Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai and a Hill Tribe Trek
Briefly before I go into great detail about how I survived a Three Day Hill Tribe Trek in Chiang Rai I would like to pay homage to the brilliance of the Chiang Mai night markets!
The day before we set off to Chiang Rai we had a free day to explore Chiang Mai, we had options to do stuff like bike riding and quad biking but being me I decided to try and get a lie in and do jack all all day! unfortunatley due to some pesky workman decideding 8am was a good time to start trying to break up concrete outside my window, I did not suceed with my lie in plans! Although I did have great success in doing jack all!! Until the evening where I hit the night markets! Fully energised after my lazy day! They were superb and everything is dirt cheap, I brought lots of sourveniers and then some DVDs for like 50p and fake designer T.Shirts! Which I will be selling on E.Bay to fund my unemployment!! Unless of course I give them as presents!! If you get an Abercrombie, Billabong or Roxy T.Shirt from me in the next 6-12 months for Birthday or Christmas no matter how much I tell you it is real! I am lying and I apologise in advance for only spending 1 pound on you!! Bartering in Chiang Mai is fun!
I left the night market around 12.30am to go back to our hotel, despite the fact I had a free day I had failed to pack for trekking! Typical! I did not get to bed until 4am as when we eventually got back to the hotel me and my roomie Claire were so over excited by all our naff purchases that we insisted on getting every single thing out and looking at it, then we packed for trekking!!
We regretted our late night three hours later when the alarm was going off! We had breakfast and dumped our large rucksacks in storage for the next six days!! It was nice to be ditching the heavy bag, but also hard to pack six days of clothes into a small day sack! We left the hotel and got a Songthaew to the bus station where we caught a bus to Chiang Rai! It took roughly 3 hours to get there! We arrived at a place amusingly names "Cabbages and Condoms" where we watched a video showing how and why the hill tribe trekking has been set up! In short it is to bring a new source of income into the hill-tribe villages and also allows tourists to see parts of Thailand that otherwise they would not be able to have access to! After this we made our way to our first homestay! We were all expecting a cruddy shack so were pleasantly suprised when it turned out to be a house! A big one at that, owned by a teacher at the local school! I was in truth a bit let down as I wanted to be staying somewhere authentic and rural, but I have been assured I will get this on the trek!
We took a walk of the village with some of the local kids, played some volleyball and some football with them and then returned to the homestay for dinner. We ate this sat on the floor in the driveway whilst students from the teachers school played traditional Thai instruments for us, and one girl did a chinese dance! This was cool! After dinner the kids mingled with us which was a great way for us to communicate to the locals and also a brilliant way to help them improve their english! Two of the girls tried to teach me some Thai, but I was useless at it! While talking to the house owner and teacher it was sad to learn that the majority of children do not continue with their education after 12, in fact I think one out of all the girls who were there was going onto futher education!
Tonight I had a truly rubbish nights sleep as the house was bloody freezing! i could not get to my sleeping bag without waking everyone up so curled up in my hoody! It turned out in the morning no one had slept very well so I could have got my sleeping bag! Oh well.... its a good start to a hill tribe trek - no sleep!
DAY 1 of Hill Tribe Trek
We were picked up from the homestay by some tractor, that looked like it was about to collapse! Riding in the back of it was an experience! On the way we picked up three local villagers who were to be porters for me Anthony and Claire! The trek today is 15km and is apparently very steep in places, plus its hot! So I copped out and got a porter! For 300 Baht I think it was a bargain! He had to walk for 5 hours with my heavy bag on his back.... then at the end of the trek turn around and walk 5 hours back to his village! 300 Baht was apparently equivalent to 3 days work for him, and I gave him an 100 Baht tip so everyone was a winner! The trek today was pretty tough, we were lucky to be shaded by the trees but it was as warned very steep and hard work! We had to break often! The highlight was a lunch stop at a waterfall, where we ate noodles wrapped in banana leaf this was prepared for us my the family at the homestay! It looked exactly like the what Froddo and Sam ate their bread out of in Lord of the Rings! After a long five hours and thirty minutes trekking we finally arrived at our first Hill Tribe Village! The Lisu village of Huay Sun Lisau! The Lisu people were celebrating there New Year so in the evening after dinner and a awesome Thai massage we got to join in the celebrations - which consisted of dancing in a circel holding hands which did become fairly tedious (apparently they do this for 9 days) on the bright side we were allowed to dress in their traditional clothes which made good pictures!! The accomodation tonight was basic but decent enough! One hut for the girls, one for the boys! Self flush toilets and a cold shower! Better than expected, and I completed the first day of the trek with no injury! Result
Day 2 of Hill Tribe Trek
Today we got up around 7ish, had some breakfast prepared by the locals, grabbed our banana leaf lunches and set off to explore the Lisu Village for a couple of hours. In this time we got to visit the school! Unfortunatley due to New Year the kids were not at school, but we did get the chance to meet pre-school kids aged 2 - 5 years old. They were so cute, they sang a song and we taught them the hokey kokey! Which they loved! We were then invited by the head of the village to join in the New Years celebrations which consisted of more dancing round a tree! Only this time having to try and avoid the moonshine they were trying to ply us with!
After this we were off trekking again, today is only 2 and a half hours but is not shaded so the heat from the sun was a bit of a killer! Plus I had braved carrying my back pack today so had the extra weight to lug around with me! We made our way to Akha village of Ban May Phattana, the accomodation and the village were alot more basic and provided me with the authenticity I was looking for! We basically slept in a long row in what I can only describe as a chicken shed! The shower was a bucket and scoop and you could see into the toilet from it! Pleasant! I was absolutely shattered so after dinner and another traditional dance it was my bed time! I slept right through until 4am what sounded like 40,000 cockrels started with their cock-a-doodle-doos! It was very loud and there were so many of them I had no chance of getting back to sleep! I was glad I had an early night!
Day 3 of Hill Tribe Trek
Today is another 5 and a half hour trek, we were told it was all down hill! But there were still a few hills to trudge up! I again hired a porter as I was shattered and it was going to be another hot day! Plus I liked the fact that I could provided someone with nearly a weeks wages in a day! I quite enjoyed today, mainly as I think I knew I was on my way back to civilisation! Although it was uber hot and so dusty! My the end of the trek I think between us we had managed to bring most of the red dust with us! Unfortunatley some of my group struggled on day 3 as they were getting ill!! Which is always worrying after you have been sleeping in a chicken shed in a country with Bird Flu warnings! We stopped regualrly, had lunch at a chinses village, and after a long day walking we finally arrived at the end of our trek! Hurrah!
We got taken back to "Cabbages and Condoms" where we got changed into the nice clean clothes we had left there. Then taken to our guesthouse for tonight in Chiang Rai where I had a much needed shower! I had to wash my hair twice to get the dust out, and I had to give up on my feet in the end! Dinner was delightful, Bett took us somewhere we could get Western Food as no one fancied rice, plus the group seemed to be dropping like flies from a bug so we wanted a decent meal! I mustered up the energy to walk around the Chiang Rai nightmarkets where all the sellers were mean and would not barter! I did however buy some more crap, then headed off to sleep in a bed!! A real bed! Joy
Trekking was fun but intense, it was great to visit the villages and see a different side of Thai Culture...... I am glad I did it but am in no hurry to rush out and do it again!!