Trekking & Hill Tribes

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We’re back from two nights and three days trekking in the northern mountains of Thailand. There were a few disappointments, but overall the experience was awesome and well worth the relatively small amount of money it cost us.

We woke up Monday morning to a terrential downpour. The kind you only see once in awhile, where there is so much rain that things flood in a matter of minutes. It was a good thing we each bought a raincoat for 200 Baht the night before. There were two English guys at our hotel going on the trek as well, so we met them in the lobby at 9:30am. Our ride showed up on time. It was a pickup truck with two seats bolted the long way in the back and a cap on top. We loaded 5 more people in making a group of 9. Me, Eric, the two English, a Canadian guy, an Isralie couple, a Japanese girl and really wierd japanese guy who kept his headphones on and eyes shut the whole one hour ride to the elephants.

The elephants were the first thing we did and the first disappointment. We had been shown elephants trekking people through rivers and it appearded as part of the trek, but we were taken to an elephant petting zoo of sorts. We did get to ride the Elephants (in the pouring rain), but we did a loop through the woods where the elephants were kept. The ride was pretty cool. The elephants were very mild, but they are so huge…if they decided they didn’t want to do something…they didn’t have to. We rode the elephant in pairs and evryone had a guide on the elephant too…except me and eric. For some reason they just tied a rope to our elephant’s ear and hooked it on the elephant in front of us. About half way through…while going up a 10 foot almost vertical cliff, our elephant decided to stop moving. The line went taught and i though his ear was going to rip off. He roared and the 1/4 nylon line snapped. Nothing was happening yet, but all of a sudden me and eric were sitting on a pissed off elephant with no guide. Luckily the elephant listened to the yells from the other guide and stayed while he retied the line. When he was yelling at the elephant in Thai (wuk Yuk Baaa naaahhh tah gaiii blahh blaahhhh), i had no idea what he was saying and i relaised that neither did the elephant. But i could tell from his emotion and his hand movements what he wanted the elephant to do…and probably so could the elephant. The rest of the ride went without a hitch and as soon as it was over, the rain stopped.

Next we were driven an hour into the hills. They call them hills, but where I come from…they’re mountains. We set out on the first day’s trek with little directions or expecations except that we were goign to hike, swim in waterfalls and stay with hill tribe people. The first waterfall was about an hour into the hike. It was a pretty awesome jungle like setting. The heat was pretty intense and the hike was a lot more difficult that we expected. That wasn’t a bad thing, we were just surprised. After the swim we hiked a couple more hours. On the way our guide eddy showed us a plant whose stem you can break and blow bubbles with. He also showed us another plant that if you rub the leaves in your fingers, a red dye comes out. The tribes used those leaves to paint their faces. The last 30 minutes of the hike on Monday was the hardest. It was a steep climb andthe mid afternoon heat was making it almost impossible. It seemed like we were stopping every 5 minutes for water and rest. We had hiked miles as we came over the hill into the first village. The place was so picturesque. Like the places i’ve only seen on TV and in National Geographic. People wearing donated or hand made clothing, houses and fences made of bamboo, open trenches carrying water and sewage, small gardens and farm animals everywhere. We were shown where we were goign to have dinner in a couple hours and then set free. We wern’t introduced to the tribe people at alland it was a bit uncomfortable at first. It was immediately obvious they didn’t like our cameras, however it was also obvious that the trekking tours are somewhat a part of their life now. Some of the females immediately brought out jewelery and fabric they had for sale. I ended up buying some bright colored fabric for 200 Baht so i could take this ladies picture. It wasn’t a deal we struck in advance…i just asked her after i bought it. As the night went on, things became a bit more comfiortable.

I took my first shower in a third world environment. It was a pipe with an unknown water source just continuously pouring out of it…day and night. It was set about 4 feet from the pig pen…when was on stilts and set above a pool of water that collected the pigs crap and piss. I was sure that if i was going to get sick…this was the time. Even though the shower was cold, as far from private as you can get, and probably left me with more bacteria on me then when i started…it was still refreshing.

Dinner was a plentiful heaping of chicken curry and rice. I ate a couple servings. We had to pay for drinks, but at 20 Baht per, it wasn’t much of a bother. After dinner the group sat aroudn and played cards. I was somewhat disappointed there wasn’t more intereaction between us and the tribe. We just sort of arrived there, they tried to sell us stuff, then they cooked us food and cleaned up. They didn’t eat with us and pretty much kept to themselves.

While we playing cards, our guide eddy did a magic trick for everyone. SO obviously i had to do a few of mine. I think i got 2 out of 3 of them off ok. As the card games got tiring, people started going to bed. Eventually it was just me and Eddie and i showed him some more magic. Then one of the tribal people sat down…his name was Mai. The tribe people have their own language, but they also speak Thai…so Eddy was able to translate. Eddie ended up leaving to, so i Sat with Mai and we tried to comunicate. He new a small bit of english, probably from all the toursits coming through. He asked me about my family and their ages. I asked him as well. He was 42, had a son and daughter. His son showed up soon thereafter. I showed them some magic. I’m not sure if they know what cards are or not…they stared blankly at one of my tricks and then smiled. They liked the one where i made the card appear out of nowhere. They liked learning english, teaching me their language….

There is mush more to write about…and i will. But for now i’ve got to eat and hang in chiang mai with our new friends from the trek.

One Thought on “Trekking & Hill Tribes”

  1. Angela Says:

    Hey stranger,I was wondering where u were.. so i decided to check out your website,and holy shit.. you’ve officially gone to more places than I have. It sounds awesome.I’m really starting to like your website.. I might just make it my homepage.. Ha just kidding.Take care,Angela.

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