After a 12 hour train ride north from Bangkok, we arrived in Chiang Mai in need of a nice cold beer. So when we arrived at the Spicythai backpackers hostel at about 10pm thats exactly what we did. Instantly it felt like home to us as we were talking to new people even before we got in the front door. Since arrivng, we have made some great mates (some of which we are now travelling to Laos with) and have been out and about in town as a large group.
The first night consisted of drinking vast amounts of Chang Beer in the front garden until 4.30am, so naturally the next day was a bit of a struggle but we soldiered on nonetheless. In the night we went to to the Night Bazaar in the city centre and strolled through the hundreds stalls offering everything you can imagine. Haggling has become second nature to us now, as it is strongly embedded in the Thai culture.
Then came the start of one of the best experiences of our lives. 9 of us (Me, Ryan, Steph, Katie, Lee, Tony, Andy, Jake and Kim) from the hostel booked to go on a 3 day/2 night trek into the jungle northwest of Chiang Mai, about 1.5 hrs away from the city centre. We were accompanied by the craziest Thai bloke you can imagine called Pee. He was eccentric to say the least and looked like a Thai version of Che Guevara- Shiiiiiiiiiah Mao! The walking started around about midday in the blistering heat and we knew from that point that it was going to be a long and sweaty 3 days! About 4 hours of walking up steep slippy slopes ensued, but it was great fun. To think that you are walking in a Northern Thailand mountain jungle gets you through though. We arrived at our hut late afternoon and it was basically this large bamboo room with a row of rugs and mosquito nets overlooking the valley and elephants below. Back to basics stuff but we wouldn't have had it any other way, it was brilliant. This was followed by a lovely thai dinner and more beers.
Day 2 of the trek was great from the start. We awoke early in the moring to sore backs from the bamboo floors we slept on but it was worth it just to ride on the back of elephants down the valley. Very surreal. The look of amazement and sheer delight on people's faces at this point was priceless. Some of the elephants decided that they would use the 'happy room' (toilet) half way through the ride, or scratch their arses on big boulders which amused us all. After that it was another long walk to the next tribal village where we were staying called Pan Deng. Here we were treated like royalty and made to feel so welcome by the local villagers who came into the hut to see us. Later that night the children from the village put on a performance for us, singing a few songs in traditional attire. We were only too happy to return the favour, singing Stand By Me back. In the evening we did various shinnanigans which just added to the relaxed, chilled out feel already amongst the group.
Day 3, we walked to the river where we went white water rafting and floated down the river on bamboo rafts. Although it is currently the dry season in Thailand and the rivers are not too full, the rafting was still thrilling enough. Then it was home and time to say our goodbyes to Davina, a dog that we adopted after it followed us the whole way from the first village. In total, we climbed 6 or 7 mountains and must have walked about 20 miles of steep inclines and declines. They were three days of the lives that we will never forget. In the evening we all went into town and got royally tanked up, happy days!
Chiang Mai is such an amazing place and would thoroughly recommend to anybody to come here. If you do, you must try to book into the Spicythai backpackers hostel because there is such a great feeling of community and trust here. Its basically a house converted into 3 dorms with communal lounges, set in a safe cul-de-sac. Noom is a legend!