Jungle Trek, Chiang Mai
Highlight of ChiangMai for our family was the jungle trek. For anyone doing this as a family, I would recommend that you try to get onto a trek where there will be relatively compatible others. We were with a father and daughter (14) and a young Swiss couple - our kids 13, 17, 18 - and this was perfect for us. We would have been less exciting for one of the full groups of very young people, in a big hurry and probably much fitter than us. We had a ball, and everyone got on well. The trek itself was excellent - and the best way to actually see some of the country. We had a combination of driven transport, mostly walking, elephant riding and raft riding on the trip. There was beer and other drinks and every well prepared food at all locations - cooked by guides at night for stopover in villages for dinner, breakfast and lunch. Food was not overly plentiful if you have constantly hungry kids, so take extra "snacks". Even the opportunity to SHOP in the villages, to buy local craft! Scenery was beautiful, and seeing the hilltribe way of life - and the general privilege of invitation into their villages, was very enjoyable for all - NO computer, mobile phone SMS, game console etc.
We booked Our trecking tour by Unseen Travel in Bangkok, they took care of everything, trainticket (1:st class sleeping), hotel (The Park Hotel) and trecking (World Story). They asked if we wanted the opium-trek or the normal trek! - the ordinary trek please!
You have to be in very good condition for the trek, I wasn´t, my stomach run wild the night before our trek and we had to cancel the adventure.
A 3 day trek starts with an Elephant ride for about 1-2 hours with lunch, then You walk for 2-3 hours and taking a bath in a waterfall.Now it is time for the 1:st camp because the sun sets at 17:30. The next day starts with a 2-3 hour walk up and down the mountains with possibilities for taking a bath in another waterfall, then It´s time for lunch, another 2-3 hour walk before it´s time for 2:nd camp. the third day is like the others with possibilities for meeting locals from the hill tribes, the trek ends with a Bamboo rafting.
Things You need:
Mosquito repellants,long pants, a pair of trainers, extra socks, shorts, a jacket with long sleeves, t-shirts, jumper,flashlight, swim suit, towel, toilet paper, a hat, first aid kit, sun cream, tothbrush and toth paste, money for buying things from hill tribes.
Let's face it. Most people go to Chiang Mai to trek. Almost every guesthouse offers the activity. Some guesthouses double as tour and trekking companies, or at least claim to but might be acting as agents. In Chiang Mai numerous trekking companies have small offices in the tourist areas of the city. Book your tour in Chiang Mai and ask other travellers about their experiences and what they recommend.
Typically, a trek will last between three and five days. I found that three days is ideal. The price should be between 1300 - 1500 baht for a three day trek. Our trip began with a trip to a small waterfall and continued on to a Lisu Village. The Lisu women are distinguished by their brightly coloured tunics, worn over long pants. Unlike other hill tribes, they don't usually live in stilted houses.
The next day involved elephant riding. This elephant ride is worth it as you go through the jungle and see other elephants playing in the water. The second night was spent at a Karen village. This is the largest of the minority groups. The Karen wear woven v-neck tunics of various natural colours and turbans. Unmarried women wear distinctive long white v-neck tunics. After a long day of trekking we took a dip in the river.
The next day involved skiff rafting down rivers. On the way we stopped off at an Akha village. The women wear very plain indigo died shirts, which are in turn adorned with all kinds of eye-catching paraphernalia, such as coins, beads, shells, etc. The women are also very visible by their ornate headdress adorned with silver.
It was a really good time. If you want to see more of the pictures, check out my travelogue.
After breakfast of toast, jams and scramble eggs. We had our Bamboo rafting experience it was fun, one of the Switzerland guy in our group just keep falling off the raft into the water… I think he just love the cool fresh water experience.
Then we walk half an hour to our pick-up truck. We had lunch of friend noodles is a small shop or restaurant along the roadside and then drive to Vachiratharn Waterfall but we did not get a chance to swim.
Lastly we drove up to Doi Inthanon but due to the rain our guide told us it was no point going there as we will not be able to see or take any pictures because of the clouds and rain.
Though I really hate guided tours, this one turned out to be perfect. As I've never seen (or been) in a jungle before; I'm sure I would have been lost for 3 weeks!
First we had to build our own bamboo raft! with 4 huge peices of bamboo sticks put togeather our trip started .... the river was smooth and calm at the start ... then with some sketchy driving from our (bamboo captain!) and some water drops here & there I managed to fall in the water 2 times .... Niiiiiice.
It's a very gentle way to see the country side.
