The jungle around Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand is one of the most famous in the world for trekking. I took advantage of a few days off before a business trip in Bangkok to discover the area, hiking toward a Karen tribe village (see also my other articles, on Chiang Mai, and on the amazing Pa Pong Piang terraced rice fields).
A couple hours riding on the back benches of a pickup truck took us to the heart of the jungle.
A first stop at a stunning waterfall, and swimming in the natural pool was a welcomed and refreshing preamble to 2 days of fairly strenuous walking.
The lush and scenic nature definitely lived up to the area’s reputation.
The hike was challenging but manageable …
… and we were constantly rewarded by beautiful or interesting sights, like this farm completely enshrined in the jungle.
Even this cow seemed engulfed by the surrounding nature.
Commuting to and from school – coming home just for the weekend – turns into a mountain path adventure.
After several hours of hiking, as light was fading, we arrived at the Karen village, made of wooden huts on stilt.
We were grateful to get a rudimentary and cold shower… and a delicious feast of a dinner!
I got up at dawn the next morning – a Sunday – to explore the village. I met some unusual domestic animals …
,,, of various kinds!
As the morning progressed, the villagers started converging toward the church, which was by far the most beautiful building in the village. Before the mass, they started chatting outside, waiting for everybody to arrive.
At the other end of the village, the local all-purpose village store catered to its first customers of the day.
Just across, a peculiar small building, loaded with construction materials and other goods, drew my attention. I learned that it was a place where people from other villages could come and get essential supplies they might need, for free, without having to ask. I was told that in this really tough environment, solidarity between the jungle villages is key, and that this system was set up to avoid the potential embarrassment somebody might feel when needing to ask help in another village.
The main access to the village is through a narrow and very wobbly bridge over a stream.
Moving on, the next day’s hike took us to an elephant resort …
…. were the animals seemed well treated.
We were offered to feed them bamboo shoots and bananas …
… and even to bathe with them in the river, and wash them.
The next part of our adventure was to go down the river on relatively frail bamboo rafts.
That was an amazing and exiting ride, for which I unfortunately don’t have pictures, as I had to protect my camera in my bag. I was grateful I did that, as the raft which was just ahead of us hit a rock in a rapid section, sending everybody and their bags into the water. Although it was impressive, nobody got hurt, and we managed to fish out a bag and a couple missing shoes a bit further downstream…
Although this whole experience was engineered for western tourists, we were able to witness some aspect of the really tough local life, and discover amazing nature. I loved it, and would highly recommend it.
You liked reading this article? Please share it! Thank you! – and comments are always welcome.
More to come, stay tuned!