Chiang Mai is known for it’s beautiful mountain scenery, so it was definitely on our list to experience. I love hiking, it is one of my favourite outdoor activities, so of course I jumped at the opportunity to hike thousands of miles away from home.

It is very easy to book things as you go when travelling through Thailand – you just need to find yourself a local travel agent and the booking process through them is very simple. While we were in Chiang Mai we found a travel agency on Ratchamanka Road in the Old City, and like any good ‘on-the-fly’ tourists, we booked our trekking tour the day before we decided that we wanted to go.

With around 14km’s of hiking to do through the mountains, and the hiking trail about an hour’s drive outside of the city center, we needed to get an early start. The shuttle was scheduled to pick us up outside of our hotel at 07:30. I find it absolutely amazing that no matter what activity you do around Thailand, there will almost always be a shuttle service to the destination, even if it is only 1 or 2 kilometers away from where you are staying.

The morning of the trek was interesting. We all slept in slightly longer than we should have and had to rush to meet the downstairs for breakfast and make sure we were ready in time for the shuttle at 07:30.

07:30 arrived and so did the shuttle, and much to my horror, what I thought was meant to be a mini bus what a bright yellow Tuk Tuk. The Tuk Tuk already had a couple sitting in the back, and we were the second stop out of 3.

Luckily for us, since we were a group of 6 friends we head off on our own guided trek and the other 4 hikers set off on another trek. We met up at the same spot of lunch, but the only other time we saw them again was at the end of the hike.

The hike started off easy. Up over the dune, through a small village and straight into the forest. It was only about an hour or so into the trek that we started walking up the mountains. As much as I would have loved to have climbed up a shear mountain face, this trek was not one of those adrenalin junkie ones.

Words cannot describe the trekking experience. In the 8 hours we spent trekking we saw so many amazing things and learnt so much about the terrain. Our guide showed us how locals frighten away threatening wildlife with a leaf, and this cannot be done with just any leaf because the sound that is made when you hit leaf between your palm and a cupped hand does not travel as far if you haven’t used the correct leaf.

I recommend you choose a guided trek that includes lunch. It will be a once in a life time experience. On our way to the trek we made a single stop past a local food vendor that had made packed lunches for us which our guide kept until it was lunch time.  Our lunch was served in a banana leaf, wrapped up so tight that the fried rice was still warm when we ate it 5 hours after picking it up. You see what I mean! This stuff only happens in movies! Our guide then whipped out a watermelon and a few pineapples, as well as a knife, from his backpack and cut up the fruit for dessert.

After a delicious lunch and incredible scenery, we got right back into the trekking groove. Our next stop was another waterfall where we could take a dip in the rock pools. On the way there we walked through rice paddies. Unfortunately we were in Thailand out of rice season so the paddies were dry, but there are still a spectacular site regardless of whether they are in season or not.

We got to meet friendly locals in one of the villages that we walked through. Sadly, as amazing as what it is to be submerged in the culture and lifestyle of the locals, the path that we travelled is very popular and the locals tend to become less traditional the more often they interact with tourist. The tourists become their source of money, and locals will quickly adapt to what makes them more money.

In all the time we spent trekking up the mountain, there were very few times we actually trekked down the mountain. You can imagine that after 6 hours of travelling up a mountain that you would be afraid of what going down would entail. But we came out on the other side of a village that had a dirt road that lead down the mountain towards a tarred road.

19 000 steps, 800 calories, 13km’s, 8 hours, 3 bruises and 1 happy heart later, we stumbled across the bright yellow Tuk Tuk – the end of the trek.

Tyla van Til

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