Eventually we arrived at the bootom of the valley where we started our walk .... it's useless to describe the beauty of the place ... the sounds ... the smells ... the exotic language ... the lost people weaving cotton on the mountains, the waterfall experience .... or a kid living in a bamboo house playing with a play station!!!!
When you're in Chiang Mai you're so close to the jungle you'd have to be pretty darn stupid if you don't go on a trek. We had quite short time at our hands so we did a combined 1-day tour with trekking, an elephant ride, visits at two villages and a rafting in the end.
I was in Chiang Mai in april 2002, right in the midsth of the dry season, so the green was not so green and the whitewater rafting turned out quite calm, but it was all very nice.
There are loads of travel agencies in Chiang Mai. Look around for one that seems credible and book there.
Our organiser (whom I can't remember the name of) had its office maybe 20 meter down to the right on the street straight from Tha Phae gate.
After breakfast of toast and scramble eggs. This was a tough day as we walk and walk, up and down hill for hours.
We had our elephant ride on this day. It was really pathetic to see the elephant. These are probably retired worker elephants and there were only 3 elephants for 10 of us so we cramp in the elephants seat…like sardine and the elephants was walking along the river and it’s so dangerous. But I guess the elephant and the Mahout is the expert as none of us fall to the river. We had our lunch of fried rice here. For brave one there is the small fiery chili to try.
After lunch we walk up more hills and finally reach a small river and we swim in the muddy river rested have some beers and chat. Our dinner was rice, bamboo shoot, mushroom with chicken and Thai curry. Yummy.
After dinner we all sat around the fire play cards games and chat and had some beers. Oh there was ashortage of beer so one of the local went and got some more beer for us. It was really a wonderful experience!!
I usually try to avoid putting multiple tips for one activity, however for this I will make an exception. I went on a three day, two night trek with 3rd Eye Travel , a company I had picked because of their reputation for being environmentally responsible, and for their claims that they take their customers to less traveled villages, ones with a more authentic feel. They held true to both of their promises. In the three days we hiked, we caught a glimpse of another group of tourists twice. I had read about some reviews of the hill tribe trekking from people that had gone and had read opinons that it was much like going to a human zoo and so forth. I do believe that to be true, especially with the tribes of long neck women. Did I want to go to the long neck tribes? Definately. Was I dissapointed that I didn't? A little. However I was supremely satisfied when I found the tribes we visited felt no need to put on a show for us. There was no fancy dress, no performance, just daily living. I liked that.
We were guided by two gentleman, both whom were incredibly nice and knowledgeable. I wish I could remember their names. One guide I saw as designated as more for my travel party. He spoke pretty good English and was knowledgeable about the people and terrain. He would teach us about this and that, bit did not exhaust with information. He was a member of the Karen tribe as well and spoke Karen. Our other guide appeared to be a hilltribesman himself. This man was incredible to me. He wore flip flops and carried a heavy pack, and even after climbing a steep incline that left myself in gasping for air, he didn't even seem a bit bothered. This same man cooked us a lunch in the jungle using only bamboo for cooking and eating utensils. It was amazing.
The food on this trip may have been the best in my whole time in Thailand . Seriously! The food portions were large and varied and delicious. The comfort of sleep was horrendous however. Since electricity is not used, once it's dark at around eight o clock, unless you have a light theres nothing else to do but sleep. Most of the village is asleep once the sun is down. You sleep on a thin small mat under a mosquito net. Cows and pigs complain all through the night, and as soon as you fall asleep in the early dawn Roosters began to scream like clockwork every hour. The wood floor beneath you seems to gnaw at your bones. This is how these people sleep. There are no tempur pedic mattresses And the discomfort of sleep only made the whole experience better in a way. It is something you think back about and laugh.
We hiked through three villages, learned a little about their culture ( i talk more about them in other posts). We hiked through jungles and rice fields. The hikes weren't too strenous, but they did cause us to work up a sweat, and we found ourselves quite satisfied once we arrived at our destination for the day.
The trek also included a visit to the popular Mahoot villages were elephants are trained and cared for. A one hour elephant ride was a lot of fun (see my other post). We also had a four hour float down a river back to our starting point where a truck would be there to take us back to Chiang Mai (also see other post)
I had a great time Hill tribe trekking, and if I go to Southeast Asia again I would definately include this in my itinerary.
I do recommend trekking if you are in Chiang Mai. My Korean friends mentioned that we should look for Eagle house to book our trekking. We booked our jungle trekking thru Eagle House as we stayed at Eagle House 2. We took the 3 day trekking.
We drove from Chiang Mai to a market outside of town and browse around for 30 minutes while the guide gets the supply of food for our trip. Then we drove an hour to a Cave. Walk in the cave with flying bats and our mascot cat… hahaha (see picture of the cat).
