The travel agency at my guest house (and actually the travel agencies on every corner here) offer several different treks... the one most hardy young backpackers go on is the three day two night trek through the jungle, risking dengue fever from the mosquitoes and hepatitis from the toilet situations to get close to the 'real Thailand'. I, however, have been living in the 'real Thailand' for a year now, so I decided to go on the wussy one day trek that the tour guide promised me involved no more than about an hour and a half of walking. Sounds good to me!
There were three other girls on the trek - they were all Korean yoga teachers in Chiang Mai to take a Thai massage course. They all spoke a bit of English, and one was pretty good.
The first stop was the elephant camp! First we fed them some bananas (20 baht a bunch) then we rode them around a pretty well worn and muddy path through the jungle. My elephant kept grabbing leaves and eating... or trying to eat. I'm guessing that only some of the leaves are actually edible.
It was an interesting perspective, and I tried to imagine being royalty riding up in a big throne, or riding one into battle. But I have a terrible imagination and all I could do was think 'this is kind of cool' and try to ignore my pangs of guilt about the ethics of elephant tours in Thailand.
Oh well... the scenery was amazing when we got to the clearing.
The woman sharing my elephant with me was really scared. As soon as our elephant started to move she put her hand on my leg. I reached over and held her hand, because god knows I know what it's like to be scared out here! Eventually she was comfortable enough to let go, but any time our elephant did anything even remotely weird (like climbing half way up an embankment to grab some bamboo, or wandering over to snack on some grass after our mahout had gotten off) she grabbed hold of me again.
After the elephant camp we went bamboo rafting. Our guide was quite adamant to point out that we WOULD get wet and that the river contained river water, not drinking water -100% not drinking water! Ok... we got it. What I could not get was pictures... with the whole being in a river and getting wet thing.
The rafts were basically 10 bamboo logs strapped together.... that's it! Once I sat down I was wet, and wet in the very particular way that made me look as though I'd peed my pants. Delightful! The water was cool and looked like watered down hot cocoa - made from a mix, not the real kind. Since it's the rainy season (it had rained in the morning) the river was full and satisfyingly tumultuous*. The river meandered around bends and under trees. We saw cows & even an elephant on the riverbank. Fortunately, I guess, we dipped and turned enough to get my pants thoroughly wet, so I could avoid any question about my bladder control.
In fact, after lunch my bladder was emptied in the appropriate, if horrifying location.
We visited a couple of hill tribe villages. Initially I didn't want to do anything like this... because I just don't know how I feel about treating actual families as a tourist attraction.... but it was part of the trek so I went. And being a tourist - I took pictures. The background sound was the quiet cheep-cheep of several dozen baby chicks, and the background smell... pig sty. There were a few little kids running up to us with bracelets "Hello, five baht...hello, five baht." I really don't know the right thing to do in this situation, I resorted to cheap apathy - didn't buy anything.
The rice fields were really beautiful. These are just for the hill tribe's consumption, not for sale.
We hiked** around the fields and through a jungly bit and made our way to a waterfall. Not the most spectacular waterfall I've ever seen, but quite respectable. It was loud enough to hear well before we could see it.
OK - I started writing up this post last night...and I'm just now uploading pictures... but every time I do so, blogger adds like a page of blank space between each paragraph! ARGH! And you know, I have to drag the photos down to where they should be (17 brazillian page lengths down because of all the extra spaces). It was a good trek and I'll post more about it later, but now I've just got to call it quits.
It's Monday morning, and in about half an hour (or like two hours factoring in "Thai time") I'm catching a mini-van to start my trip to Laos. I'm not sure when I'll get to post again, it's half a day in the van, then a two day boat trip. I don't know ... it seemed like a good idea when I was sitting at the travel agent's desk. I will of course update again as soon as I have internet access again.
Wish me luck!
TAG: Code Mango
*which is to say not at all turbulent, but occasionally reached a level of activity that could be described as 'rather splashy'.
** walked slowly on reasonably well maintained trails and/or dirt roads.