Jungle Trekking In Northern Thailand

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January 30th 2010
Published: February 3rd 2010
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I arrived in Chiang Mai at about seven in the morning. The bus driver had decided that it would be a brilliant idea to play Thai music for the entire night on the way up, and needless to say I didn't get any quality sleep. I had signed up to go Jungle Trekking up here and despite my lack of sleep I was excited to begin the adventure. I took a quick shower and headed downstairs to get some breakfast in me and multiple coffees for a good kick in the ass.

Immediately I met another fellow trekker named Sam, who was also sitting down for some food, and then shortly after his friends Dave and Henry who joined us as well. These guys were from England and traveling through south east Asia before going to work in Australia for a year. When I introduced myself to Dave, I thought I heard him say his name was "Steve", so as I shook his hand I repeated the name, which in turn made him think I was Steve. For a good part of the day we kept calling each other Steve and eventually it became a running joke. These guys were really awesome and I became good friends with them in no time.

We piled into the back of a modified pickup and went around to pick up the rest of the group. There was a total of nine of us on the trek and we were all luckily around the same age. There was the previously mentioned English boys and obviously myself, Zlatko who was from Slovenia, Karl and Olof from Sweden, and sisters Kirsty and Jade also from England. I'm happy to say we had an awesome group and everyone was a character in his or her own way. We headed up into the hills and all chatted and got to know one another. Our guide was a local Thai man named Nemesis, he was cool and had a wicked Machete. He was decent with a slingshot too.

The first stop was an orchid farm which consisted of some cool fish and flowers but which bored most of us and we moved on quickly. Following this we arrived at a snake farm, way more interesting as I'm a big fan of snakes, but I guess because I hung out a lot with my buddy Paul's pet python, the novelty of it all wore off. We did see a really cool snake show there however where snake herders would provoke an extremely poisonous cobra, heavy pythons and numerous other speedy snakes. They definitely had a lot of talent and were quite quick. Next stop was a long neck tribe village along the way where the women wear these neck stretching contraptions for traditional reasons. Although it was cool to see I could tell that it was an obvious tourist pit stop and thus didn't feel all that authentic. After this we made our way further north to the base of some hill covered jungle, where we ate some good Thai food, before gearing up for our trek up the hills.

This is what we were all looking forward to and we walked for about three hours mostly uphill. It wasn't the hardest trek, at least for me, but I enjoyed seeing the variety of jungle flora and fauna that is so alien back home. We saw bamboo trees sprouting everywhere, trees with massive leaves, wild bananas growing and even a wild elephant in the hills. Lots of different insects although I'm glad to say mosquitoes weren't as big a problem for me as I was expecting (I was expecting to contract Dengue, Malaria, and Encephalitis all at once). Everyone was sweating like beasts, it was hot that first day in the jungle. We made it to a beautiful hilltop village at the end of the trek just as evening was coming in and enjoyed the sunset and gorgeous scenery that surrounded us. Everyone sat around and rolled tabaco cigarettes and enjoyed the show. We ate some more delicious Thai food before playing a few drinking games and being shown card tricks from a village local called monkey boy. It began getting quite cold and windy as the night swept in and everyone put on some layers, save for me, I figured I'm Canadian and can handle anything. Besides I didn't really bring any warm clothes for the trek so I was screwed regardless.

As late night approached the girls ended up going to sleep but the rest of us went down the village center where the locals were celebrating their "new year". Apparently the tribe was originally from Burma and kept certain traditions as a result, or at least that was my understanding of it. It was the sixth day of their seven day celebration and they danced around this pole from the evening up until seven in the morning apparently, all to the same drum beat the whole night through. Many smoked and drank copious amounts of tobacco and alcohol to celebrate and some did opium as well. Interesting to see the celebration but I was captivated by the fire on the side and decided to help it grow. We all stayed there for a while and then headed back to out hut where we all slept. I did wake up many times as it was pretty cold during the night and the place obviously wasn't very insulated.

