Welcome to the jungle

Trip Start Jan 07, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Well, Luke and I decided to sign up for a trek finally since it's incredibly difficult to hike on your own around here as they don't sell any maps of the jungle and trails.  Even our guides didn't have a map!  So we signed up for a 3 day 2 night jungle trek (1900 B).  In this trek we were supposed to stop at 3 hill tribe villages, ride elephants, bamboo raft, and of course "trek". Trekking is apparently like hiking but a lot more slowly and not as far.  The first morning they loaded 10 of us into a songthaew (enclosed pickup with bench seats) and drove about an hour and a half north of chiang mai to our first village where we had lunch.  We were promptly greeted by about 6 kids who put bracelets on our wrists and then tried to charge us 10 baht for them!  Good sales tactic.  We started hiking from there.  The guides were very generous with the breaks and in 2 hours we arrived at the next village where we were going to spend the night.  We had a lot of time to hang out, have a "cool" (read: warm) beer, and chat with our fellow trekkers.  The boys played football (soccer) with the Thais and it was a pretty relaxing evening. Soccer with the Thais turned into a pretty competitive game. We had the advantage of superiorsize and footware (if the wore any at all) and they had the classic advantage of actually being soccer players. They made pretty short work of us all. We had David Beckham (the guide) on our team and he scored about every goal. We also play some of their hackey sack/volleyball game. The Thais are also ninjas at this very difficult game. The food was great that night- eggplant and chicken over rice.  That evening some of the women and children of the tribe danced and sang for us in there traditional clothes. After that the beer drinking accelerated and Beckham had a bunch of mind games and riddles to play. These usually resulted in him having a lot of fun at our expence. I want to also mention that they will try to sell you opium hits for 100 baht. Don't even bother with them. They are fake. Some of the people were convinced that there was some effect but trust me it was a complete rip-off. Who knows what they were selling people but trust me it deffinitely wasn't Opium. 

Our guides names were David Beckham, Tom Cruise, and Jack Black.  I don't really know why they have these nicknames...  Anyway, the second day was mostly walking.  But again, the guides were very generous with the breaks (we'd hike for about 15 minutes and break for 10).  We stopped for lunch at a little hut in the jungle.  Nearby there was a waterfall so we headed over for a swim.  The water was freezing!  But it was nice to feel clean again, if only for awhile.  After lunch we walked for about another hour or so to the village we were staying at for the night.  This village was an elephant camp where we would ride elephants the next morning.  Again lots of time to hang out and have a beer (somewhat cold this time!). The guide took me(lewk) "fising" that night. Their version of fishing was walking slowly up a creek hunched over looking for fish with a flashlight (they were suitably impressed with the convience of my headlamp). When you see a fish you simply try to chop it in half with you knife. The guide was able to halfway fill his wicker basket in an hour or so. I caught one minnow and half of a crawl-daddy. At one point I watched Beckham pull a large tadpole out of the water with just his hand and then turn aroud 5 seconds later to pull out a decent sized crab. That's right crab. You could really survive on this tiny creek if you had to. In the morning I(lewk) found that my sandal had been stolen. I walked around and found a village guy who had been eating a football sized piece of  boar leather the night before wearing them. It was an easy confrontation to get them back. He knew what he did. Nonetheless I was a little pissed and a lot less trusting of my stuff spending half the day unattended in the bungalo and my big bag back sitting at the hotel.

The third day was the most interesting.  We got up, had breakfast, and went on a elephant ride!  I had to feel bad for the poor animals.  It can't be any fun for them to have 3-4 people on their backs for over an hour.  They didn't seem to mind too much.  But I was looking forward to hanging out, maybe feeding and petting the animals for a bit before or after the ride and that didn't happen.  We rode them through the jungle and they dropped us off and headed back to camp.  I was a novelty and we enjoyed it, but I don't think I'd do it again.  So after the elephant ride we hiked for about an hour to a road where we were picked up and driven to the river we would raft on bamboo rafts!  It was really fun and I wish it would have lasted a little longer.  But I do think I could make one if I'm ever stranded in the jungle!  I started out with 3 other people from our group (no guide) on one raft.  We were doing pretty well but our raft got a little screwed up along the way and we were standing about ankle deep in water.  So a raft that came up behind us (with a guide) took me on board so the first raft could float a little better.  It was more exciting on the first raft I must say.  The trip lasted about an hour and then we were back on land, put back into the songthaew and had a long and hot journey back to Chiang Mai. 

The trip had it's pluses and minuses.  I think Luke and I are a little spoiled by where we've been living.  We expected a little more out of the hiking portion.  Most of the villages that we visited seemed only to be there for the benefit of the trip.  We didn't really socialize with the people who lived there, they weren't interested in us at all.   Even during the dancing, the women didn't really seem to enjoy it.  Or maybe they're just shy.  Our group was great though and having people to hang out with every night was nice.  All in all I (*lewk) would reccomend Nice place tours to those who want to party more and see less. Or maybe if taking a long hike isn't really up your alley. The entire trip would have been an easy day hike back in wyoming.
Pictures coming soon!
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