I mentioned in a previous post that our time in Chiang Mai was “dominated” (to use a favorite new Wayne-ism) by our three-day, two-night trek through the nearby Mae Tang region. I really, really wish I had more information than that; specific locations, names of waterfalls, routes through the jungle, etc. However, as things stand, I have close to nothing in the way of “details.” That being said, it seems that most Chiang Mai jungle treks I’ve heard of all resemble one another very closely so take my word and recommendation and do this if you are ever in the area.
I also mentioned that we booked our trek (which included all meals and accommodation during the trek; elephant riding and white water/bamboo rafting at the end; and a fantastic English-speaking guide named Sak), a night at a guesthouse in Chiang Mai on either side of the trek, and all related transportation right from the Information Booth at the train station for a considerably lower price than we’d seen in our Lonely Planet guide, which advertised that similar treks would run about 2500 Baht (+/-$90). We ended up paying 7000 Baht (+/-$230) for the four of us, which is just kind of mind-blowingly cheap for what you get.
That being said, I’m sure I don’t need to include that there weren’t exactly a lot of frills involved in the experience. The accommodation we were provided during the trek was… rustic at best. The kind of “rustic” that translates to small mats with mosquito nets on the floor of a little bamboo hut with no electricity. Which was perfectly fine and I’ll admit to sleeping wonderfully both nights, but something that I do feel should be a bit of a disclaimer. As for the food, my family said time and again it was the best they had in their time in Thailand, all prepared for us when the moment was right by dear ol’ Sak. He even left a small portion vegetarian for me when I mentioned it to him. Just real hearty vegetable, curry, and rice dishes that were perfect for the hungry jungle wanderer.
As you can imagine, roughly a million photos got taken during the trek so I’ll just do my posts day-by-day. Our itinerary ended up being a little different to what I’d heard about most of the treks, with the elephant riding going down on Day 1 and the trip progressing from there. Somehow our elephants ended up on the last day, right before we did our white water and bamboo rafting, leaving the first two days wide open for lots of walking! After a bit of confusion in the Song-tao we determined our group to be comprised of us four Calonders; plus Jule and Rolf, a lawyer and a dentist from the Netherlands; plus Leah, Rose, Mairead, and Rachel, four girls going into their final year of Uni in Ireland (though Rachel’s actually English). Though we were obviously a bit of a diverse crowd it ended up being a very fun and entertaining mix and I think we all were very satisfied with the arrangement! Our first stop was actually at an orchid and butterfly farm, which was unexpected but lovely, but I forgot to upload those photos so it’ll get its own post later.
So here you are: Trekking Day One. The day took us from Chiang Mai, to said orchid farm, to a market to buy supplies, to our starting point where we were given lunch. Then it was onward on foot past a waterfall and up a hill to a village whose name from the sign I can make out to be Ban Huay Goop Gan, but which yields no Google search results so who knows if it really even exists. We mingled with a few of the locals (who are their own ethnic group and don’t speak Thai), cleaned up a bit, and took in the beautiful surroundings. By night we had a bonfire singalong with Ryan on ukulele and myself, Sak, and Ryan passing around a guitar as well. Then it was time to rest up for another big day.