We've just spent the last three days trekking through the jungle around Doi Inthanon, Thailand's tallest mountain. It was, by far, the best part of our Thailand experience thus far.
We started out the first day by being picked up from SG House by our guide Pat. From our home we headed to an elephant park for elephant riding. On the way we met Danny and Claire who were the other half of our traveling foursome.
The elephant riding left a bad taste in our mouths. The treatment of the elephants was pretty suspect as its apparent that they spend much of their time chained up and while some of the handlers are able to guide their elephants simply by talking to them others appear to rely on hitting them until the elephant does as they ask. While we were there we were guilted into buying several bags of bananas for the elephants. Overall, the elephant riding was not a terribly pleasant experience. I'm not sure how the operators do not realize this but riding elephants doesn't give any kind of special thrill and tourists are not pleased to ride a clearly unhappy animal. I, along with most other people I would assume, would pay far more to visit elephants in a reserve where they are free to do as they please and where they are not required to perform for me or anyone else.
After that we headed out to commence our trek and resolved to not go to anything featuring elephants performing any kind of task for us ever again.
The first day of hiking was a lot harder than we had anticipated. Who'd have thunk that climbing mountains would have involved so much walking uphill?
After a long ascent and a short but very steep descent we reached a valley containing a few huts and fallow rice paddys featuring a beautiful waterfall where we could swim.
Refreshed from our swim in the remarkably cold river we headed on to the village where we spent our first night. They provided us with suitably delicious food to keep us going on our second day. The cooking setup was very basic but amazingly efficient. I'm seriously thinking about how I can duplicate this setup back in Australia.
On the second day we headed off through the village and back out into the jungle. Some of those living in the village have found a way to bring home some of the mod cons typically reserved for those living in bigger communities.
The second day featured more hills although they were not as steep as the first. They also features two waterfalls and several swaying, creaking bridges that I suspect are unaccustomed to bulky westerners such as myself.
These waterfalls were a welcome opportunity to cool off (and have a bit of a wash). To describe the water as cold after the heat and humidity of the jungle doesn't do it justice. The cold water was quite heart stopping at first but refreshing.
We spent the second evening in another set of huts. It was a little chilly in the evening. The blankets provided are all too small for six foot tall farangs so staying warm at night requires an artful arranging of blankets. Sleeping next to a waterfall was a strange experience. The noise is similar to the white noise produced by a television that isn't tuned to a channel. All of us had strange surreal dreams that night.
Day three saw us pass through yet more rice paddies. It was a very leisurely stroll relative to the previous two days.
We wrapped up with bamboo rafting which was good fun. No photos through as we were too afraid of losing the camera somewhere along the way 🙁
After that all that was left was the long boring ride back to Chiang Mai. The smog and noise of Chiang Mai is a shock after the quiet and calm of the jungle. I think all of as would be more than happy to spend a little more time hiking through the jungle and sleeping by the river.