. When we arrived in the Hmong Village completely sweaty, dirty & drenched from the rain I wasn't surprised to hear them complaining in their British accents about how "horrendous" this was and that they wanted to go home! The drama! And then we were kept up all night by one of the girls that stayed up with her flashlight to keep guard- as there were random bugs on the floor & flying around! Now I'm certainly not going to be signing up for the next survivor, but I did understand that a trek would involve getting dirty & encounters with the jungle wild life! So our trekking group that started with 12, now had dropped off to 6. Lucky for us! The entertainment had ended- as the girls caught a ride back to their hotel in Chiang Mai- where they have HBO! The first nights sleep (on the floor with some wool blankets)was hardly a sleep (as per all of the excitement). So I wasn't exactly wanting to run a marathon when I woke up. However as I was leaving the building in the early am to go to the tap to brush my teeth I was stopped, jaw on the floor, as there were 2 elephants right in front of me being fed! So much for being tired- I was going to be riding an elephant today!
Our guide for the trek was a Karen tribe member, Tong. He spoke understandable English; that is when he wasn't under the influence of moonshine! This first night we had a "pow wow" on the floor after dinner and he was to tell us about tribe lifestyle. No one was able to make out his words! It was so entertaining to watch him mumble & giggle. I did take from him that each hill-tribe has there own language, set of beliefs, dress & customs- but that was it!
Day 2's itinerary consisted of elephant riding for ?km's, trekking ? km's and no idea when we were going to be eating
. Tong wasn't too good at answering questions- he just informed us to bring lots of water, as there would be no where to get water until we arrived at the Karen Village (where ever that was!). The elephant ride was wonderful- a se real experience as only ever seen these guys in the circus or the zoo! I ended up sitting right on it's neck as the driver. The riding was slow & relaxing (once I got over the initial little bit of nervousness); the trails were incredibly skinny for these gigantic elephants- but not one fall! Another amazing experience. The ride was just over an hour, as they were tiring, and then our trekking began. The scenery & sounds were that of vast, large hills covered in lush vegetation & sounds of the jungle! The hiking was pretty intense for the first four hours, then a good boost of desperatly needed carbohydrates for lunch (noodles with veggies wrapped in banana leaf from the Hmong village!). During lunch we asked Tong how much further it was to the village; as I wanted to preserve my half litre of water, and he replied "one more mountain". Being that we had already trekked over 2 "mountains" I figured it wouldn't be much longer until we arrived. Well, 4 hours later he was still saying "one more mountain". We were none too impressed! "One more mountain Tong" wasn't a very informative guide- although his sense of humor was still enjoyable. So after 8 hours of hiking, completely dirty, exhausted & dehydrated, we arrived at the base of the most amazing waterfall with our hut where we were sleeping about 50 feet away
. Soap, toothbrush & shampoo in hand we anxiously hit the falls. I decided at that point the only way I could survive in the jungle was if I lived by a waterfall and had someone to cook "tourist" food for me! We realized that all the food we were eating, that we thought was authentic Thai cuisine, was what they called tourist food. While we were feasting on our tourist food they were out catching their meals- frogs & worms!! Check out the photo I took of the frogs! They heat them up and eat them like we would eat chicken wings. I politely declined. You can order frog in the restaurants here as well- perhaps something someone should start in north America? After our water fall bath & our dinner we joined some of the Karen Tribe men for some laughs (as they were smoking there own home grown opium) & moon shine. What an experience- they were so uninhibited; people that I didn't think existed anymore. People that live off the land & don't care about material wealth. To them they have it all- spending each day in simplicity with the ones they love. We tucked in early, as the lack of sleep the night before & the 8 hour hike had left us able to sleep for days! It was a little uneasy sleeping that night for me, as there were only men that we had met so far & they were completely blitzed out of their minds only 20 feet away from us. I was glad that Simon (guy from the UK) was with us on the trek because about 2 hours into our sleep I was woken up by a flash light from the hut where the men were- they were shining it back & forth in our hut for about 20 minutes. Not sure what they were after, but nevertheless it was unsettling. Relieved though, they finally stopped with the flash light and passed out themselves. I feel that if our trekking group had been all women things may have ended differently. Maybe I'm out of line and completely over reacting, but I did feel vulnerable. I did manage to get some much needed beauty sleep & awoke to a fabulous day with only 4 km's of trekking along the river with waterfalls randomly placed along the way
