During the Hill Tribes and Beaches Tour we had the chance to visit the Palong Village Hill Tribe in the Chiang Dao region and to trek through the mountains. It was pretty intense for someone with a fitness level of ZERO, but it was a great experience.
We had already spent a night gathering our things together in Chiang Mai, in the morning we got up early and took a 3 hour Songtaew to reach the mountains we would trek for the day. We got there and saw this beautiful view, beautiful…..and HUGE. We had some sticky rice and met our local guides and started the trek, up the mountain…and up and up and up the mountain, through farmland and bamboo and teak forests, learning about their food and medicinal local plants. This is an area that has spectacular scenery and is home to many of the minority groups that have migrated into Thailand from Burma, Tibet and Southern China.
It took us a good 3-4 hours (felt like a lifetime) but we stopped along the way to make huge leaf hats, played Sepak Takraw (Foot Volleyball) with some of the locals and just to rehydrate. It was interesting to see just how simple a life these people live, no electricity (or barely), walking miles for fresh water and killing and eating your own animals – there were pigs and chickens wandering around the place that were to be used for food.
The brochure had said ‘low level/moderate fitness required’ which I thought would be okay for me (as a larger lady.)… Jeez i was wrong! I did not know you could sweat from some of the places I did (tmi?)! It was a lot of hard work, and I didn’t quite make it the full way. Luckily our vehicle was only a 15minute walk away as it had followed us, so I went to the truck and got taken to where we would stay for the night! Although I didn’t make it all (the last 40minutes)…I must stress this – it was so worth it still.
So got to the hill tribe – the Baan Pang Hor and met our hosts, they have their own language and know NO english, like none. Before the others got back (I didn’t make the full trek)….I decided to take a shower in the basic facilities – turns out it was a bucket shower, a pan in a bucket of water. Seriously! You just put the pan in, fill it up n chuck it over yourself… thats the shower! But it was cold n it was good! There was also a squat toilet that you flushed by pouring the pan of water over your….mess. Very basic, but good to see how they live.
Our chef for the evening ‘Boon’(who was awesome) taught us how to make Thai spring rolls, from the stuffing to rolling and frying them! Was quite fun, he was SUCH a good cook. He let us help with spring rolls but he did the rest, cooked us this huge buffet of Thai food…best and spiciest stuff I’ve ever had.
The highlight of our trek was meeting the local people in the various villages, each with their own unique language, customs and dress and getting the chance to interact with them. Our host was with us and could translate some of the stories and I’m so glad. The tribes people told us the stories of their culture and then the local children performed a traditional tribal dance for us before coming over for a chat. We all got involved and had a dance! Rachael had taken a pack of cards and was showing the children the one magic trick she knows, they were so impressed!! They made me and Katie sing to them something in English, which ended up being Madonna – Like a Virgin! Haha, hilarious.
At night, we slept in villagers’ huts on communal fold-out mattresses on the floors of the wooden/bamboo huts typical of the villages. There were around 12 beds in the hut, but as there were only 3 of us we doubled up on the fold-out mattresses to make for a more comfortable sleep. It was pitch black, you couldn’t see where the toilet was from the room and there were scorpions, but apart from a few #firstworldproblems it was genuinely lovely.
The next day we did more walking, and then we got to ride ELEPHANTS! It was absolutely AMAZING. Me n Rachael ended up on the Bull, which was loud and moody! They are gorgeous but very unpredictable animals, ours tried reversing down a hill with us on its back… that was scary!! Haha hanging onto this elephant like my life depended on it. It was naughty too, kept doing it with us on him because he knew he couldn’t usually get away with it, and he kept pinching corn from the fields to eat! Haha. Now I must say something here – I wasn’t sure about riding the elephants as Thai people often ‘hook’ the elephants, i.e. kick them in the right direction. But we went to an animal sanctuary where the animals are treated well and it was a reputable company, so we were overall happy with this.
After the elephant riding we did a bit more trekking – definitely decided trekking is not for me! The sights are amazing in the actual forest but the trekking is not my thing.
After the Elephants came the Bamboo Rafting!! Now, I have always been clumsy… I’ve learnt to deal with it and move on…so bamboo rafting was not the best idea from the start really, but apart from a little tumble at the start and falling into the water at the end (hilarious) it was actually really fun! All three of us went round the river on this raft we got soaked when the man decided to take it and us down a waterfall in it! Haha, it was so much fun!
I wouldn’t recommend it for people who are unfit, at all. It is especially hot with high levels of humidity, and its all up hill. But it was an incredible experience that I would love to go back and do again if my fitness levels improve. After the trek, we went back to Chiang Mai town for a day n half of to continue the rest of the Gecko Adventure Tour, moving on to Koh Samui.
Find out more about the second half of our trip, Koh Samui, Food Poisoning, Khosak National Park and Krabi by subscribing below!