The following morning I did some exercises after awakening and then we all ate breakfast before heading out and onwards. I got to say they made us some real good food on this journey. We trekked for a good part of the day, mostly downhill this time, through more interesting environments and passed through certain villages along the way. We converged onto a nice stream and came to a waterfall where we ate lunch and swam in the water, which was ice cold but refreshing. My nuts quickly retreated into me! Karl commented how he wanted chest hair like Dave and Henry, and everyone jokingly agreed to provide him with some samples including some from my beard.

After continuing on for a bit, the girls and I were at the back of the group taking some pictures and as we continued on we realized we couldn't see anyone. We pressed on and reached a fork in the road, and not knowing which way the rest of them had gone, went up the path towards a hill. After walking up for a good fifteen minutes it became obvious they probably hadn't gone this way and we went all the way back down before trying a different path that brought us to a dead end. I wasn't worried at all and suggested we keep exploring. I'm doubtful the girls shared my enthusiasm. We did find them soon after, they had gone off onto another path we completely missed. We continued along the stream which was widening, and hit another waterfall, nicer and bigger than the first.

I would bug the Brits about the way they said words like water, would sound like "whaer", freaking hilarious. Of course then they said I said water with a D, making it sound like "wader", which was completely ridiculous. Sometimes accents really make me laugh...

Nearby was another group of huts, and we all tried our hand at some slingshots. I wasn't great at first but did improve, I picked up a handmade one there and intend to keep practicing for the duration of my trip. We reached a village by the river where we would be spending our second night and after settling in, Dave, Henry and myself collected fire wood for the evening and Nemesis supplied us with some nice bamboo to burn as well. Bamboo is awesome in a camp fire! After eating, we lit it up and enjoyed the warmth it provided on a cold and windy night. We all drank some Chang beer, some more than others and everyone pitched in at one point or another to continue collecting wood. Dave tried breaking bamboo over his head and cut himself open. Zlatko, getting very tipsy, took it upon himself to collect much firewood and before we knew it he seemingly was ripping entire trees apart and bringing loads of wood and leaves to burn. It was awesome. I went with Jade to collect more wood and, after getting my sandal caught, slid down part of the hill almost into the river, and still holding the fire wood in one arm, refusing to let it go even as I faced impending doom. I got scratched up good by some prickly bush. Luckily I was safe and she wouldn't have to mourn for me on this day. Later on I also grabbed a burning log by the wrong end to shift and got some burns on my hands. This trip was taking a toll on me, although it was my fault to be fair! That night I used a couple of blankets but still kept waking up from being cold.

There is a particular dog I do have to mention. We named it devil dog. The thing must have been sent from the fiery depths of hell, its sole purpose to consume the souls of those so unfortunate to cross its path. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but the creature's bed was literally adjacent to the dusty fire pit where we were burning wood, and it lay down and passed out just inches from the fiery heat. With no reaction! At all! Nothing! Also it was coated in ash. Whenever it came up it would lurch with unnatural movements and then shake itself and ash would fly everywhere, then it would just slump back down to sleep. I was the last one to bed that night after burning our last piece of wood. And I made sure to close the gate to our hut, but somehow later on that night devil dog got in and was salivating over Sam's head! In the morning everyone was like "Devil Dog got inside!!"

The last day of our "trek" first consisted of elephant riding after breakfast. I love elephants so this was cool. At first I was playing with a "baby" elephant who was really feisty, he never listened to the trainers or anything. I stupidly had a strong urge to hug him and then tried to do so, until he headbutted me and sent me flying. I guess Darwin was right about natural selection. I rode an Elephant with Henry on our trek and we got loads of Bananas to feed it along the way. It was a big female we found out, and apparently didn't like listening well. While we were on a cliff side it started turning around the other way and its feet were dangerously close to the edge. The trainer was whipping it with a slingshot to get it moving the right way again and we both wondered if this was such a good idea. We continued on and the baby elephant would wrap its trunk around our feet trying to get bananas from us.

After that we headed to the river and did a little white water rafting, which while fun was short (no pics since my camera isn't waterproof). Then we continued on down the river with bamboo rafts which was also neat. Then we ate lunch and following this our trek came to an end. Time flew by and it was really fun. We all got picked up and then headed back to Chiang Mai.

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