Mae Taeng River Trek
Trip Start Jul 05, 2007
8Trip End Sep 06, 2007
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Sime and I were hesitant to go on one - mostly because we were unsure about visiting hill tribes - how they are treated and how they are involved in the process was a concern. Our guesthouse had a range of options for different treks - and after talking to them we decided to go on a three day/two night trek...
Overall it was a fantastic experience - we learnt a lot and still don't feel totally at ease with the trekking industry, but got to see a few different angles of it. Our guides were local men - 'Thai' was from Chiang Rai originally and 'Davis' is a Karen hill tribe guy who lives in Chiang Mai while he treks and in his village when he doesn't..
The fantastic side was probably mostly the nature and the people - amaaaaaazing forest landscapes and entertaining commentry from Thai our guide (who taught us a lot about the culture and the land). The highlight for both of us was the precarious raft ride home on the last day - so fun but also totally dodgy :-) Our raft broke twice, we had to jump into the river (with a veeerrrry strong current), drag it to the side and stand in the river keeping it from rushing downstream, while Thai went off into the forest with his knife to track down some bamboo to repair it. Funny stuff that made it so much more fun than the 'safe' ride of the other half of our group!
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Hmm the inevitable trekking 'experience' of thai tourism.....there's lots of viewpoints on this i guess
On the negative side when i found out how much the hill tribe villages got for our 'intrusion' i was quite shocked - and it was only distributed to a fraction of the villagers too(5 familes benefited out of 30)... we booked from our guesthouse and it was 1700Baht each - so about $65aus. Maybe on the cheaper side of most of the other treks on offer in chiang mai. Found out a couple of americans on the same trek paid about $260 US via Intrepid - prob something like 7000Baht.. So i think Intrepid's getting a nice cut there...Though their cost included a train/plane from bangkok and a couple more nights at a fancy hotel.... There were also 10 of us 'farang' on the trek toom, so all up big bucks....
Anyway back to the villagers - apparently they're paid 20 Baht per person who come on the
trek - so us 10 trekkers meant 200 baht! Acollective total of about $8aus...funny how next day our tour guide asked nelly why i asked that question about their income...must be on his mind too...Shame it's only 5 villagers who benefit too. Not the whole community (we were told there was 30 familes at this village).
So back to the positives. The most memorable part for me was walking through the 'jungle', amongst the clouds and standing still every now and then to take in the glorious views (the camera just didn't capture the beauty)....The elephant ride was pretty nifty going through the jungle too
The final part of the trek - the Bamboo raft was a apt way to end the three days. We spent about 4hrs+ on the river navigating our way back to base. Initially our raft didn't support us (it was sinking!) and they had to make some last minute adjustments. The Karen Village are paid 1000baht per raft. I'm not entirely sure who benefited from this - as it was only one villager who made it.
On the river, it was quite hard work steering the raft - some parts of the river were quite deep, others shallow, could be sandy or rocky. So it was hard to anticipate what to do...As we drfited down the river the majestic scenery once again took over. Pure beauty. All i could do was jsut lie back on the raft with the water washing up over me and take it all in. A couple of times along the river our raft also 'broke' - the bamboo came apart, so our guide had to make quick ammendments.