Chiang Mai - Day 2

Chiang Mai Travel Blog

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John feeding our elephant a banana, he likes bananas (and food in general)

Today, we got picked up for our trek at 8:15am.  Our group had 10 people total and was a relatively diverse group (2 French, 6 Italians (two from Rome, the rest from Milan), and us).  We piled into the back of our truck and then drove for about 1.5 hours toward the mountains north of the city, before stopping at a traditionalAkha village. 

 

The Akha are one of the indigenous tribes or northern Thailand and many still live in relatively isolated villages.  They are farmers and rotate the location of there village every year to a new spot so that the land can replenish its nutrients.  Historically, they were slash and burn farmers and would pick a new location every year, but as part of an agreement with the Thai government, they now rotate between a few designated sites.

He wants another banana
  They live in thatched roof homes that they build themselves.

 

After the Akha village, we drove a little further to the elephant camp, so that we could take an elephant ride further into the mountains.  We purchased some bananas to feed our elephant along the way, but it turns out we got the hungriest elephant in history.  When we arrived, he was munching on bamboo shoots.  Then he was happily eating bananas that the other people in our group were feeding him before we boarded the elephants.  After we started on our elephant trek, he repeatedly put his trunk up over his head begging for bananas from us.  If we didn't give him another one immediately, he would impatiently breath heavily through his trunk at us.  If we still didn't give him one soon enough, he would meander over the nearest tree and grab a branch or two to chomp on.

Our hungry elephant trying to steal some bananas from the guy in front of us
  At one point, he even tried to steal some bananas off the seat of the elephant in front of us.  It was pretty funny. 

 

After about an hour long ride, past some rice fields, and forests, and up the mountain aways, we dismounted our elephant, gave him the last couple bananas (which he wolfed down at once) and said goodbye.  Then we hiked a little ways to the river and zipped across in a cable-cage.  Then we climbed back into our truck to ride a short distance to the starting point for our hike. 

 

At the next stop, we hiked along a river, through the jungle, up the mountain to reach our stopping point for lunch, as well as to see a large waterfall where we could go swimming.

Us riding our elephant
  The hike was much longer than I was expecting and it is clear that Thailand doesn't know the meaning of the word "lawsuit," as there is no way a similar tour in the U.S. would include such a hike.  We crossed back and forth over the river at least 6 times, hopping across stones, just above small waterfalls, and balanced our way across fallen logs.  It was lots of fun.  Finally, after about an hour long hike up the hill along the river, we reached the waterfall.  I had been worried that after such a long hike, it wouldn't be worth it, but itdefinitely was.  At least 50 feet high, with three main cascades and a pool of water at the base for swimming, we quickly changed into our swimsuits to cool off after the long hike.  We swam for about 30 minutes, letting the water cascading off the cliff wash over us, before drying off and hiking down a little ways to the lunch spot.
Trekking along the river...
 

 

We had Pad Thai and Rambuttans for lunch, then relaxed for a little while before hiking the rest of the way down and back to the truck.

 

Our next activity was white-water rafting.  We were grouped into 4's and 5's, equipped with life-preservers, helmets, and paddles, and given a brief instructional demonstration on the various commands our guide would use during our time on the river.  Then we boarded our rafts and set off down the river.  Since we only paid 1000 Baht (about $30) for the entire trek, there wasn't any sort of skill evaluation, and anyone was allowed to sign up for the trek, I figured that the rapids would be little more than some fast moving water.

...hopping across stones...
  After the first set of rapids however, I was happy to discover that there would be some real white-water on this trip.  At one point, we dropped down a rapid so steep that the splash at the bottom knocked John and the other guy from the front seat into the middle seat.  I helped push them back into the front and we paddled hard to get down river.

 

Even the calm sections were a lot of fun, as our guide would steer us slowly over to one of the other rafts from our group and then order us to attack the other raft by splashing them with our paddles.  It was a fun 45 minutes of rafting with about 6 or 7 sections of rapids.  At the end of the rapids, we transferred to a bamboo raft (if you can call it that) to continue the last 15 minutes down stream.

to get to this waterfall.
 

 

They piled 9 of us onto one bamboo raft for the remaining part of the trip.  The only problem was that raft could probably only hold about 6 of us.  As a result, instead of floating on the surface of the water, it floated about a foot below the surface.  At one point, a piece of driftwood actually floated between me and john, over the raft.  It must have been an interesting sight from the shore since the murky water meant that you couldn't see the raft when it was below the surface.  From shore it would have looked like 9 people just floating down river with nothing supporting us.  Finally, we reached our destination down river and climbed ashore to dry off, change clothes, and then ride back into Chiang Mai in the truck.

Swimming at the waterfall was great after the long hike
  The trek was an amazing time and easily the best $30 I have ever spent. 


For dinner, John and I ate at a restaurant near our guesthouse called Salsa Kitchen.  It specialized in Caribbean and Mexican food.  Though not as good as the Mexican back home, it was still pretty good, especially after a day of physical activity.  After dinner we went back to the UN Irish Pub to watch the Community Shield Football (Soccer) Match between Chelsea and Man U.  Unfortunately, Man U won.  Then we turned in for the night since we were are going Mountain biking tomorrow.

There aren't any pictures from the rafting portions, because I didn't want to risk getting my camera wet.  It turned out to be a good decision.

nooker72 says:
We just booked our trek the day before through the manager of the guest house where we were staying. I don't remember the name of the company (actually, I'm not sure I ever knew it). It seemed like all of the guest houses have connections with tour groups so booking was really easy. If you stay at a reputable guest house, they will probably know the good treking companies.
Posted on: Oct 17, 2007
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John feeding our elephant a banana…
John feeding our elephant a banan…
He wants another banana
He wants another banana
Our hungry elephant trying to stea…
Our hungry elephant trying to ste…
Us riding our elephant
Us riding our elephant
Trekking along the river...
Trekking along the river...
...hopping across stones...
...hopping across stones...
to get to this waterfall.
to get to this waterfall.
Swimming at the waterfall was grea…
Swimming at the waterfall was gre…
...over logs...
...over logs...
...through the jungle...
...through the jungle...
It was quite a hike, but worth it
It was quite a hike, but worth it
This is our elephant
This is our elephant
Us riding our elephant
Us riding our elephant
After Lunch, John enjoyed his break
After Lunch, John enjoyed his break
I hope the cable holds...
I hope the cable holds...
It did
It did
Chiang Mai
photo by: Stevie_Wes