Experiences in the Jungle

Trip Start Jan 10, 2005
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Trip End May 10, 2005


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Saturday, January 22, 2005

We just got back from a three-day, two night trek visiting the hill tribes. The treking was moderately difficult, hot during the day, cold at night. I can't imagine what it would be like when it's the rainy season and the trails are slick/the humidity is high! We saw very few mosquitoes, but the ants seemed to think I was delicious! We had to carry our packs, so each of us took only a day pack. Mine was full to bursting.

There were ten people on our trek: an Irish fellow who survived the tsunami on Ko Lak; honeymooners from Melbourne, Australia; a couple from the Netherlands, two young women from Britain (one from Scotland and one from England); and a woman from France. Our tour guide's name was Ken. Most Thais have traditional names as well as English ones so the tourists can remember them.

Getting to know your fellow travellers a little is always interesting. Donny, from Ireland, had incredible stories to tell about the tsunami. Luckily, he had a second floor hotel room that was 500 m from the main beach. He remembers pulling people on to his balcony. He ended up in the jungle with nothing and the Thai people rescued them, gave them food and shelter. However, he had nothing good to say about the Thai police. Apparently, they were the first on the scene to remove anything valuable from the bodies. He had nightmares both nights of our trek.

Katya, from France, was a sociology professor who had spent two years teaching/ researching at the Kingston Military College. (Part of her research focused on women in the military which I found fascinating.) She had her PhD from the Sorbonne in Paris and was a marathon runner. I am always amazed by the courage of some travellers. She was travelling alone and had limited English, but that didn't phase her one little bit. She had a wicked sense of humour and we shared lots of laughs.

The hill tribes we visited were the Karen people, of which Ken was one. There are several types of Karen. Some of the Karen migrated from Burma. Many have become Christian/Catholic in the past 15 years, ever since the Thai census made it mandatory to specify regligion. Prior to then, most hill tribe people were animists.

The hill tribe people grow rice, vegetables and fruit and also keep animals - cows, water buffalo, chickens. Many of them had several dogs they used for hunting.

The hill tribe women prepared our meals along the way and the food was always fantastic. We ate rice, curries, noodles and soups. At night we stayed in raised huts. Between the cold and the hard bamboo floors, none of us got much sleep. But that didn't matter too much.

Our last day, we went for an elephant ride. Elephants are used for working here and cleared much of the rubble after the tsumani hit. Martin got to feed the elephants sugar care and rode up from with the mahout (elephant trainer). Myself and the woman from France rode on a seat behind. Elephants are really very graceful animals and are very sure-footed. We lumbered up and down a few hills and they are cable of squeezing through some very small places!

We also took a trip down the Wang River on a bamboo raft. There were some small rapids and everyone got a little wet (or, at least made sure you did!).

After our excursion, many of our group visited the Night Market in Chiang Mai to get a massage. A full body massage is a bargain at less than $10 per hour. In Thai massage, the masseur uses his/her hands, elbows, knees and feet to knead, press, pull - and hyperextend (!!!) - your various body parts. There were times I wondered if my limbs were being dislocated, but we all managed to walk out unscathed!
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