Trekking in Chiang Mai

October 4, 2008

This weekend was spent in Chiang Mai, a province about 12 hours north of Bangkok. A truly incredible area of Thailand.  First, let me explain how I found my Chiang Mai travel buddy…

A few weeks ago, I went to dinner with my Thai friend, Warren, to meet up with Warren’s friends from California. At dinner, I meet Melissa, a Californian studying abroad in Singapore. We begin chatting about our mutual love of adventures and traveling. She mentions she wants to got to Chiang Mai for local village/mountain trekking and we discuss how much fun that trip would be. The next day, she returns to Singapore. And I never hear from her again. Just kidding…

A week later, I get an email from Melissa about a Chiang Mai trip, and next thing I know, she is back in BKK, ready to commence out trip to Chiang Mai! Melissa gets in late Tuesday night and we stay up till the wee hours of the morning talking about life… even though I’ve known this girl for about 4 days I feel like I have known her for years! I wake up a few hours later, play squash, skype my mom and head to school for midterm # 1. That was fun.

After the midterm, Melissa, myself and  6 other students from my midterm class head down the river to receive the most incredible massage street ever. It’s BKK’s best kept secret…2 hour massages for 140 baht (less than $5 USD); love it. It’s my weekly massage, and the best part is there are no other Westerners there…only locals. Afterwards, Melissa and I head to MBK (huge shopping mall) to get our eyebrows waxed (FINALLY!). Melissa has a slight issue with the way her beautician has shaped her eyebrows, but the Thai beautician assures Melissa her eyebrows are shaped “same same”. Love it!!

MBK Shopping Mall

After shopping, we head to Chinatown, where Melissa and I proceed to eat EVERYTHING there. No joke. This past week was a vegeterian festival in BKK, so Chinatown had hundreds of food stalls, full of delicious veggie meals. Melissa and I literally went to a food stall, ordered food, sat down and ate it, then walked for 10 minutes and did it again. Total meals= 2 dinners and 2 desserts. Niccce! We ate this AMAZING (and I don’t typically throw that word around) toasted bun with green goo (coconut syrup??) inside it…seriously one of the best things I’ve ever eaten….it even rivals sticky rice with mango. Yum.

Chinatown

The next day, I go to Finance, spend way too much time trying to figure out Time Value of Money problems, and then get together with Melissa and MJ (my dearest buddy here in Thailand) to head to Lumpini Park for a midday picnic at the best park in BKK. It was a great time…we did some glorious mid-day drinking, met some buff guys working out at the outdoor gym, learned some Muay Thai from said buff guys, and got kicked off a playground.

Drinking at noon

Melissa Q-U-I-C-H-O learning Muay Thai from the big boys

Killin' it

Get it girl!

After getting kicked out, we head to the train station to take our overnight, 12 hour sleeper train to Chiang Mai. My very first train ride! Overall good experience, very nice and cozy (minus the roaches).

Once we arrive in Chiang Mai, we consult our Lonely Planet travel guide and head to Julie’s guesthouse and then book a 2 day/1 night trekking/water rafting tour that leaves in 1 hour! We have breakfast and soon thereafter are off for trekking!

After a few hours of driving and stopping at local markets for snacks, we finally arrive at a small village, where lunch and elephants are awaiting us. We spend an hour elephant trekking through the jungle, and then we begin the intense 2.5 hour trek up the jungle to the Loa Hunla (?) village tribe at the top of the mountain.

Orchid Garden

Have to ride an elephant

Baby elephant!

This was exactly what I came for… 2.5 hours of up hill, hand over foot, hiking. When we finally arrive at the village at dusk, we shower (in the dark, with no electricity…thank goodness my phone has a flashlight) and have an incredible dinner of bamboo, pad thai, tofu, squash & chicken curry= YUM! We hang out with the tribal women, admire the beautfiul stars (which you can never see in BKK because of the smog and pollution), look for the Big Dipper but only see the Milky Way, and head to bed for one of the best nights sleep I’ve had in weeks. Until 5am, when the damn roosters start their roosting (crackling? screaming?)

I begin my morning with coffee (a rare treat here), and get ready for more trekking! We trek for about an hour through slippery slopes  (I think I fell about 3 times), until we get to a fantastic waterfall, where we all strip down and run through the way-cold- but-so-refreshing-water, that literally knocked me off my feet and took off half my bathing suit…that is one powerful waterfall!

Powerful waterfall

After playing in the waterfall, we trek for another hour to the river where we begin white water rafting! We white water raft for about 30 minutes, and then hop on a bamboo raft, which is just as it sounds. A huge, 8 person raft made of bamboo, where the front person steers with this enormous 10 foot stick. Ting, the Chinese guy in our group, was originially steering, but I soon changed that 🙂 After he “slipped” off the raft, I jumped up ahead and took over the steering. We arrived at our lunch spot, starving, and ate a meal of pad thai and pineapple. Oh, AND, grasshoppers. Yup, I ate a grasshopper. Me, the person most scared of bugs you’ve ever met in your life.

I jokingly told one of the (very girly) Danish girls on our trip I’d eat the grasshopper if she would, sure she would decline. She accepted my challenge. She grabbed the grasshopper, tore off the head, and popped the body into her mouth, in one swift motion. Shocked, I knew I had to live up to my promise and do the same.I pulled off the head, popped the body, complete with legs and wings, in my mouth, and chewed away! It was actually quite good…I probably wouldn’t order it at a restaurant, but not so bad. Good protein 🙂

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After grasshopper eating, we head home to shower and hit up Chiang Mai nightlife. Well, not quite. More like hit up the walking market, where we spend 2 hours shopping, eating, and walking around, until we were too exhausted to move. While shopping, I hang out with the 2 Danes and we proceed to try every Thai sweet being sold on the street, whilst learning some Danish (did you know Filt means fat & cool? So, I can say “Tu er Filt” meaning “you are cool/fat”. Hmmm…..).

After a couple hours of this, the 2 Danes head home, as they had an early morning adventure awaiting them. Then Ting (poor guy spent 2 hours shopping with MJ and Melissa), Mj, Melissa and myself head back to Julie’s guesthouse, where we meet some fellow travelers and talk with them for a couple hours. I met a Chilean financial analyst who takes off 1 month every year to travel the world. She’s been trekking to the base camp of Mount Everest, trekking in Chiang Mai, and hanging out in India, among other things. What a cool lady!

Before heading back to BKK, we stop by a few famous wats (temples) nearby, and pray to the Buddha for a safe train journey home.

 

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