week he is in great shape. He set a brisk pace every day with a few short breaks. I soon learned that the secret was to stay as close to Sing as you could manage. If you were the last one to arrive (usually Kath or Brenton) to the "break" you'd barely get a second to catch your breath before Sing would announce "OKAAAYYY" and we'd be off again.
Our first night was spend in a tiny hill village. Thankfully they had a bucket of Beer Chang waiting. I had never earned one more then after that first days trek, of course little did I know that mark would be clearly passed the
The day 1 water fall. The water seemed to be just above freezing.
next day. The village children greeted us (read harassed) as we arrived, and wouldn't leave us alone for what seemed like hours. When dusk settled we gathered around the fire inside our residence to keep warm. The rest of the night was spend playing cards and chatting before crawling under our mosquito nets for some rest.
The second day was all trekking, 3 hours up and 3 hours down. It was completely exhausting. When we reached the halfway point Sing offered to take an optional trip to the highest point on the mountain. Only three of us decided to go for mini excursion. I almost decided not to go, but once the French and British guys opted in I knew (historically) they might need some saving from the American :). In hindsight I'm very glad I made the extra effort, it was worth the spectacular view.
Our second night found us in yet another small mountain village. This time we met up with another group of five or so trekkers who were all good people. Most of us ended up spending the night drinking "Thai water" in the hut with our two guides. I'm not sure
These kids wouldn't give us any peace after our exhausting first day. I can't wait to have kids of my own!!
what "Thai water" is exactly, best guess is some kind of moonshine whiskey, but it certainly packs a punch. On the spur of the moment I decided to sleep out under the stars. I grabbed my mat and set up on the porch. It was a great decision, although it was a little cold, the stars were breath taking! You don't see stars like that at home (at least not in Boston). BIRTHDAY
The third day of our trek was my 29th Birthday. I woke up tot he sound of roosters Cock-a-doodleing their heads off. By the way it's a common misconception that they start at sunrise, it's more like 3 am. We had breakfast followed by a relatively short but slippery 2 hour descent to the river. Once at the river we went on a 45 minute elephant ride. Unfortunately Brenton and I shared the biggest elephant of the group named Bam. Every minute or two he'd look down the steep slope like he was going to bolt for some bamboo shoots. About half way through our ride Bam decided to stop for a little fun. He turned sideways on the narrow path and the (hopefully
Our luxurios accomidations on the first night.
female) elephant behind us reached under ours and gave him a nice little "massage". Of course Brenton and I had not idea what was going on from our vantage point, but the others quickly informed us between bouts of laughter.
After the elephant ride, we were off white water rafting, followed by bamboo rafting. The rapids were pretty tame (maybe class 2) due to low season, and the bamboo raft was so overloaded it floated 3 feet under water. Overall it was good fun though.
We returned to Chiang Mai after the rafting, and after a quick shower we all met up for a bite to eat and hit the town for my Bday. I even got a few gifts from my fellow treckers (drinks from the guys, and 2 wraped gifts from the girls) very touching! It was a great night out and one of most memorable birthdays I've ever had.
There are more photos below