. We stopped for a swim at one mid-way to cool off. The temperature in Northern Thailand is so much more forgiving than in central Thailand- however still hot with all that sticky humidity! Our trek ended at the Karen village where one mountain Tong is from. We met his sister & mother and saw the home where he grew up. So minimalistic- more than you could ever imagine. Not even electricity. I was horrified with Tong's mothers teeth- every one of them was necrotic (dead!). What we think of as restricted dental care in north America really would do wonders for the people here. I gave out as many toothbrushes as I could carry! Tongs sister & mother were making silk tablecloths when we arrived and eagerly showed us how it was done. 4 days of work to weave a silk tablecloth and only asking 300B ($12 can). This one pulled at my heartstrings; as over the last few days I had got to know & enjoy Tong. I was saddened to see the living conditions for his family. When I gave him a hug and thanked him for introducing us to his family I wanted to cry. These people know a life no different from their own- they are just happy to be alive. It was a refreshing experience at the same time as being so sad. After learning about the Karen tribe we headed by truck for lunch and some bamboo rafting (which was a pathetic tourist trap where I ended up on a raft behind a large man wearing a speedo). Upon arrival back in Chiang Mai we took Tong out for some beers & pizza as he shared stories of his dreams & life in Chiang Mai
. He does have desire to travel and has been saving up money to do so. I offered him a place to stay if he wants to hit Canada- that would be with you guys mom & dad! He'll teach you how to cook horse, frogs & worms! His job as a guide has given him English skills & enabled him to save some money to live his dreams.
So after the crazy trek I had a 12 hour sleep at our great guest house here! The last two days here have been very relaxing. You'll see photos on the site from yesterday and todays activites- cooking class & a tuk tuk tour around to Chiang Mai's greatest temples. Our tuk tuk driver for the temple tour was a Buddhist man that was a monk for three years. We must have asked him 50 questions about Buddhism. I'm so curious! Some informative facts: 5 basic practices of Buddhism are no killing, no lying, no alcohol, no adultery, no theft. And if you were to not live by these philosophies you must make amends inside yourself- no confessing to anyone, just yourself. And isn't that what's important anyway- that we're honest with ourselves? That would keep our mind's at peace & our souls free wouldn't it? When men become monks they apparently live by 227 different "rules"- including no sex. That's a tough one hey guys? Meditation and getting up bright and early to find food for the day; as there are no facilities to prepare food in the temples where they live, are part of daily routine. Food or money is given to them from the people here. I think tomorrow before leaving here I will get up bright and early and see what kind of photos of monks I can get at the temple beside our guest house! I'm no longer as intimidated by the monks; at first sight they were so unfamiliar! I'm intrigued by their practices & may consider doing a meditation later on in my travels. Journey's lead us to profundities; or deeper ways of thinking. Thinking that I know will be part of my life when I return home. It isn't until we can take time out of our crazy and busy days to really think about the essence of our lives. I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to take 9 weeks out of my crazy life and experience this journey of South East Asia. Every day has been nothing short of a fabulous adventure.
Off to the jungle in a truck with 10 others for a 3 day trek throughout two of the ten recognized hill-tribe villages north of Chiang Mai("Hill-Tribe" refering to ethnic minorities living in the mountains of northern Thailand). We weren't told details of the trek, such as distances to be covered on foot each day, we were just told that there would be plenty of hiking through the hills, some elephant riding, bamboo rafting and overnights in the Hmong & Karen tribe villages. I guess I was nieve to think that they trekking would be of a relaxing nature- as it was an advanced trek (15 kms the second day) with some extreme terrain! I got my butt kicked! We started our trek out on the way to the Hmong village for our first over night. Our trekking group started with 12- a couple from the UK, 2 girls from Holland, 4 girls from the UK & us! At a first glance I was anxious to see how the 4 girls from the UK were going to make out- as they're hiking attire included mini skirts and bikini tops