Chiang Mai: Trekking, Tribes and Thai Curry

Trip Start Apr 09, 2010
Trip End Sep 07, 2010

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010


After Ayutthaya we traveled further North to Sukothai, another previous capital with lots of ruins and Buddhas dotted around the place, we rented a couple of bikes and visited the various sights and indulged in a couple of Thai massages to sooth our Lance Armstrong-like legs.

We are currently in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, and we have decided
that it is our favourite place so far. We arrived and settled in to the lovely Kavil Guesthouse, which was family run, clean and very friendly before deciding to book ourselves onto various treks and cookery classes.

On Thursday evening we ended up sat around a Thai Boxing ring watching various people kicking each other in the head and kneeing one another in the scrotum. Lovely stuff. It was actually a really good night, with Jen enjoying it more than she expected. I wasn't sure if it was more disturbing watching 7 year-olds kick each other or witnessing 14 year-old girls punching each other in the face. Either way, after a few Thai Whiskeys we didn't really mind.

From boxing to cooking. We opted for 'Thai Farm Cookery School' which was truly ace. We were picked up early on Friday morning and shipped out to rural Chiang Mai to learn about all the different ingredients and pick some of the veg that we were to use in our dishes. We cooked 6 dishes in total, from a Thai Green Curry, to Mango with Sticky Coconut Rice. James is fancying himself as a bit of a Masterchef and may well be looking into a career change. The day was filled with cooking and eating (and for James - power-napping) on a beautiful little Thai Farm. Excellent day all round. We hit the hay early to prepare ourselves for the fun times on Saturday....trekking.

Saturday morning - 9am. Unlike our usual Saturday mornings at home which would be filled with sleeping, coffee and Soccer AM, we were packed into the back of a pickup truck and driven to Doi Inthanon National Park without really having an idea of what we had let ourselves in for. Luckily, we were in the same boat (or Toyota) as some other Brits (two of which lived near Forest Row) - safety in numbers. We arrived at an(other) elephant park to get reacquainted with our rough-skinned friends (both feeling like we we're experts after our previous encounter in Kanchanaburi) and headed down to the river to for some fun. We stopped briefly for lunch before starting our 3 hour trek to the Lahu Hill tribe village that we would be staying at for the night. We thought we would have a gentle ramble along the riverside, alas, our guide 'Crazy Jim' had other plans (as did the weather) as we trekked 'Bear Grylls' style up the side of what seemed to be the world's largest 'hill'. However, it was all worth it in the end, and we appeared out of the jungle and onto the side of the hill at sunset for some outstanding views of the National Park, accompanied by our beautifully sweaty musk. The Lahu Tribe were very welcoming, allowing us to stay on the floor of one of their bamboo huts for the night. We showered and squatted, and explored the village accompanied by the latest addition to our group, a flea-ridden mutt that we lovingly named 'Sausage'. We met the locals, and played with the kids before having some dinner and 'Chang'-ing ourselves up and falling asleep next to the fire.

Day 2 in the Doi Inthanon jungle consisted of a gentler walking course, stopping off at another tribal village and a handful of waterfalls - it's all in a days work for the intrepid traveler. The evening was spent playing cards at 'jungle camp', a 'I'm a celebrity' style jungle retreat without Peter Andre and Jordan necking in the corner. Day 3 consisted of some water-based tom foolery on boats and rafts. After a morning walk my Year 9 geographical knowledge led me to believe we had arrived at the lower section of the Pai River. We teamed up with Will and Charlotte to create a formidable 'Team England' as we rafted down the slightly dry Pai River, leading the pack which consisted of a German boat and an Anglo-Dutch contingent. After some slight failings to pick up whether we were supposed to be leaning right or left 'Team England' forge a gallant and unassailable lead that the Germans were never going to make up, Team England proudly crossed the finishing line in first place. We then transferred onto a Bamboo raft with Rowe taking the role of Skipper - elegantly steering the victors past the bathing water-buffalo to our lunchtime stop.

After lunch it was time to pack-up and head back to Chiang Mai where we met back up with the rest of Team England for a spot of dinner, a browse around the night bazaar (where you could buy literally anything in the world) and a few beers at Julie's and Roof Top Bar before stumbling home. Job done.

The next morning we prepared ourselves for the journey to Chiang Khong - the border town into Laos. After weathering intense heat, tiny seats and a early evening Thunderstorm we arrived in Baan Ta-mi-la where we had dinner and gazed over the Mekong into Laos where the journey would continue.

A Laos-themed update will follow.

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