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Published: July 28th 2009
The following day we all took a night train to Chiang Mai. The train was quite easy to find, and the information really easy to follow. The people in the station we all really friendly, and it seemed like they all wanted to help us, although a lot of people were wearing swine flu masks! The train itself was a lot more rickety than the trains had been in India, but all of the Thai people in our carriage who we spoke to were really happy that we were going to Chiang Mai!
When we arrived there in the morning, our first impressions were that the city was green and seemed like a big village, even though it is the second biggest city in Thailand. In the day we decided to check out the markets, and were quite excited to see that they were not geared towards tourists and felt a bit more authentic. We also found the art quarter, where the owner of a café by the river gave us some ceramic animals for choosing to have some lunch there. It was good to go to a few small galleries to see what the art scene was like there,
and we were all impressed. In the evening we found our way to the night market which blew the four of us away because of the atmosphere there.
The hill tribe trek that we had arranged, began at eight o'clock the following morning. We were driven into the hills, and walked through streams and mountain ranges. At some points it was quite muddy, and I fell over on a couple of occasions! We saw some huge spiders and a couple of snakes, and it felt really good to be out in the jungle. Tarzan, our guide, was from a tribe called the Karen, who are one of the largest hill tribe groups in Thailand. When we arrived at the tribe, the women all were wearing brightly coloured thickly woven V-neck tunics with beautiful hand crafted detail on them. When we went for a walk around the village the children were all super cute! We got treated to a cooking lesson from our guide, although he was saying the food he was making was for tourists and his favourite food was squirrel intestine! That night sat around having dinner in the jungle was an amazing experience, it was pitch black,
with lots of stars above us and crazy noises from different animals and insects all around us.
The following day started with us all (me first) tasting some cooked squirrel intestine, which to me tasted a bit like marmite. The walk took us through untread paths in the jungle, and over some incredible scenery, including rice paddies that felt as though they were in the middle of nowhere. Our guide showed us more insects and plants and took us to another Karen village. We also stumbled upon a school for Karen children, which was in the middle of a clearing in the jungle, which brought everything right back down to earth, as we were visiting as tourists, but people were living their lives there.
When we arrived at the waterfall, it was amazing. We all went for a swim in the fresh water, and the huts there for us to stay in were small but comfortable. It was good to be in such a cool place for the evening with the sound of the waterfall constantly there. The food that Tarzan our guide cooked up for us was really tasty and we all sat around the camp fire
talking until the early hours. It was good that the group we were with had bonded so well, especially as there were four of us from England, one American, two beautiful girls from Holland, a couple from Belgium and a guy from the Czech Republic.
On the last day of the trek we took some steep slopes, and as a first time trekker I was loving it! The route took us through some more rice plantations, and we arrived at a village where there was a pick up truck was waiting for us to take us to a lodge that put on a fantastic spread for our last meal together that included fresh fruit, banana chips and pad Thai. From there we were taken to an elephant camp where we met some working elephants and went for a ride on them. Our elephant was thirty years old, called Manya, and because he was the only elephant who did not require a rider, the Thai men were calling him a “Lady boy”, which is a playful term that they all seem to call one another up in the north. We kept him fed with a constant flow of bananas and
sugar canes, and when we were too slow feeding him he blew snot from his trunk all over the two of us.
The next stop on our magical mystery tour took us to river where we were firstly asked to remove our shoes, and then guided to some bamboo rafts. On these we floated down the river on the rapids, getting absolutely drenched in the process! This was all good fun and a perfect way to end our trekking experience.
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