Treking Through Thailand

Thursday, February 4th

Oh guys, I couldn’t contain my excitement! Obviously I was beyond pumped to visit all of Thailand (you know how we all have that ONE place we’ve always dreamed of going…yeah, mine was Thailand!!! Maybe this note will help excuse all my school-girl excitement that you’ve had to deal with me having about my trip!...ANYWAYS!) I was beyond pumped to visit Thailand, but this 2 days were one of Tina and I’s most anticipated events! ELEPHANT DAYS!!!

When researching Thailand, one of the first things I looked up was elephant riding. I didn’t have much of an idea exactly of what I wanted (although I knew I needed a camp that treated their animals appropriately) but, when I stumbled upon Panda Tours I instantly stopped looking, they had me hooked that fast {sidenote: they have nothing to do with Pandas…I have no idea where their name came from!} I sent the link to Tina pretty much saying that I was doing this and she was more than welcome to join…but there was no convincing me otherwise haha.

Sooo, back to the present! Thursday morning we woke up at our hotel in Chiang Mai, remember that classy one 2 steps from the boxing ring?!, put our luggage in storage, grabbed our book bags, and waited for…ok we weren’t exactly sure what we were waiting for a car? bus? pickup? airplane? elephant? and to be honest, I’m still not sure what did pick us up lol. In Chiang Mai there are taxis, but then there are also taxi trucks? Essentially it’s a small pickup truck with a bench installed along both sides of the bed and a large cover put over the bed for people to sit underneath….so that’s what picked us up! Six people and tons of waiver forms later, we were on our way…again not exactly sure to where, but we were on our way there!

We drove about 30 minutes before stopping at a small local market where we were encouraged to buy water for the days trek and any other snacks that we might need, ok now 6 people, 2 drivers, and a boat load of water later, we were on our way! About another hours drive later we parked the truck in a small dirt parking lot and were encouraged to use the bathroom before heading up the mountain by foot.

0 plumbing, no electricity, toilet paper no where to be seen...but it didn't smell!

After our *special* experience with the lovely bathroom we headed out. Oh my word guys, the views were SPECTACULAR!!! We were walking up a dirt path along the side of a mountain near-ish the Mynar border for a little over an hour. I’d stop, soak in the view, take some pictures, exclaim that it was even more beautiful than the last time I had stopped, and then repeat it again about 15 minutes later! But really, there is something so amazing about finding yourself in an area that hasn’t been destroyed by a civilization, the farmers, the families, the homes that we saw along the way, they were part of the landscape. They made use of the land that they were given instead of manipulating the land and the jungle to fit the needs that they wanted, and it showed in its beauty. {ok being showed live tarantulas and lectured about the dangers of the deadly green snake & its friend the cobra took away a teensy bit of the beauty, but you get the point!}

Cabbage fields as far as the eye could see, breath taking views, and humble abodes

A little over an hour into our walk we were supposed to stop at a waterfall for lunch, but “it was full” (there were like 3 people in it, but our guide was insistent there was a better one ahead!) so we kept walking… for another hour! So almost 2 ½ hours into our walk, we spot the waterfall (well actually we head it first, but still!) holy surreal! We were in the middle of the jungle of Thailand with a gorgeous waterfall in front of us surrounded by a stream, vines, and all the jungle plants you would never see back home in Ohio! ;) We quickly headed to the bathroom, changed into our swimsuits, and dove right in…hahaha, if only it were that easy! We played a fun game of I’ll hide behind this leaf and rock while you look the other direction as I change {channeling our inner Adam & Eve!} and as far as diving right in…I’m not sure how the air temperature can be 90 and the water temperate closer to -20, but that’s what it felt like! Soaking our toes felt great, anything above the ankle was more like torture! But, we were only there once, so jaiyou {Chinese for stick your feet in the freezing water…or you can do it!}.

As Chai, our guide, whipped up a culinary masterpiece for lunch, the 6 of us took turns trying to get into the water, until Tina and I just went for it! Jump in, freeze your body, swim to the falls, swim back, & now you’re a human ice cube! It was about this time that Chai says lunch is ready…please remember we are a total of about 3-3.5 hour up a mountain at this point with nothing but book bags…he hands us our lunch and our jaws drop! He had not only started a bamboo fire, but also made each of us chicken legs, fried rice, cut up local fruits & apples, and hot tea & coffee in a hand carved bamboo mug…seriously! After our picturesque, waterfall-view lunch, we dried off, changed our clothes, and began heading down the mountain towards camp.

We made it about an hour or so down the mountain though when I decided that we needed some more excitement in our walk {insert Tracy’s graceful fall down the mountain!} yeah, so maybe not so graceful, but at  least I can say a part of me (or my knee) will always be with Chiang Mai! We poured some water on it and I swore I’d be fine…jaiyou…so we continued on towards the 1st waterfall we’d seen to get a closer look. About 5 minutes later I told Chai, I’m trying to not complain about me knee…but umm, it’s bleeding on my sock now…maybe another Kleenex for the next hour ½ walk would be helpful!? Next thing I know Chai is shoving a handful of leaves (he says they are lemon leaves) onto my knee to stop the bleeding, using a tissue as gauze to keep it in place, and tying a fanny pack around the whole shebang to keep it all in place {fast forward to later that night when even a shower didn’t remove most of the dried leaves from my knee, we then turned to a pocket knife disinfected with alcohol to scrape the foliage out…and still no band aids…thank goodness for tissues & fanny packs!}

Thanks Tina for capturing pictures of me at my best!

ANYWAYS! We finally made it down the mountain with no more injuries & made it to our camp for the night {there’s a whole post coming on this soon!} and while dinner was being prepared we showered, had our first meet and greet with the elephants, & I played with the local village kids (who am I to be denied playing with kids!) before hanging out around the campfire and calling it a night around 10, long after the sun had finally set. We settled into our bamboo huts for the night with the sounds of bugs chirping, the fire crackling, and elephants trumpeting outside our huts; and my heart was happy!

First night "meet & greet" and a view of our camp for the night