Chiang Mai – Trekking in the jungle

The overnight train from Ayuthaya to Chiang Mai was pretty comfortable. Instead of having rooms and a passage way, it had seats on either side of a passage way. The seats could be converted to beds: one lower bed and one bunker bed. So at night there were no rooms, just beds on either side of a passage way… each bed with curtains so you could have some privacy in your sleep.

The train was supposed to arrive at Chiang Mai at 9:45AM on August 17, but we ended up arriving more than 3 hours late (at 1:30PM). Darin and I were starving. We had booked a trekking trip on advance, so the people from the trip picked us up and instead of dropping us at our hotel so we could eat, they took us directly to their offices so they could brief us on the trekking trip.  Fortunately they gave us a short explanation and then drove us to our hotel, Mandala House. We had lunch near the hotel, then rested for a couple of hours, and then went for dinner to the Night Bazaar.

The Night Bazaar is a tourist trap. Imagine a Flee Market (Mercado de las Pulgas) that continues for about 20 blocks… all goods for tourists. We did not buy anything because whatever you buy you have to carry with you. We found a Thai restaurant hidden between the Irish Pubs, English Pubs, Germano-Spanish Pubs…. and finally sat down to eat dinner.

The next day (August 18) we were starting our 2 nights, 3 days trekking trip on the jungle areas near Chiang Mai. We met with a bigger group of people, the trekking tour placed us in two trucks and we headed to the hills. Our travel group were Sami, Mercedes, Simone, Tanya 1 and Tanya 2 (5 german gilrs that are in the same volleybal team back at their country), Carin and Jenny (2 english friends travelling together), Johhny and Sarah (an english couple that kepts us laughing with their comments and jokes), Manuel (another german) and Daniela (a chilean/argentinan girl that had been living at New Zealand for a year, and now was traveling for a few months before returning to Chile to spend Christmas at home).

Day 1 of Trekking - One of our vans. From right to left: Johnny, Sarah, Daniela, Jenny Claudia, Darin

It was raining since the morning, so wherever we went it was pretty slippery and muddy. The first stop was a beautiful water fall, then a buddhist temple on a hill, and then we walked for about 3 hours until we arrived to camp, visiting a second waterfall on our way.

Day 1 of Trekking - First waterfall

Day 1 of Trekking - Darin and Claudia at 2d waterfall

Da 1 of Trekking - 2d waterfall

Day 1 of Trekking - 1st camp at one of the hill villages. From right to left: Mercedes, Book (our guide), Sami, Daniela, Sarah, Johhny, Carin and Jenny

Our camp site was at one of the hill villages. We stayed next to the village’s rice crops at the huts they use for harvest. The huts are raised from the floor level, the walls are not sealed, but provide protection from the wind and rain, and the roof was nice and sturdy. The “matresses” were just mats on the bamboo platform and they provided some blankets and a mosquito net. Each mosquito net covered to people sleeping. There was one 9-people hut and a 4-people hut.

The blankets did not smell that great… it is very humid in this part of the country and things just have a permanent unpleaseant odor, so Darin and I slept inside our “cocoons” and used the blankets (“cocoons” = camping sheets that look like a sock… they are meant to be used inside a sleeping bag to provide better insulation and keep the camper a warm camper).

Day 1 of Trekking - Our accomodations

Day 1 fo Trekking - Dinner. From right to left: Mercedes, Sami, Simone, Manuel, Daniela, Johnny, Sarah, (Carin behind the wooden post), Jenny, Claudia, Tanya 1, Tanya 2 and Darin

We were pretty soaked because of the continuous rain during the day. Some of us decided to live with our wet clothes, and other decided to quick-dry theirs.

Day 1 of Trekking - Sarah and Johnny. Johnny decided to cook his socks

The next day, August 19, we lost half of our group… some of us were going for 2 nights 3 days, and others were only going for 1 night 2 days. Johnny, Sarah, Jenny, Manuel, Tanya 1 and Tanya 2 lefty our group. The rest of us got ready and continue our trek. This day was not rainy at all.. it was sunny and extremely warm. Just walking 10 minutes left us sweaty and feeling nasty.

