Monday, February 7, 2011

Trekking in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Glistening temples, verdant vegetation, bustling nightlife and mouth-watering food makes Chiang Mai one of the most alluring cities in Thailand. Chiang Mai is also seductive to tourists and backpackers because of its top rated physical activity programs at very affordable prices. Some of these activities include trekking, yoga classes, zip lining and bungee jumping.

asia and others 1049
A motorcyclist driving past a temple

The trekking experience is arguably the most popular and that is exactly why I visited Chiang Mai. If you plan on visiting Chiang Mai, I highly recommend Julie's hostel. It is clean, safe, spacious and criminally affordable. You can get a comfortable bed in a four bed bedroom for as low as 80 baht per night (which is about 2 USD and 60 cents). They also sell ridiculously cheap alcohol(the cheapest you will find in the area) and decently-priced food. Julie's hostel is the quintessential backpacker hotel so you will definitely meet a lot of people. They have a wide open space with chairs, tables, sofas, pool tables etc and everyone sits, drinks, chats and just basically hangs out. At Julie's hostel, you can also book a three day trekking adventure for about 30 USD and I am not even kidding. The 30 USD covers everything: food, transportation, everything. It is one of the cheapest trekking programs in Thailand. However, bring some money with you so that you can buy water, drinks, snacks and souvenirs.

asia and others 1064
Elephant riding

On the first day of the trekking tour, our tour guide came to the hostel and picked us up very early in the morning. We jumped into the truck and the journey began. We stopped at a beautiful butterfly garden and then at a market to buy food supplies. After a long ride into the jungle, we arrived at the elephant riding center. What is great about this center is they nurture their elephants with great care and even rehabilitate abused elephants.

asia and others 1069
Elephants getting their drink on

Elephant riding is not as fun as I thought it was going to be. I had my first elephant riding experience in Cambodia and it was uncomfortable and scary. The elephant dawdled on the edge of a hill and our seat tilted downwards everytime. I honestly thought I was going to die haha.

asia and others 1066

Our elephant in Chiang Mai was hilariously stubborn; all he wanted to do was rest and eat. We bought him a ton of food supplies for the 30 something minute journey but he ate everything in less than five minutes. If we didn't feed him, he'll stop. Forward movement was only guaranteed if we obliged. I couldn't stop laughing at his schemes; he made the ride exceedingly enjoyable.After the elephant ride, we began our five hour trek up hill. I expected mosquitoes to ravage my skin the entire time but it wasn't so bad. We stopped sporadically to eat, chat and drink water.

asia and others 1072
Taking a break from trekking

After five hours of ascending, we arrived at the first village. Our home for the night was a very comfortable hut at the zenith of the mountain.After our sumptuous meal, we all sat outside, drank beer, played games and listened to our tour guide play the guitar.

asia and others 1079
At the summit

asia and others 1083
View from our hut

asia and others 1084
Toilet/bathroom :-)

We journeyed with two dutch families, two dutch girls and a dutch couple ( 10 Dutch people in general). The mothers embraced my buddy from England and I as if we were their own children; very nice people. Our tour guide was also a blast; words can't express how good of a guide he was. He had me in stitches the entire trip.

asia and others 1087
Waterfall at village numero 2

asia and others 1088

asia and others 1109
This kid swims like a fish.

On the second day, we trekked for about three hours to the second village. The second village was equally amazing. We ate, jumped into the waterfall, drank , relaxed and then continued our journey to third village. The third village was smaller and located downhill. We met some very interesting characters that night and had a splendid time.

asia and others 1115
Third Village. Vietnamese hats and waterproof ponchos

On the third and last day, we trekked to the river for the whitewater rafting. It was my first rafting experience and I was surprisingly good at it. I handled the paddle like a pro and screamed with excitement every time our boat was on the verge of capsizing.

asia and others 1116
Strapping up for the whitewater rafting

After that, we did the bamboo rafting which was harder than I predicted. You are basically float on a bamboo raft and then you use a long bamboo stick to paddle forward. I absolutely sucked at it.

untitled
Whitewater rafting. Contrary to what this picture is conveying, I was quite brave on the water :-)

After bamboo rafting, we had our final supper and then drove back into town. The trekking adventure in Chiang Mai was one of the highlights of my trip in South East Asia. So if you are ever in Chiang Mai, I recommend Julie's hostel as your choice of accomodation and the three day trekking tour program. Not only was it extrememly fun, I paid about 30 USD for the entire experience (food, accomodation, whitewater rafting, bamboo rafting etc). 30 dollars well spent if you ask me.