Mae Taeng River Trek

Trip Start Jul 05, 2007
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6
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Trip End Sep 06, 2007


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Monday, July 23, 2007

Everywhere you look in Chiang Mai, there are signs about trekking... tourism shops in the street, posters on the walls of the guesthouse, ads on sides of utes...
Sime and I were hesitant to go on one - mostly because we were unsure about visiting hill tribes - how they are treated and how they are involved in the process was a concern. Our guesthouse had a range of options for different treks - and after talking to them we decided to go on a three day/two night trek...

Overall it was a fantastic experience -  we learnt a lot and still don't feel totally at ease with the trekking industry, but got to see a few different angles of it. Our guides were local men - 'Thai' was from Chiang Rai originally and 'Davis' is a Karen hill tribe guy who lives in Chiang Mai while he treks and in his village when he doesn't... Thai's view on it, is that the hill tribes he visits treat the tourists like any industry they get income from - the permanent houses they have in the village for tourists are just like hotels and they need the tourists to come so they can make some income. I don't think Sime and I feel good about the specifics - how much they make, the inappropriate intrusion by some of the tourists (just taking photos of private moments without asking first! weird!), and the "zoo" aspect when we were taken around to watch them in the evenings doing their different activities. I think one of the most uncomfortable moments was when we were walked through a school at dinnertime and stood in a row watching heaps of kids (very young!) only supervised by other kids (oldest about 12!) eating their dinner... We weren't introduced - just stood there staring at them and talked about them in English... i wonder what they think...

The fantastic side was probably mostly the nature and the people - amaaaaaazing forest landscapes and entertaining commentry from Thai our guide (who taught us a lot about the culture and the land). The highlight for both of us was the precarious raft ride home on the last day - so fun but also totally dodgy :-) Our raft broke twice, we had to jump into the river (with a veeerrrry strong current), drag it to the side and stand in the river keeping it from rushing downstream, while Thai went off into the forest with his knife to track down some bamboo to repair it. Funny stuff that made it so much more fun than the 'safe' ride of the other half of our group!

- Annette


* ** *

Hmm the inevitable trekking 'experience' of thai tourism.....there's lots of viewpoints on this i guess. Overall i'm glad we did it and now feel more educated about the pros and cons, but definitely have some reservations about the 'experience'. More to do with the exploitations of the Karen hill tribe we visited by our tour company. 

On the negative side when i found out how much the hill tribe villages got for our 'intrusion' i was quite shocked - and it was only distributed to a fraction of the villagers too(5 familes benefited out of 30)... we booked from our guesthouse and it was 1700Baht each - so about $65aus. Maybe on the cheaper side of most of the other treks on offer in chiang mai. Found out a couple of americans on the same trek paid about $260 US via Intrepid - prob something like 7000Baht.. So i think Intrepid's getting a nice cut there...Though their cost included a train/plane from bangkok and a couple more nights at a fancy hotel.... There were also 10 of us 'farang' on the trek toom, so all up big bucks....

Anyway back to the villagers - apparently they're paid 20 Baht per person who come on the
trek - so us 10 trekkers meant 200 baht! Acollective total of about $8aus...funny how next day our tour guide asked nelly why i asked that question about their income...must be on his mind too...Shame it's only 5 villagers who benefit too. Not the whole community (we were told there was 30 familes at this village).

So back to the positives. The most memorable part for me was walking through the 'jungle', amongst the clouds and standing still every now and then to take in the glorious views (the camera just didn't capture the beauty)....The elephant ride was pretty nifty going through the jungle too. The way these majestic animals balance themselves through the ups and downs of the jungle is a sight to behold. On the flipside, the eleplant's are chained up and i wouldn't fancy being hit by one of the 'picks' their mahouts (owner/trainer) have! Although fortunately i didn't see them use it on our trek.

The final part of the trek  - the Bamboo raft was a apt way to end the three days. We spent about 4hrs+ on the river navigating our way back to base. Initially our raft didn't support us (it was sinking!) and they had to make some last minute adjustments. The Karen Village are paid 1000baht per raft. I'm not entirely sure who benefited from this - as it was only one villager who made it.  

On the river, it was quite hard work steering the raft - some parts of the river were quite deep, others shallow, could be sandy or rocky. So it was hard to anticipate what to do...As we drfited down the river the majestic scenery once again took over. Pure beauty. All i could do was jsut lie back on the raft with the water washing up over me and take it all in. A couple of times along the river our raft also 'broke' - the bamboo came apart, so our guide had to make quick ammendments.

cheers
Si
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Comments

mr.kenneth
mr.kenneth on

picking flowers?
omg ... Annette, wait till the girls at the bridge club get to see this! LOL!

I'm gonna try out that euphemism next time I'm in the office ... well ... behind a very large rubber tree plant for sure ;)

mr.Kenneth
x

paul
paul on

Giving / going to villages - an alternative
Hi - I got some answers to your questions about how much we (Mirror Foundation) give to the villagers for home stays. 150 Baht per guest. Plus all the homes get the chance to have some-one on a rotation. No just some homes. We also eat the food from the village - not bring in outside food as many trekking companies do.
Hope you guys had a good day. See you tomorrow

paul
paul on

Re: Giving / going to villages - an alternative
Sorry - got that slightly wrong - Mirror gives 50 Baht per person at homestay plus 50 per person per meal.
So example 1 day with 3 meals is 200 Baht to the family for one guest.

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