Trek to the Hilltribes

Pai Travel Blog

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Jumped in a truck and headed up of the city. Things became greener, prettier and quieter. Stopped at a market which sold all kinds of things from tobacco to live sea-creatures, fried insects to herbs & spices. Intrestingly a girl in our group spotted a monk browsing over a FHM magazine in one of the local shops. We bought some gifts for the hilltribe children becaue they obviously don't have access to shops so things like colouring pencils, rubbers, paper, play-dough, bouncing balls and so forth bring a smile to their faces and are of huge value to them. Before jumping back on the truck, Prasit our guide had brought an array of local foods. Banana within sticky coconut rice and fried insects. The former everyone tried but the insects were given a miss by most. I tried it first and it really tasted fine. Actually like fried chicken skin. It was really crunchy. But this didn't convince the majority you were having none of it. We stopped for a basic lunch of soup and rice followed by this amazingly pretty fruit called dragon-fruit which has a lush purply pink colour. We went up a hill along a dirt road to a stop where we then followed a path along a river for 15minutes before reaching this incredible waterfall that thundered down from quite a height and sent up a mass of spray. You could bath underneath the falls which was amazing especially considering the midday heat. The next stop was for a basic lunch of rice and soup on the edge of the jungle which was followed by eating this incredible dragon-fruit which has this gorgeous purply pink colour - a really pretty fruit. We then took the truck up a series of winding mountain roads higher and higher until our starting trekking point. The walk was relatively easy (for some and more difficult for others) and the shade created by the high trees gave relief to what would have been a much more difficult trek if in the baking sun. There were steep sections and muddy parts which caused a few to tred carefully and one or two to fall over. I walked in front with nerat (the young guide) who i found out studied Politics at Chiang Mai University and was 25years old even though he looked barely 18. He is such a great bloke though who is always smiling and made us some pointed hats out of banana leafs. The forest was filled with pine trees, some of which had a burnt trunk which Nerat explained was done by local villagers to collect the pine oil for fire. He also told me that main animals you get in the area are water buffalo, wild boar, deer, elephants and anacondas although they are rare to see. You need to be out during the night if you want to see and hunt the boar and deer. Buffalo won't be slaughtered as they help the villagers to plow the paddy fields. I had itchy feet and wanted to reach the hilltribe which I was told is a Karen village, the largest group of hilltribe people in Thailand who originally came from Burma but who sought refuge in Thailand during troubled times in their home country where they fought for independance (or something along those lines). The village was beautiful. A kind of rugged beauty with kind villagers, laughing children and an amazing setting. Wooden huts, surrounded by rice paddy fields and jungle with a stream running through the village. Just watching the elders going about their everyday business, slapping wet clothing on the rocks by the river, feeding the animals & cooking dinner over a fire made me ecstatic. The place was littered with tethered pigs, chickens and cows. The wooden housing was raised from the ground on stilts and underneath there were animals, stockpiles of chopped wood and other necessities. Our sleeping quarters was basically a large wooden hut with thin mattresses laid side by side and mosquitoe nets hanging over. Next to our hut was the cooking hut which was built slightly lower on the ground and had a section which enabled food to be passed straight through to our hut. Our guides and a few locals started cooking our dinner as the sun set. While the rest of the group gathered & chatted as night fell, I sat in the cooking hut with the locals. It was pretty simple but incredible. The whole setting and atmosphere was setting my mind alight. They had succesfully caught a deer that evening so had lumps of its flesh ready to be cooked. Sammi, one of the guides was showing the group how to make spring rolls which were then passed through and deep fried in hot oil that was smoking over a blazing fire. The chilli laden smoke, the cooking meat, the flickering fire, the talk of the villagers, the smell of tobacco..all accumulated was MENTAL. Sammi passed me a handful of bamboo worms which after the first cautious bites I munched happily with the Thai dogs. Sammi also constantly had a smile plastered on his face & had a kind voice. His english was still in its early phases, "tank u much" was a funny example of this. After a rather incredible dinner we played games but purely with little wooden sticks. They layed out certain shapes and patterns with the sticks & we had to then make a specified new shape/pattern moving only a certain number of the sticks. It was difficult but clever and fun. It happily suprised me at how little it takes for them to have a good time. Earlier the group had dispersed and handed out gifts to the village children. The smiles which a simple coloured ball or pencil put on their faces was magic. Their shower is lush as well. The water running through the village falls down a series of small waterfalls and a simple construction from large bamboo sticks diverts some of the running water along the bamboo stick where if falls back into the river from a height providing a cold but wicked shower. Sleep was good. It was pitch black & the sounds of the jungle & stream poured through our huts window.
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photo by: Stevie_Wes