My Thighs Will Never Forget - Thai Adventure
By Eshan Shah
Last updated: 7th August 2014
Chiang Mai Jungle Trek
I better have thighs of steel after this because today was all about trekking! We started off our journey at the base of the mountain and it seemed really simple at first. Sure the paths were only 1 person wide and more often then not they’re riddled with puddles, but at least the incline is relatively flat. 30 minutes into the trek, everything increases its intensity by about 100%. Luckily your bags are taken to the hut at the top of the hill on a truck, so you don’t need to worry about balancing all of that… yet. But just when we felt that it was getting unbearably hot, we arrived at our first waterfall!
This quiet little spot was the perfect break for us, but don’t jump into the cool water straight away (there’s some sort of muscle science reasoning behind this.) After a quick 30min here, we’re back on our way up the side of Thailand’s never-ending hill. Our guide takes us across some questionable bamboo bridges and into pathless territory (we’re now literally in the jungle.)
But oddly enough, even without a path he continues at his blistering pace and is deaf to our ‘hows’ (elephant command for stop.) I’d actually recommend taking fewer breaks and just trying scale the hill as fast as possible if you want to get it over with. With all the exertion to get up the hill, you hardly have time to take in the jungle beauty around you (unless it’s swapping mosquitos away, or realizing that there’s a spider the size of your hand above you.) I truly understand how characters in novels march for hours on end now. When you do get a chance to look up though, the beauty of the sweeping hills is astounding.
When you enter the path to our village destination, it’s literally surreal. Fog shrouds the four or five huts on stilts on the side of the road and the path appears deserted except for a few pigs and roosters. Scattered around the huts are old and tattered children toys, broken bikes, and drying clothes. It’s crazy to process that for many of the inhabitants here, this jungle is all they’ll ever know (which isn’t a bad thing at all!) Having reached the peak of one of the hills, we’re finally ushered to our very own ‘campsite.’ A couple villagers came up to our hut at the top of the hill to help us cook and for the first and probably last time in my life I used a machete to cut up some pumpkin for our curry (my ma doesn’t even trust me with scissors.) The utensils and facilities at the site are extremely basic but extremely endearing. A very basic bamboo dorm leads out onto a creaky bamboo terrace with breath taking views. But even with the limited facilities (a hole in the ground toilet), I had the most relaxing night surrounded by the constant hum of the jungle. After our home cooked meals, we settled onto the bamboo porch, lit up a campfire (don’t worry it’s ironically safe!), and chilled under the stars for a couple hours.
After a solid night’s sleep (I think I was one of the few who actually managed it) we said our goodbyes to the hole in the ground toilet and began our trek back down the mountain. Saying that I struggled with this is an understatement. With the rain lightly pattering down throughout, I managed to almost fall 14 times and crash down on the path a grand total of 9 times. I strongly regret not packing a solid pair of hiking shoes with good grip haha. Nearly giving up near the end of the trek, I decided to slide down the last 5 meters of the hill… This is also not advisable haha.
Oh wait, you thought the trek ended at the base of the hill? Nope, looks like we’re not getting trucks to civilisation, it’s time to cross some rice paddies! After spending a good 30 minutes tripping down the various levels of rice paddies and occasionally stepping in them by accident, we reached our destination. I loved that along the way, our guide showed us how to blow bubbles from certain tree leaves and make noises from others, as it reinforced for me that these people still know how to use the resources around them to have fun (but in a much more eco friendly/sustainable way than us.) The fun parts of life are always around you, you just have to open your eyes to see them… and have a Thai mahut with you to avoid the poison.