August 19th, 2006

Day 26: Driving around, I mean trekking, in Chiang Mai

Our hostel told us that our pickup truck for the trek would pick us up around 9:30 am for our two day trek. We thought this was a bit late, but accepted it and when to bed. The morning of, I got up and used the Internet for a few hours to take care of some business, and the pickup showed up on time. In fact it was ten minutes early. This was interesting because many tourists that we have run into have complained about what they call “Thai time,” a term implying that Thai people are always late. And in fact, when we picked up the ten other people that would be trekking with us all their hostels had told them that they would be picked up around 8 am, but we were the first on the truck at 9:30. I suppose our hostel isn’t on Thai time. :)

There are 11 people plus one Thai guide that were on the trek with us. There were some young Buddhist newlyweds from Sweden that live in a Buddhist community in Northern Sweden. Then there was an Austrian couple who were young and pure party people. An engaged couple from England that were just returning from a medical internship on the Cook Islands were on the second to last stretch of their round-the-world airline tickets. And finally there were three Danish people, a married couple and their friend, traveling around and having a good time. Mateo was quite pleased with this, as he had studied abroad for a year in Holland and was able to talk with them a little in Dutch.

The 11 of us and our guide, Boon, headed off to the wilderness around 11:30. First we drove for an hour to a small market where we bought some water and dicked around for an hour. Then we drove for another hour to a village of Hmong people ( and Boon walked us around the lack luster village of poor Hmong with their shacks and old Toyota pickups. There is a large concentration of Hmong people where Mateo used to live in St. Paul, Minnesota. That’s a fact.

After that we drove for another hour and then had lunch for an hour.

Then we drove some more...

You see. The kicker with these “treks” is that they have many different packages, a 1-day package, a 2-day package, a 3-day package, and a 5-day package. But they are all the same. The route is the same the villages are the same and the activities are the same. On the 2-day trek, we have to drive around slowly for most of the day wasting time until we get to the Karen ( village where we will be sleeping for the night. I am very glad that I didn’t sign up for a 5-day trek.

After all the driving we finally did get start hiking, and after about one hour we arrived at a very small village of Karen people where we would be staying for the night. This was much more interesting than the Hmong village. There are no roads that go to the village; all travel must be on foot or motorbike. When we arrived we were greeted by a bunch of cute little Karen kids and their mothers who later tried to sell us their homemade wares. Most people bought things from them, but I opted out, not having found anything that screamed out at me.

The main way the tour gets money is by selling beer, at 50 baht a can, at the village. Our European friends finished off about ten cans each, but, again, in an attempt not to spend money, I opted out. The company was good, though. Unfortunately the locals didn’t interact with us much, but we all had a good time chatting and eating together. The food was all vegetarian because of the Buddhist Swedes and us, and it was served by candlelight, since there is no electricity in the area.

We has a small campfire started and sat up for a while looking at the stars, but Mateo and I chose to hit the hey early around 10:30, while some of the other guys stayed up until one or two in the morning.

The next day would be the real trekking.

Until then, take care.

  • Current Mood