It seems that one of the big reasons people come to Chiang Mai is to do a jungle trek. We were no different and we booked a two day, one night trek (along with a load of other stuff) from our hostel in Bangkok for when we arrived up north.
We were asked to attend a meeting the night before the trek where we were basically told what to pack and asked if we all ate chicken whilst a bloke buggered off with our passports for 15 minutes. I’ve learnt to not bother asking questions by now.
The next morning we left the hostel the customary Thai 15 minutes late at 9.15am and were taken to a market where we were advised to buy lots of water and a roll of toilet paper each. It was quite bizarre to see single rolls of toilet paper on pretty much every stall and I picked up a roll for 20 baht. I didn’t bother bargaining as I don’t exactly know what the going rate is for a single roll of toilet paper.
In hindsight I now know that this was exceptionally cheap stuff. You know the type. The tracing paper style bog roll you used to get in school that cut you to ribbons. Too much info?
We finally arrived at the jungle and began the hike. It was around this time that I realised our guides were absolute mentalists. Within minutes one particular guide who went by the name of “King Kong” (really) was talking about smoking the “happy tree” and flying to the moon. He got crazier as the hike went on and his pupils got a lot smaller. Kong and his mate kept disappearing off into huts when we stopped for an hour of so at certain points; god only knows what was going on in there.
We visited a few waterfalls, had a quick dip, a few beers and a spot of lunch before arriving at the village of Changa which would be our base for the night. Upon arriving at the camp I was amazed at how many animals were roaming about. I remember a couple of pigs (as well as a few that were sadly tied up), dogs, cats and roosters all just getting on with life in perfect harmony. Old MacDonald eat your heart out.
Once everyone had caught up and arrived at the camp we sat down with a beer and King Kong went through a few formalities. Halfway through his speech he reached into the roofing beams and pulled out a shotgun which he told us was for fending off the tigers which occasionally made an appearance at the camp. I had no idea whether he was joking or not. He also said that for 2000 baht we could barbecue the pig later that night, and the dog for 1000. Once again; whether he was being serious or not was anyone’s guess.
As the night went on more beers were sank and I can only assume a lot more happy tree was smoked. The guides were really good fun and kept us entertained all night with lots of stories and tricks around the campfire which was surprisingly required as I felt chilly for the first time in Thailand.
It had been a tiring day and we retired to bed around 10pm. Our cabin was a very different experience; essentially there was 14 of us on mattresses on the floor. I also had to set up a mosquito net for the first time in my life so it’s probably a good thing I went before we drank much more.
We were woken the next morning by a rooster’s call and the sound of a shotgun being fired. I find that my iPhone usually does a pretty good job but this was also an effective wake up call.
After a quick breakfast it was time to start hiking again which felt a lot more intense than the previous day. Maybe it was a case of tired limbs but this did seem a lot steeper than the rest of the walking we had done. One girl had gone over on her ankle early on the first day and I can only imagine how difficult this was for her.
A couple of hours quickly passed by and we had completed our trek of the jungle. The 14 us were crammed into the back of a pickup truck whilst King Kong drove us to a restaurant for lunch before we did an elephant ride and bamboo rafting down the river. I can’t say I was 100% comfortable with this mad man at the wheel but we all arrived in one piece which was infinitely better than what I was expecting.
The elephant riding was something of an anti-climax. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve done it before in India, but I just didn’t enjoy it all that much. It was also playing on my mind that the elephants didn’t appear to be particularly well looked after and I didn’t like to see the guys riding them carrying what looked like a spike on a stick, presumably to speed them up in a similar way a horse racing jockey uses a whip. It could be argued that elephants have very thick skin so it probably doesn’t effect them as much, but it still wasn’t nice to see.
The bamboo rafting, on the other hand, was awesome. It was a great way to sit back, relax and take in the serenity of the river. That was until all the locals who had rented out huts and rafts themselves started to play “splash the tourist”. Judging by their reaction it was one of the funniest things to ever happen, but most did appear heavily intoxicated so that might explain a lot. Unfortunately they were splashing us with river water and not beer; I guess you can’t have it all.
We arrived back in Chiang Mai absolutely shattered and just happy to see a toilet that had a flush mechanism. I would recommend the jungle trek to anyone visiting Chiang Mai as it’s a great way to see a completely different way of life and it really made me realise how over-complicated western life can be! Just make sure you take proper toilet paper. Don’t say you weren’t warned.