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  • Jungle Trekking in Chiang Mai by Brittney Johnson 2010

    My roommate and fellow teacher decided to go to Chiang Mai over the October holiday. We had both heard amazing stories about jungle treks. So, we decided to shop around for the best trek deal. We stopped by several tour agencies. There were so many to choose from. There were 1 to 3 day treks and included different activities in different locations around Chiang Mai. Each one we went to got cheaper and cheaper for the kind of trek we were looking for. We finally agreed that the last one we went to was cheap enough (1000 baht). It included everything all of the more expensive treks had. The package included 3 days, 2 nights, transportation, 7 meals, accommodation, elephant ride, experienced guides, white water and bamboo rafting. We were picked up early in the morning. We met our fellow trekkers (a good mix of Irish, French, Canadians, Americans, British, Chilean, and Scottish). We drove about 45 minutes into the jungle. Then we started on our 4-hour hike. Some of it was intense uphill trekking. All of it was breathtaking. We walked through rice patties, up mountains, through water, and other kinds of terrains. Everyone got extremely dirty and sweaty. When we arrived at the elephant camp, where we would be sleeping that night, we all got on an elephant and went through the jungle. Our guides then started preparing our dinner while we all had a chance to take a much-needed shower. We ate a delicious fresh meal of vegetables and chicken curry. Everyone hung out and went to bed just as the rain started to pour. The next day we woke up to a breakfast of coffee, tea, toast and eggs. We then had the opportunity to wash the elephants. This was definitely a high light for me. We got to scrub and wash them in the muddy water. I got on top of the elephant and washed his ears. They are amazing animals!! We then started on another hike to a waterfall about 2 hours away. On the way to the waterfall, our guide came in close contact to a cobra snake! You know it’s a scary situation when your guide is completely freaked out! He yelled to us to “GO BACK!” He was pushing the person in front of him to hurry up and became a rippled chaotic effect. So we ended up having to take a long way around to get the waterfall. But it was worth it! We had time to relax, swim, eat lunch, and go down a natural waterfall slide. We then hiked to our next location, about 3 hours away. It was a long difficult hike. We were all exhausted and starving by the end. We went to an authentic Luha tribe village. When we arrived, children were playing football. Everyone seemed friendly. We weren’t the first foreigners they had seen. In Thailand, Lahu are one of the six main hill tribes, and their population is estimated at around 100,000. Their name means "Mussur", meaning hunter. Their settlements are usually remote from roads and towns, due to their strong commitment to the maintenance of the Lahu way of life. We stayed in a traditional Lahu style house. Lahu houses are high raised from the ground because it used for keeping the firewood. While less importance is placed on the extended family than in other hill tribe communities, the Lahu are still strongly committed to principles of unity and working together for survival. Lahus may have the most gender-equitable society in the world. There was no electricity so we had to do everything by candlelight. Our guide, Tea, made an amazing meal of potato curry and long beans with rice. Some of the kids from the village came around and sang Thai songs all dressed up in traditional Lahu clothing. We slept on mats with mosquito nets. We woke up, had breakfast and set off for a short morning trek. We then went white water rafting. I always enjoy rafting, even if it’s only a 1 or 2 category. We immediately went on a bamboo raft and ended our trek at the Long Neck Village. It was a challenging, beautiful, exciting, and rewarding experience. You learn to go “without” things. It makes you appreciate what you do have. I recommend that everyone try a trek in northern Thailand. There is something for everyone! I would definitely go on another one! You get the chance to meet people from all over the world, see beautiful nature, push your physical abilities, and stretch yourself in many ways. I’m not sure how long these treks will be “authentic.” It seems that they are getting more and more popular with tourists. So, I’d try to go on one as soon as possible. It was an amazing experience and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go.