Trekking Adventure

We had quite the adventure on Saturday up in Chiang Mai.  We decided to go on a 1-day trekking trip. Our trip included all of the following:


1)      Stroll through a greenhouse orchid farm


2)      Visit the Longneck Karen Hill Tribe


3)      Visit the Akha Hill Tribe


4)      Ride an elephant


5)      Hike through the jungle


6)      Swim in a waterfall


7)      Grab some paddles and go white water rafting

No pictures


8)  Move to a bamboo raft and coast the rest of the way down the river

No pictures

Ok, now let me fill in the details.

We started out at 8:00am.  We joined 3 other people, one friend from our teaching certification course, and another couple.  Our tour guide was a former Muay Thai boxer.  He grew up in the jungle in which we were about to explore.  After an hour in a songthaeow we arrived at our first destination.


1) Orchid Farm

This greenhouse contained hundreds of orchid plants. The plants aren’t grown in the dirt, but instead hang freely from the ceiling. There was a beautiful array of colors and they were all quite lovely.


2) Longneck Karen Hill Tribe –

The Longnecks are originally from Myanmar (Burma).  They had occupied the central part of the country until the Burmese came in, kicked them out, and built civilizations on the land.  Sound familiar?  With nowhere to go they chose to migrate to the northern provinces of Thailand.   Per our tour guide, the Thai government at first did not want them to stay, and so the longnecks were placed in refugee camps.  Soon though the Thai government realized they could make money by allowing tourists to visit these remote and unusual people.  The government allowed them to stay on the condition that tourists were welcome.  The government separated several small groups of longnecks and moved them into different pockets of the mountains in order to set up multiple tourism spots.  The villagers must stay in the village.  They grow all their own food, but do need to earn money for everything else.  Tourist companies pay a fee when they enter the village.  The villagers also make handicrafts to sell both to the tourists passing through as well as in the markets around Chiang Mai.  



While much of the attire is probably worn more for show than anything else the rings around their necks are no joke.  Every female receives her first ring at the age of five and continues to receive rings every three years until she either reaches the age of 21 or gets married. The rings are coiled around the neck.  There are a few theories as to why the longnecks where their rings.  My preferred theory is that the rings originate from long ago when the villagers were being hunted by tigers. The tigers go straight for the neck. To protect the women gold rings were coiled around this vulnerable area.  The rings are no longer made from gold, but are made from brass, and they are surprisingly much heavier than I thought. The rings do not actually stretch out the neck, but rather collapse the collarbone.  If the women were to remove the rings the collarbones would move back to their natural position. 


Regardless of the authenticity of this village I was absolutely speechless as the first longneck came out of her hut, and I was still completely moved by the whole experience.


3) Akha Hill Tribe

The Akha tribe is situated just outside the longneck tribe, and similar to the longnecks spend their days in costume.  The tribe is known for wearing wearing their black and brightly colored clothing and for their thick earrings.  Sorry Courtney, they weren’t selling the earrings.


4) Elephant Riding

After the tribe we drove another hour deeper into the jungle to an elephant camp. The elephants had a saddle-like device on their back which could only 2 people.  Our friend, Brittany and I rode in the saddle.  Vince was asked to ride bareback on the head of the elephant!  Can you believe it! It was nuts! Vince technically sat on the neck of the elephant with his feet hooked behind the ears and only the top of the head to use for support.  We took some very steep hills and both he and I feared for his life on several occasions. 


Just now I asked Vince what he thought of the elephant experience. He said that it “was a bit beyond his capacity as a mahoot trainer (elephant trainer).”  He also said it was one of the best inner-thigh muscle exercises he’s ever done. 


Elephants are enormous and yet so elegant.  They walk like fashion models with one foot in front of the other.  Their eyelashes are so long, they look like the exaggerated lashes you see on the Disney cartoon, Dumbo.  Even their eyeballs are enormous.  It’s amazing to look them in the eye and see them looking back at you.  We live very near an elephant training camp.  The camp trains the elephants to do logging, but it’s not all work and no play.  They also train them to play basketball and paint pictures.  We can either go for the tricks or stay for the weekend.  If we stay for the weekend they would train us to be elephant whisperers.  How cool would that be?


5) Jungle Hike-

This was the best hike we’ve been on in Thailand, probably because we were so far back in the jungle.  Bamboo, banana, and teak trees surrounded us.  Our tour guide was so funny.  Up until this point of the trip he had been informative and friendly, but as soon as he got into hiking in the jungle he was like a fish in water, or better yet a monkey in a tree.  As mentioned above, our guide grew up hunting and running around in the area for decades.  He knew the area like the back of his hand.  As Vince and I took care selecting which rocks we would step on to cross the streams our tour guide bounced right on past us.   He made animal calls with the leaves and the grass.   He would hike ahead of us and then creep back through the jungle and come tearing through the from behind.  Other times he would hide in the bushes or the trees and jump out as we passed. The first time he hid in the bush he growled like a wildcat and slightly shook the branches.  I stopped in my tracks seriously concerned that there was a big animal a few feet from me.  Just then he jumped.  I screamed at the top of my lungs. 


6) Waterfall-

At the end of our hike out we reached a beautiful waterfall. By this time our clothes were already drenched with sweat from the humidity.  A swim in a waterfall was perfect.  It was maybe 50 feet.  About 5 feet from the base of the waterfall was a section where the rock jutted out forcing the water to shoot straight ahead.  It was Vince’s favorite spot and he kept going back into it and asking me to take his picture. I took many pictures of him playing in the waterfall, per his request.


7) White Water Rafting-

After the hike we drove to a river where we were asked to leave our cameras behind and given a quick lesson in rafting.  We learned commands like “forward”, “back”, “all left”, “all right”, “on the job” (that means go back to your seat).   We rode the river for about 40 minutes.  Even with our commands we still managed to get stuck on the rocks.  “All left” and “back” weren’t helping.  We had to wedge our paddles into the rocks and push off.  It was my first rafting experience and I can’t wait to do it again with even bigger white caps.


8) Bamboo Rafting-

In a slow spot mid-river we got off the raft and switched to a much larger raft made of bamboo.  The raft had about 20 bamboo pieces bound together.  Riders sit on the bamboo and the raft submerges several inches into the water.  Any leaning causes the boat to tip further into the water.  Vince and I sat up front.  Our tour guide asked Vince to stand up (balance), grab a bamboo stick and help direct the path of the raft.  The afternoon storms were just rolling in.  We were all soaking wet.  Here I am sitting in a pool of water with my knees tucked to my chest shivering in the rain while Vince is standing up to the storm like a steadfast captain leading us downstream.  I must admit, between the elephant head riding and the raft directing Vince was definitely impressing me with his manliness.


After the raft docked we jumped back in the songthaeow and headed home.  All activities were compacted into a 10-hour day.  Talk about an action packed Saturday.



~ by The Piersas on July 3, 2008.

3 Responses to “Trekking Adventure”

  1. Vince and Renee,

    Your blog is so great I feel like I’m actually there in Thailand!!! I’m sharing in your adventures, so keep them coming. Talk to you soon.


  2. I love the pic of you and the Longneck Tribe girl. It’s precious.

  3. I can’t believe that I finally just read this and I have to say I am VERY impressed by Vince! Seriously! I can just picture the two of you on that raft in the rain with heroic Vince saving his freezing little Renee! The whole trip sounded amazing!

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