I was up early enough to be collected for our 3 day jungle trek and we were quickly in the countryside typified by dirt roads and markets sheltered by wooden huts. Having made a quick stop for supplies, we made our way to the first part of the adventure: a ride down the river on a bamboo ride. A nice tranquil ride was followed by a precarious slide down some mild waterfalls and rapids. With no harness or regard for health and safety, I was loving it!
We then had our first experience with a hill tribe for lunch before setting off on our trek through the jungle. Predominantly up-hill, the trek was exhausting but our destination made it well worth it. We set up for the night at a camp that consisted off a couple of huts, a shelter for a cooking area, a shelter for a dinning area and some benches that surrounded what would be a late night camp fire. All this to a back drop of the jungle and a gorgeous pool and waterfall. Hot and tired everyone went straight for the pool where the waterfall provided the best power shower I’ve ever had! Our hosts then put together a great Thai feast before we settled round the campfire for some well deserved cans of Chang.
I slept ok but waking up on wooden floors and a thunderous waterfall that, at 4 in the morning, I found not at all tranquil, I felt tired and not at all excited about the trek ahead. The day was spent hiking and was pretty uneventful. But the reward was the night we spent at the hill tribe. Bar the constant stream of travellers which I’m sure interrupt them on a daily basis, the hill tribe remains completing uninfluenced by the western world. There was no evidence of electricity, with cooking performed over a fire and a shower little more than a tap in a wooden shed. But the people appeared happy and the children laughed and played without a care in the world – and without the need of a TV or playstation. It was really quite humbling. The tribe cooked us dinner and again the evening was spent around a campfire where the children gathered and sang for us.
The evening was also memorable for a Thai local that was known simply as “crazy man”. He asked if anyone would buy him a beer. I obliged. As some kind of twisted reward for doing this, “crazy man” beckoned me to the middle of the group. There I had to embarrass myself by joining him in a sing and a dance of the “elephant song”. Trying to copy his Thai words and dance moves that included way too much thrusting, I managed to make a complete fool of myself!
Again a shocking night sleep. Sleeping on wooden floor boards again, this time it was a relentless rooster that woke me at 4am in the morning. By 11 we were on the road again for some more trekking. After having some lunch we made our way up for one of the highlights of the trip: the elephant ride. It was great to be so close to these amazing animals and it was a brilliant experience (despite feeling like my seat was going to fall off). The ride finished with the opportunity to feed the elephants bananas which was just reward for their hard work.
That marked the end of the jungle trek. In hindsight I do think I could of get a better deal than going through the travel agent. If you do decide to make the trip to Chiang Mai, make sure you book the train in advance as tickets can quickly sell out and, trust me, you do not want to be in 3rd class on what is a 14 and a half our trip. You can easily book all your excursions when you are up there. Would I do the 3-day jungle trek again? The total experience was something that I might never do again and it was totally worth it. I could’ve done without the 2nd day trekking but then going to a 2 day trek would have meant missing out on either the hill tribe or the night by the waterfall.
To be honest there is so much to do in Chiang Mai that I could’ve done with a few more days. There are plenty of extreme sport activities plus Flight of the Gibbon, the snake farm and the Tiger Kingdom (which I will talk about in my next update) which have been recommended. It would have been good to have gone to the elephant sanctuary as well where you can be confident that the elephants are enjoying a good life. A work colleague also recommended taking a scooter up Doi Suthep. There is simply too much to do and too little time!!