Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Chiang Mai Day 2 - Trekking
We didn't have much time in Chiang Mai so we opted for a one day trek. The one we chose contained all of the sights from the longer, multi-day treks - only with considerably less walking. We were picked up from our guesthouse at 8:00 AM along with our guide and three other backpackers from France. We drove about an hour out of Chiang Mai to our first stop . . . for an elephant ride!!
Our elephant's name was pronounced "goon", which our guide said translated to "money". An apt title based on the price of our day trek! We couldn't get any pictures of ourselves on the elephant but we'll hopefully be able to trade photos with the other people on our tour by email. We rode on the metal saddle . . . not exactly comfy . . . and our driver rode most of the way behind Goon's ears.
You can't tell, but we're on an elephant here . . . I promise!
It wasn't just a few laps around a man made track, either. It was an hour-long journey through the jungle. We had to hang on tight going up and down some steep inclines.
Here's Goon flapping his ears to cool off. Much better than the other guys' elephant who continuously sprayed himself (and them) with muddy water . . .
At about halfway through our ride we came to a clearing where we were treated to some breathtaking views of the northern country side.
You can see our friends up ahead at a 'banana break' stand. This is where our driver hopped off and left us at the reigns.
After the elephant ride we hopped back in a van and headed to visit the Karen Hill Tribes. They are originally from Burma but also live in the hills of Northern and Western Thailand. They live in huts built on stilts and continue to practice the 'old' way of life. The Karen are one of the tribes famous for 'long necks' with metal rings used to elongate their necks. We didn't see any, however, except in the brochure from the trekking company! Fortunately, we were able to see some weavers making cotton scarves and bought a few as souvenirs.
When we left the village, we started the acutal trekking part of our trip. We walked for about 40 minutes through the jungle towards a waterfall where we could swim.
Our guide showed us some cool things along the way. We ate some fruit straight off of trees, he showed us how to collect rainwater on giant palms, and he blew some bubbles with the sap in these leaves.
It was all quite touristy but there were some pretty scary bridges we had to cross.
We finally made it to the waterfall. It was extremely hot so our guide and us hopped in the river.
Along with a few other trekkers we crossed paths with . . .
It was really nice to go in for a dip but soon after came the rain. We didn't mind too much because it helped to keep us cool in the afternoon.
When we finished our walk, the van was waiting for us and took us for some lunch. We ate some delicious Thai food at a shack by the road. We were able to chat it up a bit with the guys on our tour. They were on a year long tour of Australia, New Zealand, and South East Asia. They made us jealous, especially the fact that they were heading back to their home, Paris, when it was all over.
After lunch, we went to a nearby river to try out some bamboo rafting. The traditional rafts were exactly what they looked like . . . just a bunch of bamboo tied together. They floated just below the surface and were powered by the drivers who pushed against the riverbed, tree stumps, or rocks. I was helping to drive by standing on the rear of our boat and almost went overboard a few times (I think our driver was trying to dump me on purpose). It was alot of fun, though. I was able to take some pictures of the next group passing by when we finshed.
Well, the trek was a great success. We ended our night with a fabulous dinner at a classy restaurant on the river in Chiang Mai. The food here was awesome and we were looking forward to cooking some the next afternoon!