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Wed, Jan 21: North of Chiang Mai – First Hike, The Welsh Boys, the French Seductress, the Germans and the Ozzies

If you know me, you’ve probably heard me say at some point that I hate hiking.  I do.  I HATE it.  But I am also a very good wife and had promised Diesel I was going to give it a go because this is the only way to get a peek at what life is like on the Thai hillside.

We got picked up by a sawngthaew (a truck with seats on the back) at around 9.  Four guys were already there:  Rhys, Webb, Lee and Aled, the Welsh guys.  They seemed pretty drunk.  Great.  Turns out I was right, as they told me later they’d been drinking till 4 am the night before.  The Welsh were happy to tell us about the difference between the Brits and them, and gladly corrected our English pronounciation.  Truth be told, I could hardly understand what they were saying, much less repeat what they were saying.


trek

The trekkers:

(standing, L-R) Christine and Murray (Ozzies), Aled, Rhys, Webb (Welsh), me, Diesel, Kathrin and Andreas (Germans).  Lee (Welsh), Pauline (French), our guides


The next people to join the group were a German couple around a age, Kathrin and Andreas.  The funny thing is that they had met Heio and Gypsy, the other German couple we had traveled with for four days.   We knew Heio and Gypsy were in Chiang Mai because we had just got an e-mail from them the day before.  We hit it off with all of the guys.  Andreas works for a car company in China and had some interesting stories about working there.  Basically, working in China is a nightmare.  Imagine a German company in the sea of shadiness that is China.  I know.  My peeps are hella shady and they do shady stuff such as demand to see the prototype and plans for all new cars (that have not yet launched) to make sure they are “up to code” and then, of course, steal ideas.

But I digress.  We finally picked up an Ozzy couple and a French girl, who shall be referred to as the “seductress” from here on out.

Our first stop was an elephant ride.  It was SUPER touristy.  And by super touristy I mean, you sit there eating your fried rice while another group of 10 other tourists or so go first on a pretty lame loop.  It was a bit sad, but after a few minutes on an elephant, I was glad that we didn’t ride them for an hour like some tour groups do.  It is very very uncomfortable up there.

The super touristy trek continued with plenty more unwanted tourist breaks for us:  first at a butterfly place, which had a gift shop just as big as the butterfly room.  This was followed by another break at the local market, where we were coaxed into buying stuff we didn’t need, such as very colorful fabric water bottle holders (mostly bought by the Welsh guys, who couldn’t say no).

It was about an hour drive before we started the real trekking. Much to my dismay, our trekking group was in really good shape, so we hiked at a pretty fast pace and went up 3,000 ft in three hours.  When we finally got to te Lahu village, it was about 3pm, and we were pretty amazed that they had ice cold beer, as well as pop and water.  The sleeping quarters were quite nice, considering the remoteness of the place.  As tourists, we got our own hut (with room for all 11 of us + guides + more) a bit outside the village.  Some of the village people came out to sell us beer and bracelets (like I said, very touristy), play the guitar (the Beatles and such; the realization that these people had access to radio and TV was quite sad for me, but I should have known) and cook for us.  Dinner was quite a feast.  We were lucky with our trekking group; everybody got along and we spent the next hours chatting, playing games (one of the village people came out to entertain us with lots of tricks and a game of “spoons”) and drinking.  The next day we hiked down and said our good-byes.  We all met up for drinks that night, with most of us leaving Chiang Mai the next day.

All in all, I loved the experience.  Yeah, it was touristy, but the hike was nice and it was cool seeing how the village people live.  Hopefully we’ll also manage to keep in touch with some of the guys we’ve met.

Riding elephants

Riding elephants

View from above

View from above

Crossing the river

Crossing the river

Sunrise from our hut

Sunrise from our hut

Our lovely hut

Our lovely hut

Our beds

Our beds

 

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