Feb 13-19: Chiang Mai to Bangkok

Me, Court, and Emina - The Trekkers!

I said that Chiang Mai deserves a post all to itself, and I wasn’t lying when I said it. Courtney and I had a jam-packed five days in Chiang Mai, and we probably could have spent a few more, as Chiang Mai has a lot to offer the adventurous traveller. I had no idea that this city in Northern Thailand has so much more to offer than the ubiquitous “hilltribe trek”, and had I known, I definitely would have budgeted more time and money to this region.

Adam and I on the Elephant

Our last day on tour was officially the 13th of February, and although many people left for other destinations on that day, there were still a few of us hanging around Chiang Mai for treks and other activities. While Courtney went to an Elephant Conservation place to do a Mahout course (Mahouts are elephant trainers), I did a more leisurely activity with Adam, Christine, and Emina from my tour. First we got to ride elephants for an hour, which was really cool! Elephants are super strong, and used to be used as workers on farms, but now, the elephants have no work to do (they’re unemployed! LOL) so some people set up camps and take the elephants in and feed them and

Adam and I feeding our elephant

give them a place to live peacefully. Our elephant (like all elephants) had really hard, thick skin, and it’s not soft at all! They’re also pretty hairy, although they lose their hair as they age (just like people). Baby elephants are the hairiest of them all (not like people). I shared an elephant with Adam, and we got to feed the elephant during the ride. We were both pretty shocked to get a glob of slobber slopped on us when the elephant lifted her trunk to take the bananas from us! Our pants were covered! After the elephant riding we

Emina and Christine on our raft

visited two hill tribes, the Karen and the Hmong, and took a light trek to a waterfall. After lunch we headed to a river for some bamboo rafting, which we had heard is quite the ride. Basically there are these rafts, which are no more than 6 or 7 pieces of bamboo tied together, and you sit on them, about four people to a raft, and a guide steers you down the river using a bamboo pole. The raft isn’t very steady, so we all ended up with very wet bums!

On the 14th, myself, Court, and Emina set off on our hilltribe trek. Our trek cost about $60 CDN, and included a guide, three days of trekking, visits to four different tribes, accommodation, and nine meals, as well as activities such as (mild) white water rafting, (another) elephant ride and (another) bamboo raft ride. I really must give a shout out to my cousin, Rob, who suggested to wait until getting to Chiang Mai to book the trek. We saved over $300 by booking directly from a travel agent instead of doing the add-on offered by Intrepid. Thanks Rob!!

A Longneck girl

Day 1 was interesting: Emina and Courtney picked our particular trek, which went north of Chiang Mai, because we got to visit the Long Neck tribe. This tribe isn’t officially called Long Neck, but they are called this way because they wear copper rings around their necks, which elongate them. The tribespeople were very warm and friendly, although I think it must get tiring for them posing for photos for foreigners all day every day. After lunch we had an elephant ride, which was better than the one the day before, because I actually got to ride on the head of the elephant! Usually passengers sit in a seat on top of the elephant, but our pachyderm was well trained, and the mahout let us take turns leading her.


After lunch we headed out for the first part of the trek, and not even half an hour into our uphill climb, the strap on my brand-new Merrell trekking sandals broke. The solution was to put double-sided tape around them in two places, but the tape was quickly ruined by the sand and water. As the first day required about 4 hours of uphill hiking in the sun and dirt, my feet and ankles were in a considerable amount of discomfort by the time we reached our accommodation for the first night, in a village high atop a mountain. The vista, however, was spectacular, and the outdoor showers had a great view of the valley below. All of us opted to get Thai massages from the village women, and then our dinner was prepared. Dinner was a simple but delicious soup, curry, and rice. The evening came to a close with our guide playing guitar around a fire, and us all getting to know the other members of our group (there were nine in all).

Our accommodation!

