As we continued on our Infamous Asia Sampler Tour 2002 (aka Around the World in 60 flight hours), we said “goodbye” to Bangkok and boarded a plane to Chang Mai. We flew on Thai Air, which, we highly recommend. The stewardess were not only beautiful, but so polite. We felt at home on Thai Air. An hour and 20 minutes later, we were getting off the plane and ready for our next excursion - to trek through Chang Mai. I literally mean trek, which I will explain later in the blog.
We spent the first the first day relaxing at the hotel. I don’t know about you, but after a flight, no matter how long, I always feel tired. Plus, the next day we had a jungle hike planned and we wanted to be well rested for that experience. However, we took time to do a self-tour of the Wat Chedi Luang, where the recycling Buddha is located, and we also walked around the famous market, Warorot, – a great place to buy local food. The main indoor section of the market is open only during the day, and closed at night. But in the evening, there are a number of food vendors that set up along the road, just outside the market. This is where we experienced the taste of the culture; fried pork is one of their more popular foods to try.
The time of year we were visiting Thailand was the winter, which was supposed to be the end of the rainy season. John always looks at weather and avoids the rainy season when he plans our itineraries. However, the weather, as we all know, no matter where we are, can be unpredictable. With that said, the night before our trek through the jungles of Chang Mai, it rained pretty hard and that affected our starting point of our trek.
The hotel allowed us to leave our suitcases, so we just brought enough clothes and items we needed for a two day and one night tour in the jungle. We were picked up at the hotel and supposed to drive for two hours to our destination for the trek. The guide bought food along the way for him to cook for us when we arrived at the rice village in the jungle. As I mentioned before, it rained the night before, so the roads were mudded out. John and his father tried to help the jeep move through the mud by jumping on the back, but that didn’t get us much further. Therefore, we had to start the hike earlier than planned, which affected the timing we would arrive at the rice village. When John worked with the travel company, Marvel Travel, they had planned for a two hour drive to the starting point in the jungle, then an hour hike to the meet the elephants for an hour and a half elephant ride, and then another hour and a half to trek to The Karen village for dinner and to stay overnight. So in total our trek including the elephant ride was intended to be four hours, but instead due to the mud problem it was over seven hours. At the time our daughters were four and almost six. On top of that, as I mentioned in my last blog, Our First Repat, that my in-laws traveled with us. So not everyone was prepared to do such a long trek.
Seven plus hours, after hiking and riding an elephant, we were exhausted. We were planned to arrive at the village about 6:00 pm so there would be enough time to get settled, make dinner, and finish dinner while it was still light outside. Instead, we were walking in the dark, feeling for roots of the trees with our feet, and hoping to not fall off the side of a cliff. It was pitch black in the dark of the woods, except for the torches they gave us, which were actually the size of birthday candles. It was probably a very funny sight to see the six of us walking in the dark with our birthday torches, feeling for roots, and the person in the front saying “root” and passing that word back to the next person in the group, like the game telephone. About 9:00 pm, as we were closer to the village, our guide, who by the way was carrying our youngest daughter and her pack, whistled. Out of the woods came about four men who scooped up our children and disappeared in the dark. At this point, we were so exhausted, we weren’t even concerned that we couldn’t see our children. Finally, we could see the camp fire and knew we had arrived at the village. All the villagers were waiting for us.
They had us settle in our hut for the night as our guide cooked dinner. The village chief’s hut was our accommodations. The hut was on stilts, the animals lived underneath, as well as the villagers, during the day, sifted the rice under their huts. The bathroom (or should I say hole in the ground will walls and a door around it) was about 300 feet from the hut. Often at night I have to use the bathroom more than once, so I wasn’t fond of this arrangement.
While the guide made us dinner we went into the hut to get settled in the dark with our birthday candles. We had rice mats to sleep on and there was a little table in the middle for us to eat dinner. During dinner, we were being watched by the entire village. We felt like we were on stage and being their entertainment.
By now it was almost 11 pm, we were all totally wiped out. So after walking down the stairs and to the bathroom we settled in. Once we blew out those birthday torches, it was pitch black. My oldest daughter slept with a night light and was afraid of the dark. She was so scared and yelled “I’m blind” and since she was so emotional about the situation she threw up all over John. After cleaning up with wipes by the birthday torch we settled in for the night.
Unfortunately, remember I mentioned about having to use the bathroom more than once a night. Well, after another time of walking in the dark with the birthday torch and around the cow patties (the animals went anywhere on the ground). I decided the next time I would join the animal’s way.
In the morning, we were woken up early to the sound of rice sifting. Our journey of this jungle tour was not over yet, we had to pack up, have breakfast and head out through the rice fields. It was a beautiful sight to see the rice fields and people working in the fields. As we trek through the fields, we walked along the edge of the fields.
The next part of our story is too long and exciting to share now. So, look for our next blog, as we finish our trek through Chang Mai and move on to our last location in Thailand – Phuket. Remember, this is just one country out of the six in our Infamous Asia Sampler Tour 2002 (aka Around the World in 60 flight hours).