Chaing Mai

After our twelve hour train ride to Chaing Mai, we finally got in at 7:15 a.m.  There our driver was waiting for us to take us to the guest house where we would be staying, the S.K. House.  For $7.00 USD or B250 (Thai Bhat) we had a simple queen sized bed, a window and a ceiling fan.  It was so cozy that we made remarks that our cat, Kasha, should have been there with us.  We were able to shower and pack for our three day trek that we were to start the next morning near Myramar.  There we would be staying with the Hills Tribe, the Karen people.

We drove three hours to our starting point of the trek.  We first stopped at a Buddhist sanctuary that was overrun by monkey’s.  There we were greeted by a large golden Buddha over looking the farmland below.  Through the countryside heading to the starting point, we saw women in the rice fields harvesting.  A site that we only witnessed in movies before this trip.  Everything was just so new, and we were the sponges soaking up every new experience.

The trek through the deep rain forest was about 9km long, 5.59 miles.  Our guide explained the area that we were in, and had spoken about all of the animals living in the tropical forest, especially the Asian Elephant, weighing in at 2,750 – 5,420 kilograms or 6,000 – 12,000 pounds.  And while mesmerizing to see in the wild, we were warned not to back one is the corner or it could charge at us.

When we arrived at our destination we evaluated our room that we shared with the other nine people in our group.  The rooms were on stilts on wooden planks.  We each had mosquito netting and blankets.  We were prepared an amazing dinner by our guide and help of one of the Hills Tribe women.  We also got to try some homemade Thai whiskey, which is the equivalent of Moonshine.

Day two of our trek was waking up to breakfast being cooked for us again, and our guide showing us his collection of monkey skulls and monkey dicks.  I kid you not.  We took photos that you can see right here.  As he was proudly displaying his collection he exclaimed, “Monkey dick.  Good for knee.  Good for back.”  I’m not sure if any one asked how it was prepared to be used for medicinal purposed.  I’m not sure we were comfortable asking.

After breakfast we were able to take a ride on some elephants that they had brought in for us, the tourists.  While we were nervous about exploiting the stigma of riding the endangered species that was well known of being abused, these elephants looked very well taken care of.  It’s not too often that you have an opportunity to ride an elephant.  I have to say that it was one of the best experiences that I’ve had and something that will stay with me for life.  There was never a moment were I felt completely safe.  Many times I feared that the belt would let loose around the harness and we would slide off to the twelve feet below us.  There was one point were the elephant had to back up because it decided to detour off of the path.  That was a little precarious.  The local Thai’s had no problem at all climbing on the nap of their necks to ride them bareback.  They made it seem so seamless.

We started on our trek again shortly after our elephant ride was done.  We trekked another  6k or 2 miles to see a beautiful waterfall.  There we were fed yet another scrumptious lunch to refuel our energy.  By this time, our guide had said that Sky and I shouldn’t do the three day trek.  He was worried about my knee and making the time.  We all decided that it was better to go back with the other seven.  I was disappointed, but I couldn’t argue.  I was probably the oldest woman in our group (sheesh, I was only 32 back then), but I felt a lot older running around with early twenty-somethings.

Our final adventure on that hike would be to take a bamboo raft trip to our final meeting point.  All of us were able to lounge on the bamboo raft except for Sky.  One of the boys (and I mean nine years old), injured himself and couldn’t steer, so Sky had to work the final stretch of the journey with our lives in his hands.  Each of the rafts had an adult in the front, and a young boy, each around nine years old, steering us through light rapids and calm river streams.  It was a little scary at first to trust your live to a nine year old, but they seemed to do just fine, and were well tipped.

Once back to the city of Chaing Mai, we partied with some Brits that we had met on the hike.  The next day we were hungover and did little that day except some laundry and booking our room in Cambodia.  In the evening we felt better to go explore that night market after our dinner at Jerusalem Falafel.  You never realize how good you have it in America until you travel to a developing country to see true poverty.  Every Bhat is just a few cents to our dollar, but goes a long way for people.  I never felt bad about giving our Bhat to those who needed it more that we did.  That money would feed a whole family for a week if you bought enough from them.  The night market was full of vendors selling items to tourists and local alike.  Even the Hills Tribe people made it to the market to sell their jewelry and garments.  It was so new and exotic that I tried to take everything in, but was in sensory overload.  It was a wonderful end to our stay in memorable Chaing Mai.