I was starting to feel sluggish so booked myself on a two day, one night jungle trek that Chiang Mai is famous for. Like I said I am not a big exercise fanatic, I prefer to work out when I don’t know that I am even doing it, so this was perfect because as well as getting to experience trekking through this lush jungle we were headed to waterfalls and to ride elephants so in that sense the trek was just a way of getting from A to B.
I had on my sexy walking boots and small backpack loaded with water and mozzie spray. I was again the only single girl on this trek surrounded by a French couple, German couple, Dutch couple and a group of three cheeky Argentinian friends.
Our jungle guide, TK, was hacking away at the path in front of us so we could pass on a rocky uneven route. There were times we had to cling on to the rock face and edge up whatever solid ground we could find, ducking under huge bamboo canes and swatting off a range of creepy crawlies that I had never seen before in my life.
As we stopped in a clearing to have a break TK had carved a shot glass out of bamboo whilst everyone was sat talking, then produced a bottle of Thai rice whiskey that we took in turns to down, something about getting more energy inside us.
Onwards we went, crossing this tiny wobbling bridge to a waterfall where we were the only people around. After a quick dip we headed onto our home for the night in this village high on a hill where we all slept in one large bamboo hut on thin mattresses. The toilet was a hole in the ground in another hut surrounded by pigs and chickens strutting past. After walking for nearly five hours in the baking heat I would have slept anywhere that night
The villagers welcomed us with huge smiles and as we sat on a makeshift veranda, drinking chang, trying to talk in broken English accompanied by lots of hand gestures, they prepared our dinner of chicken, potato and rice soup. It seemed to get dark in an instant and one moment I will never forget is everyone sat listening to TK playing a guitar and singing Bob Dylan, passing around the bamboo shot glass now filled with thai whisky, by candlelight. I remember lying on my back and seeing the stars, hearing this beautiful song and thinking ‘Wow. I am so lucky to be here.’ I got a bit emotional thinking here I was in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by strangers, staying on the floor of a villagers hut and I couldn’t be happier. The Argentinian guys, who were lawyers, (One was called Frederico Rigatoni how cool is that name!) then took the guitar and sang beautiful Argentinian love songs to everyone.
I need to tell you about the stars. I have never seen anything so beautiful in the sky, as there was no smog or smoke or pollution from any nearby towns the sky was pitch black (you needed a torch to get from one end of the hut to another, and it was a small hut) and these bright clear stars just popped against the jet black background. There was so many all just twinkling away. I felt overwhelmed by how small and insignificant I was compared to this whole amazing galaxy above my head.
I slept really badly as I was so cold, I had so many layers on and at one point had to put my sweaty vest top I had worn all day around my head to try and preserve some heat. The next morning I realised that everyone else slept soundly because they had thick woollen blankets, I looked down and realised instead of a blanket I had slept wrapped in a towel so no wonder I was freezing.
After breakfast of eggs and jam we were on our way trekking for a few more hours until we got to an elephant sanctuary. We got to ride an elephant, see them giving them a bath and fed them with bananas. I was looking forward to going white water rafting but the river was not strong enough so instead we took a lazy bamboo raft slowly along the river then we visited the long neck tribe. These are Burmese refugees who were persecuted in their home country for having these heavy brass rings around their neck from the age of four so now live in Thailand waiting for the political situation to change until they can return home.
I got to try one of the rings on and it was so heavy, only women wear them and they are not allowed to take them off unless they leave the tribe. They don’t actually elongate the neck but just give the appearance that they do, the women were making scarfs and other trinkets for tourists to buy in a small market place they had created.
I was so glad to get back to my hostel and take a much needed shower, this experience was definitely a highlight of my trip so far with the added bonus of a good workout included!