We had lunch here. Phat Thai noodles with some mineral water and banana. We drove for about 2 hours to Hmong/Meo hill tribe village and then walk for one hour to our overnight hut.
This part of Thailand is a must to visit !
Put on your safety belts when riding on an elephant ! But the excursions are worthwhile
to enjoy the pure nature of this country.
An umbrella is the best tip to be dressed - a good pair of shoes aswell because afterwards we did a trip on the river by floating pieces of wood !!
Visiting the rain forest - visiting elephant farms - a tradition visiting Thailand.But i think Thailand has more to offer.
It became to touristic ! Islands like Pukhet are actually overcrowed and getting the face of European culture !! But there are still some islands worthwhile to visit - you will understand that i will keep this secret !
The second day of the trek was the hardest. We got told that there was going to be a baby hill and a mama hill. They weren't kidding! When I found that the baby hill was killing me I was seriously dredding the mama hill. We trekked for 5 hours the second day and I felt every part of it! As not an especially fit person I found the only thing to do was to put my iPod in and block out the pain! The views also made everything just that little bit better. Awesome.
The destination of the trek was an Elephant camp where we were able to splash around in the river before riding an Elephant for an hour to our lunch destination. There we were also able to swim in the river with the local kids before catching a bamboo raft down the river to our accommodation for the night.
Our accommodation was interesting, it was a mixture of Thai hilltribe and western comfort! We were served an incredible meal, were able to buy beer and were offered massages by the locals! A great night was had by all and when a guitar was produced a sing a long was started. Perfect!
The final day of the trek was a 3 hour bamboo raft ride back to civilisation and lunch. The perfect end to a rewarding a fun trek.
Even if you're not that fit (like me) you will enjoy trekking in Norther Thailand.
We booked our trek experience back in Australia through Intrepid Travel as they had a great deal and we knew that they would have experienced guides who spoke English. The whole tour was for 6 days total and included the 3 day trek, time in Chiang Mai and an overnight train back to Bangkok. It was the perfect introduction to Northern Thailand and enabled us to meet people who will stay friends for a lifetime. The whole thing (with a substantial discount) only cost us $250 each including the hotel, train travel and food while trekking. Pretty Good!
You can also book treks directly in Chiang Mai, every guesthouse and hotel will offer it as well as numerous travel agencies. It is the main thing to do in the area and you will not be short of choices when it comes to trekking.
We hiked to/through 3 villages, all of which were Karen villages, who are people native to Burma. None of them spoke much English, minus one teacher at this main village of which I will speak on later, or at least none of them spoke it to us. It was nice in that the people just went about their daily lives. There was nothing manufactured, no special costumes or so on. Althought I wouldn't have minded a production, dance or something of that sort, it was just not in the cards for our stay. It was fun to observe the villages and their way of life and consider them in contrast to Westerns sociocultural preference for mass consumption and for needing more and more complex things and lives.
The first village we stayed at was a smaller village, with several families having wood houses there. Pigs, roosters and cows decided to make their presences known through all hours of the night, yet even through that annoyance it was relaxing to sit and observe the animals. The living situation is very modesto. Wood houses with thin mats and mosquito nets for sleeping. An outhouse. An outdoor kitchen with a few pots and pans to cook. A small wooden table that sat underneath the stilted homes. I enjoyed watching the man of the residence that we were staying happily smoke a rolled cigarette of unknown constitution, and the lady of the house go about chores, preparing chicken feed, cooking, and so on. Young boys ran about in the village pretending to be on motorcycles, it was fun.
The second village was a much larger village. A metropolitan if you would. The same living situatoins, the same stilted wooden houses with a large array of animals. The amount of animal poop in this village was impressive! This village had the school, were all Karen children from the villages went to school and stayed during the week. It had an impressive kitchen and garden and soccer field. By the time we had arrived all the children were done with school and were bathing in the river. Splashing about and jumping off rocks of small height into the river. A elephant labored for his meal by totting a log across the river and up the bank to the village. I learned that these villages are King sponsored, and it is the goal of Thailand to preserve them and their way of life. I do fancy my air conditioned apartment and comfortable bed, flush toilets and electricity, but you can definately see how this way of life has it's advantages over the lifestyle of most of us.
I was glad
High in the Doi Inthanon National Park are some of Thailands biggest watefalls. The trek thru the lush jungle brings you to the start of the falls and the climb down by way of huge steps cut in the limestone at the side of the falls, is pretty scary if you dont have ahead for heights. The noise of the water is deafening and gets louder as you approach the main fall...all truly spectacular. Well worth the trek but not recommended for those with any walking disability.