Trekking in Chiang Mai Part 1

20 Oct

The night before our trek, we had a brief with the man, Deng, who was to be our leader for the two days. I took to him immediately purely because even though I couldn’t entirely understand what he was saying a lot of the time, he was exceptionally happy and seemed to like telling stories. A winning combination.

The next morning we got ready and sat waiting in the lobby to be picked up. Keb had become sick overnight with what turned out to be something fluey, so wasn’t feeling too great. Meanwhile, we’d caught a glimpse of a few other people who seemed to be extremely sporty-looking and immediately began to feel intimidated. If you look at me, you wouldn’t get the impression that I’m sporty in any way at all. It’s true, I lack the sporty gene and accompanying physique.

Ten of us ended up coming on the trip. There were us three Australian girls, a young Dutch guy, an English couple, a Swiss couple and a Canadian couple. Both the Swiss and Canadian couples were on honeymoon. We became familiar with each other fairly quickly as we were all in the back of a truck basically, and it wasn’t exactly spacious.

First we stopped at the Police Station to drop off photocopies of our passports just in case anything went wrong on the trek. Then we went for a fairly long drive up a mountain and stopped part way to take some photos at a picturesque spot. After that we stopped briefly in a village to grab some food and have a toilet stop before we’d offically start the trek.

After this we drove on a bit more and this is when Deng started to do crazy things. He was riding on top of the truck and would occasionally jump off and run into the trees to find us random animals. At one point he found some beetles that he handed to me at the disgust of a few others in the truck. Apparently he wanted one of us to eat them but I discreetly let them fly away when we started moving again. He also tried to show us some tarantulas. Gross.

We stopped and had lunch at a really lovely waterfall and had the opportunity to get in for a swim. Keb didn’t get in because she was sick, but Lairey and I joined the others for a quick change behind some trees into swim gear and hopped in. The water wasn’t exactly crystal clear. It was more brown and slightly murky, but it was still refreshing and fun. Then we had to change again, this time with the added difficulty of damp skin and clothes.

After this we hopped in the truck one more time to be driven to the starting point of our trek. It was a little village, which was the last one that had any electricity and a school that other village’s kids went to. We also saw a few little black pigs – a necessity for any young unmarried female because black pigs are pretty much their dowry and they are also revered for some spiritual meaning, from what I gathered.

We began our trek following a couple of students that were finished school for the week and who lived in the village we were going to be staying in that night. We started walking up a fairly steep hill, which was only the first of many. Eventually we veered off the path and stomped up an even steeper hill until we stopped briefly for a breather. Little did we know that the whole trek was going to be much like this.

Well, we went down hills and up hills, occasionally crossed roads, climbed over gates and all sorts of things. We’d stop every now and then to catch our breath and listen to Deng talk about the diferences between Thai and most western cultures. He’d been to Australia once and not entirely enjoyed the experience, as Australians seem to be more focussed on themselves rather than interested in helping out a stranger. Also, apparently Thai people never sleep because the city is always alive, where as Australian cities tend to become ghost towns at night… Well, comparatively anyway.

Side note: I think this is pretty true. The whole time we were in Thailand, we noticed that every taxi or tuk tuk would slow down to ask if we wanted a lift, or people would stop us and ask us where we were going and offer directions or want us to come into their shop. In Australia you have to flag down a taxi or bus, people will only generally offer help if they’re asked and I don’t really know of any places where workers would hang around their shop trying to persuade people to come in. The interesting thing I found was that we (Australians/Europeans) would get frustrated at constantly being pestered for a ride or to go into a shop – if we wanted help, we’d ask and if we wanted to buy a suit, we’d go inside. Whereas Deng really missed that. Odd, hey?

Back to the story. We realised on the trek that ours and Deng’s concept of time were drastically different. We’d keep asking how much longer it would take to get to the village and Deng would answer, “oh, half an hour” or, “about 45 minutes”. Then we’d walk for what seemed like a much longer period of time and then stop for a breather again before we’d have to ask yet again. We think this might have had something to do with the fact that he was still testing the track (we were the second group to go through on this new one) and that there was perhaps a translation problem where he thought we were asking how long until the next stop… Maybe. I don’t know.

We arrived in the village fairly late in the afternoon and were given the opportunity to wander around before dinner. We Aussies and the English girl watched some girls play hopscotch for a while before a random old guy came up and told us he’d take us to a special spot in the village where there was a good view. We agreed, slightly wary.

The part of the village he showed us was indeed worth it. We couldn’t understand 90% of what he was saying, but we gathered it was a special part of the village and found out later that the Queen had visited there. Then he kept saying, “dinner” and we were saying, “yes” thinking that he was going to take us back to our hut so we could eat with the others.

Well, we made a slight detour via the village school and it was starting to get dark. Still we had the “dinner” exchange and went trudging off again, by this time with no clue where we were. It wasn’t until we were heading towards a totally unfamiliar hut with the man going inside and his wife waving to us to come inside did we realise that he’d been inviting us to his hut for dinner the entire time. We had to apologise and try to explain that we really should go back to our own hut to eat there. So he led us through a rice patty, this time almost pitch black, and took us back to our hut where the others had almost finished their meal.

Another random old guy had joined us for dinner. I think he might have been stinking drunk, high on opium, or maybe just plain odd. He delighted us all with interpretive dance, occasionally stopping to laugh and to pose next to people, insisting they take a photograph. He was like our entertainment for the evening.

Then Deng tried to teach us some magic tricks with a piece of string. The Swiss couple were very, what’s the word, confident about picking up the tricks. Someone also asked Deng about his family, as he’d mentioned he had a daughter. He went very quiet for the only time during the trek. He and his wife had split and from what we could gather it’s because he was so hyperactive and possibly had done something to upset his in-laws. When he was talking about his shenanigans though he sparked up again and we didn’t feel so bad about asking him anymore.

At some point, we three Aussie girls decided that we should probably try to clean up a bit seeing as we were the only ones by then that hadn’t had a shower. The water was not hot. It was basically just a hose attached to a wall, so we just rinsed off our limbs as best we could and used a cleansing wipe for our faces, armpits (delightful!) and to scrub off the dirt from our legs.

By the time Deng had finished with his tricks we were all pretty tired and so decided to go to bed in our hut. We had complimentary hard mattresses, a pillow, two blankets and mosquito net. We had also been grouped so each couple got their own mosquito net, we three Aussies were under one and the young Dutch guy had one all to himself.

It was so dark outside but because we were in the middle of nowhere, there was a new assortment of noises to listen to. There was one persistent frog in particular that sounded like it was sitting just outside. Luckily enough I’m weird and sleep with earplugs in so I managed to mute a lot of the noise and went to sleep at last.

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One Response to “Trekking in Chiang Mai Part 1”

  1. amber 23/10/2011 at 6:40 pm #

    The pig is like a little pumbaa.

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