Monday, January 24, 2011

Trekking and Chiang Mai

We've had an eventful couple of days starting in Chiang Mai, Jan. 21.  It's a popular little city about half the size of Saskatoon.  Our party split up once we got settled in and I wandered off towards the town center where I ran into a Belgian couple who we've been running into at every stop since we left Bangkok.  We got together that night for supper and drinks, wandering through the street markets in a quest for the strangest dessert.  I think that the best one so far has been a deep-fried banana-filled chocolate and condensed milk-covered crepe prepared on the street by someone whose shop is attached to their motorcycle.  Strange but true.  
Our Belgian friends sharing a bottle of Thai rum at a Blues Bar in Chiang Mai.

The next morning we headed out for trekking through the jungle mountains of northern Thailand.  We jumped in the back of a truck that had bench rows installed in the box for passengers (a popular mode of transportation) and drove west.  I don't know why I feel safe in the back of a truck winding through mountain trails at high speed when I won't drive two blocks in Saskatoon without my seatbelt, but I do.  

Our first stop was an elephant training camp where we rode the beasts on a path alongside a beautiful rocky river.

Jevin and a new friend riding Elmo the Elephant.  Banana trees in the background.
We got off the elephants, zip-lined across the river, and headed into the bush where we walked almost vertically uphill for almost three hours.  I really enjoyed it, but I think Robyn almost died.  At the top of the mountain, we reached a hill-tribe village where we would spend the night.  The hill tribes speak their own language and have a very different culture than the Thai majority.  

Approaching the hill-tribe village at the end of our mountain ascension.

When we got into the village, we were greeted by the tribe members selling handmade jewelry and offering massages, 5 CAD.  Jevin and I were under the false impression that the tribe members had some mysterious amazing massage technique so we went for it.  To our dismay, the massage consisted of awkward rubbing by two women while they argued with each other in their native tongue for twenty minutes.  It was a bizzare experience which ended with them trying to overcharge us.  Nice try!  

Apart from the terrible massages, the hill tribe village was quite a nice experience.  Our sleeping area was a bamboo hut on stilts.  We slept on firm mattresses on the floor under mosquito nets and had the most amazing view of the valley.

View from Hill-Tribe Village at Sunrise

After the noise and pace of Bangkok, it was so refreshing to be in the village.  The night air was filled with the sounds of birds, bats, crickets, and the the village children singing as they went from hut to hut.  Our guide, Tik, prepared all of our meals and I think they were some of the best we've had so far: curry on rice, fresh pineapple and watermelon, and eggs on toast for breakfast.

On the second day of the trek, we went downhill through a few more villages and eventually to a waterfall where we could take a refreshing swim.

Robyn contemplating the pros and cons of diving into a waterfall pool
That night we hung around camp, playing Rummy and chatting with our guide, finding out what life in Thailand was like for Tik.  

There were two adorable children at this location, about 2 and 3 years old.  They literally lived on the side of a mountain and played on the rocks and cliffs with the giant snakes and terrifying spiders.  They were so tough.  Robyn watched as the two-year-old tired of playing with his bamboo stick and ran to his dad.  His father rolled his eyes, took out his machete from a sling around his neck, and then sharpened the stick to a point.  He then gave it back to his delighted son who now could stab at his sister with a real weapon.

On the last day, we headed down the mountain back to the river.  We did a little white-water rafting and then headed to town, a 1 1/2 hour drive in the box of that same truck.

The end!

I'm going to add some pictures of Koh Chang and monkey town to the previous posts, so go and check them out.

Tomorrow we are taking a 3-day journey to central Laos via slow-boat.  I hope that doesn't mean that we'll be crammed on a canoe without a toilet for that time, but it might.

Until then,
  David Parker

1 comment:

  1. This is wonderful David! Keep up the awesome blogging!