Two Days Trekking in the Jungle of Chiang Mai
Our first day
Around 8 am we got picked up by a minivan from our hostel and left the city of Chiang Mai. On the way, we made a small stop at a market for 20 minutes to buy things like water, toilet paper, and mosquito spray. In the last part of the bus journey, we were approaching the mountains, and I knew; the jungle is not far anymore.
We stopped at a small village at the edge of the jungle, and another bus stopped behind us. We met the rest of the group that we were going to do the trekking with; an Israeli family, two German girls, and another Dutchman. There was already a great vibe in the group, and I was starting to feel more comfortable. The group got along very well! We met Rambo, our experienced trekking guide for the coming two days. He told us that he was born and grew up in a nearby Karen village in the jungle and that he did this trip already a thousand times, which made me feel more relaxed, we are in good hands!
We started the trekking, and after one hour of hiking, I figured out that my stamina was not my biggest concern; my fear of heights was. We hiked in the mountains on narrow paths with steep descend and thick jungle vegetation. On the way, Rambo gave us a lot of information about the jungle, the insects, reptiles, snakes, monkeys, birds, and the tribal culture in the villages. Did you know that there are seven different tribes around Chiang Mai and that they all have their own culture, languages and writing script? During the trekking, we stopped at three gorgeous waterfalls. It was great to relax and to take a refreshing bath in the clear pools. For lunch, we had fried rice with egg served on banana leaves, the guide also prepared fresh mango as a dessert. After lunch, we walked further through the mountainous jungle and stunning rice paddies in the direction of the Karen tribal village where we spend the night.
At the end of the afternoon, we arrived in a small guesthouse at a Karen Tribal Village. The house had a big table, a small Thai kitchen and two rows with beds. Also, there was a nice shower and a 'normal' western toilet. No squatting. Yes!! After a well-deserved Chang beer and a nice refreshing shower, our dinner was ready. The lovely Karen lady who cooked the dinner is a great cook, and she spoiled us with curries, fried rice, fried vegetables, and fresh fruits. Luckily, I love Thai food, so I enjoyed the curry with chicken and vegetables that night. After dinner, we tried to play some games, but everybody was struggling to keep their eyes open, so at 8:00 pm we went to sleep. We all slept in one big cozy bamboo house, and you could hear the jungle coming alive around you. What an experience! The next morning, we woke up early thanks to the village roosters and enjoyed a coffee and toast with egg. Around 9 am, we left for our second and last day of trekking.
The second day we had a shorter and easier trek with great views while walking through stunning rice paddies. We walked for about three hours accompanied by the village dog and cat, who had followed us all the way. Together with the kids from the Israeli family, we were singing Hebrew songs, and they taught me some Hebrew words. We had the best time, and we were bonding as a group. After the hike we had lunch; fried noodles served on banana leaves and fresh fruits. When we finished our lunch, we hiked to the elephant sanctuary, and we spent about one-hour feeding two elephants. The elephants seemed happy and in good condition, and they loved the bananas and sugar cane that we gave them. There was also a possibility to bathe with the elephants, but when we noticed that they weren't in the mood for taking a bath, we decided not to do that.
After visiting the elephants, we got picked up by a car, and we drove to the Mae Wang River for the bamboo rafting trip. The raft was not much more than five bamboo poles. The only thing we had to do was sit down, relax, and keep the balance. The water in the river was quite high, and the rafting was fun yet easy-going. It was nice to observe the jungle from the river, a safe experience and yes, inevitably we got wet. After our bamboo rafting trip, a songthaew (red pickup truck) brought us back to our hotel in Chiang Mai.
Would I recommend this trip?
Although it was difficult at times, I was happy and proud that I did this. It is an excellent way to enjoy nature, meet some other adventurous people, and to see another part of Thailand instead of the beaches and nightlife. The tour was varied with enough to see and to do. Also, our guide Rambo knew when to take a break and how to entertain you. Another thing that made me very happy; we didn't see a lot of other tourists even though we were there during the peak season. It made it an of the beaten path experience.
Some extra tips
Leave your big and heavy backpack at your hotel/hostel and take only a small daypack with the essential stuff. If your hostel doesn't offer free luggage storage, then you can bring the luggage and leave it at the trekking office. It is very safe, so don't worry about it.
Wear good shoes because the trails can be slippery in some places, especially during the rainy season.
Take your camera with you to take pictures of the breathtaking scenery.
Search for a bamboo stick which can help you to keep your balance and make the hike easier.
If you are doing this trek in the winter, then you should bring some warm clothing. The temperature will drop significantly at night.
This guest blog is written by Dutch travel blogger Jessytravel.nl.