Day 2 of Trekking - Walking up hill. From top to bottom: Book, Sami, Simone, Mercedes, Carin, Daniela and Darin

We visited one of the villages. They had solar panels installed by the government to encourage to stay in the rural area. Their school was really cute.

Day 2 of Trekking - A school at one of the villages

Day 2 of Trekking - Marranitos resting against the school wall.

As a nice surprise the rest of the walk was not as muddy as we feared, due to the heavy rain of the night before. However it was still very hot. We cross the river at different points using precarious bridges.

Day 2 of Trekking - Bridge over the river

We finally arrived to a really nice waterfall were we could swim. This was also our lunch place.

Day 2 of trekking - Water fall at our lunch spot

Day 2 of trekking - Lunch was served in banana plantain leaves

Right after our lunch it started raining. So we put on our rain jackets and continued walking.

Day 2 of trekking - Walking through rice fields

About 40 minutes after lunch Darin realized that his money clip was not in his rain jacket any more. Darin and Book turned around and run backtracking all our steps while the rest of us waited. They ended finding the money clip at our lunch spot… right at the moment Darin had put on his jacket. It was a very lucky find. They came back to find the rest of us and we continued walking to our next camp site.

The next camp site was better constructed. The accommodations were still similar: a hard mattress, some blankets and a mosquito net. This time the mosquito net covered all the mattresses.

We had a nice dinner and, while Darin got a massage, the dogs cleaned our dishes.

Day 2 of Trekking - Darin gets a massage

Day 2 of Trekking - The dogs cleaned our dinner dishes

August 20 was our last trekking day. There was not a lot of trekking, really. We walked to a water fall for a shower, and then we walked for about 40 minutes for lunch. It was really hot, so by lunch we were pretty tired and feeling very filthy (it did not matter how many times we would bathe in the river at water falls, after walking for 15 minutes we would be drenched in sweat again).

Day 3 fo trekking - Shower at a water fall

Day 3 of Trekking - Walking through rice field

After lunch we were picked up by a couple of trucks that took us first to ride elephants and then for some bamboo rafting.

The elephant trekking was not quite what we were expecting. We expected to see a place where the elephants were properly cared for and we could ride them for a few hours. At firs it looked OK, but once the ride started it looked completely different. This was a 40 minute ride around a short loop and they kept stabbing our elephant’s ear with a hook to make it go where they wanted it to go. Our elephant’s name was “Matapa” (we are not sure how the name is written) and she had a big scar in her forhead that seemed to be caused by the same hook they used to force her to obey orders. She stopped often to try get more food… elephants need to eat a lot during the day, and the guide kept stabbing her to make her continue walking. We felt guilty the whole way. We bought her a bunch of sugar cane and try to use it as much as possible to avoid the guide using the hook.

Day 3 of Trekking - Getting on Matapa's back

Day 3 of Trekking - Elephant riding

Day 3 of Trekking - Sami, Simone and Mercedes ride their elephant without a guide

Day 3 of Trekking - Matapa eats sugar cane

We said good bye to the elephants and went back tot he truck. They drove us to the final part of our trek: bamboo rafting. They assemble and disassemble these rafts several times a day. The bamboo is tied together using old tires cut into strips and palm leaves.

Day 3 of Trekking - Bamboo rafting

The trek was finally to its end and we were driven back to our respective hotels. We had time for a nice shower and some relaxing time before we met again with the whole group for one last dinner together at the Night Bazaar…. pizza was our menu of choice.

One last dinner with the group. From right to left: Tanya 1, Tanya 2, Simone, Jenny, Daniela, Mercedes, Carin, Sami and Darin. Johnny and Sarah were buying souvenirs.

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