Day 2, February 15 was particularly gruelling, although at first it wouldn’tseem like it. First of all, the entire day almost was spent going downhill, which sounds great after a day of going up, but I had two things working against me. First, my sandals ceased to hold, and so I was forced to trek down the sandy side of a mountain with one foot always going first, because the strap wouldn’t hold my ankle on one side. This led to discomfort and pain in my right ankle, which kept rolling at an awkward angle. Second, our guide led the trek at such a pace that I, by far the slowest trekker, could usually not keep up with the rest of the group.

Sun, our tour guide, helping me tape my sandals

Trekking rules say that you should never trek faster than your slowest trekker, and as we didn’t have a guide behind me, I got lost twice when the rest of the group took one route and I took another. Needless to say, being lost in a hot forest with a broken shoe and an achy ankle and nobody to talk to did not make me the happiest trekker, and honestly I was downright miserable for most of the day. I didn’t take a single photo because I was too busy watching my step to look at the “scenery” (dry leaves and dust). Our second night was spent in a small village, which was really just three small huts, and we didn’t get to interact with the locals much, unlike the first night, which was a bit of a bummer. A dip in the river, a good meal, and drinking games after dinner brightened my spirits somewhat, but by the beginning of our third day I was ready for an easy, flat-ground, half-hour hike to our raft.

In three days we did approximately 9 hours of trekking (Day 1: 4hrs, Day 2: 4.5hrs, Day 3: 1/2hr), and I was happy to be back to civilization, although immensely pleased with myself for having completed the trek despite the obstacles I encountered. Although I got satisfaction from having completed it, and I’m not completely out of shape, the trek would have been more enjoyable if we would have chosen a trek that had less time trekking and more time experiencing and seeing things, like waterfalls and local people.

Me cooking up a mean penang curry

On the 17th, Courtney and I had booked ourselves in for a half-day cooking course at Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School, not too far from our hotel. The price of the course (4 hours, 700 Baht = $23) included pickup from the hotel, English-speaking instructor, a welcome snack, drinking water, visit to a local market, three dishes, plus a curry and curry paste, and we got to eat everything we made! The group chose to make an appetizer, a noodle dish, and a dessert, and then we each got to choose one dish from each of these categories, plus a curry. I chose spring rolls, pad thai (of course :), mango sticky rice, and penang curry. Each of us (there were only seven of us in our group) got our own cooking station and the dishes were super easy to make – i’ll definitely be making them when I get home!

That night we went to the night market, which I think is the best market I have been in in all of Southeast Asia. They sell everything, from designer knock off bags, to clothes, textiles, Asian handicrafts, jewelry, food, EVERYTHING! It was hard to choose what to spend my hard-earned Baht on!

On the 18th we didn’t do much of anything, which was nice after the hectic time we had on tour and in Chiang Mai. In the evening we caught the night train back to Bangkok, which was awesome, because I now LOVE LOVE LOVE

My berth on the Chiang Mai-Bangkok overnight train

travelling on trains. They are much comfier than buses, and although they are slower, the rhythm and the sound of the train puts you right to sleep in your berth. Unfortunately, it also costs more than a bus, and at the time I had no idea that it was the last overnight train we would be taking in Thailand.

We arrived in Bangkok around 6AM on February 19th, after a 12-hour ride from Chiang Mai. From the station we took a taxi to the backpacker area of Soi Rambuttri, which is across the street from famous Khao San Road, and found a suitable fan room for only 450 Baht (= $15).

Well, I think this post has been long enough, I’ll release you from the clutches of living vicariously through me, until the next time I have three hours to sit and write another post.


1 Response to “Feb 13-19: Chiang Mai to Bangkok”

  1. 1 kimberly beale
    March 4, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    I can’t believe how great and amazing you and this part of the world looks. I have seen it on tv but really gave little thought to actually traveling there. yet everything you have and will continue to do is off the charts. I am one for adventure but I am not sure if I would have the courage to put myself that far out there to travel under such conditions and limitations. I am so amazed by your ability to take all this on. plus you still find the time to tell us all at home about your adventure.

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March 2010

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