Thailand Jungle Trek

I guess you could say hiking in the woods has become a favorite activity now that we live in the northwest. But before the northwest, it was Africa and hiking in the woods along mountain ranges or even foothills was also a favorite thing to do with the family. Emily and Tessa certainly grew up being dragged to such places and now that they are older an all-day jungle trek north of Chiang Mai sounded like just the outing we would all enjoy. After all, it would include a visit to a bat cave and waterfall along red dirt roads that would likely make us feel just a bit like we’re back in Africa.

Numerous trekking and tour companies exist in Thailand since so much of their economy derives from tourism. Touch Chiang Mai had been recommended to me by someone living in Thailand so I check out their website and chose the all-day trek (not the overnight one) that would pick us up at our hotel and drive us to Mae Tang District for our adventure. An easy payment through PayPal meant we only had to bring along some spending money for ice cream and drinks after our hike was over.

The van picked us up right on time and we headed out to several other guesthouses nearby to pick up Italian and Dutch tourists before heading north. After some time we stopped off at a local market to pick up some food and snacks for our journey. I couldn’t quite resist the pile of fried bugs. Since we were reliving our Africa days, it made since to get a small bag of insects to enjoy and potentially shock our fellow tourists. Reactions were not disappointing.

As we headed into the hills, scenery became far more interesting. The roads more narrow and excitement building. I wasn’t sure how much time or interaction we would have with any residents of the hill tribes where we would start our hike. I thought perhaps we would eat lunch with a family or something, but this was just my imagination getting away with me. Once we reached our destination village, we picked up a bit more food, stowed it away in our day packs, and started heading up, up, up towards our first exotic destination: guanoland.

Our friendly guide was local to the area and could speak a local dialect common to this hill tribe region. He seemed very familiar with everything yet used humor to help us feel comfortable. As he entered the bat cave, my excitement to follow right along behind was a bit too premature. He asked me to wait first while he lit a small fire. I jumped to conclusions that it could be a spirit appeasement ceremony, but was assured it was just a way to get the smell more bearable before we entered and toured the shallow depths.

From the bat cave we left the trail and came upon a local road where the sides of the hills were cut out of the mountain and many small tarantula homes were present. Our guide showed us how he calls the spiders to come to the surface by tickling the outside of the hole to make it look like a bug was ready for capture. It was an impressive sight to see the fangs of a tarantula up close!

We were now headed towards a small waterfall where we would have lunch and play in the water. Another group that had come with us and had spent time at an elephant sanctuary crossed us going the opposite direction. We chatted briefly, all in good spirits, as we each continued on our customized explorations of northern Thailand.

The waterfall was truly a gorgeous spot. We lounged around, went behind the falls, ate and rested while a local pack of village dogs attached themselves to us in hopes of being fed. A canine male among the bunch had more sensuous pleasures in mind. We did our best to separate ourselves from the pack, but they would be our companions for the rest of our hike.

So far we had had a dry hike, but as the afternoon wore on the rains rolled in and the mountain trails more steep. As we neared the end of our hike, we found shelter at a village home perched atop a stunning viewpoint. From here we had time to wait until the rains calmed down before walking into the village and joining our driver for our return back to Chiang Mai.

Asia, Travel, HikingTim Cowley