Archive for the ‘Trekking’ Category

  • Muang Sing, the northern mountain region

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    This is not much more than a couple of streets in the middle of a plain and surrounded by some small mountains and forests, but Muang Sing has been a well known place since long ago. First as one of the biggest opium markets in Laos and nowadays as the starting point for many eco-minded treks in the mountains. Even having asked in many guest houses, in the tourist office and to some locals too, we could not get much information about trekking independently in the surrounding area. It was thanks to an american guy who gave us a copy of a hand made map that we could start to think it was possible to hike by ourselfs, with no guides, group or whatever.

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    On our second day in town we couldn’t do much because of the heavy rain (the wet season is just starting and, from our point of view, it’s doing quite well: raining everyday sometimes 24 hours non stop!!). But we used that day to familiarize with some Akha hill tribe women who were in town to sell their souvenirs to tourists. They were very friendly and we had good fun together, although they constantly tried to sell us things that we had refused just minutes ago.

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    The next day we rented a mountain bike and made our way through extremely muddy paths up and down the mountains towards the Chinesse border (just 12 km away from Muang Sing). We visited many tribe villages and played with many kids, but the best thing that day was the good time we had riding the bikes through these narrow, muddy paths between rice fields and forests.

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    After aproximately 8 hours biking, we came back to town completely knakered and with pain all over our bodies (specially in our bums), so we just relaxed and got ready to go back to Huay Xai the next morning.

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  • Mae Salong and the hill tribe villages

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    After spending a couple of days in Thaton and the surroundings, we headed up north to Mae Salong. As it’s becoming usual lately in our trip, we hitched all the way up to the little town, since transport here (limited to sawngthaew, which is like a van for up to 8 people) is not very regular and a bit more expensive. A winding mountain road leads over 20 km from the foothill to the top through beautiful woodland landscapes.

    Doi Mae Salong village is a settlement up on top a high mountain peak, out in the middle of Chiang Rai’s mountain country, commanding a grand view of green mountain ridges stretching out to the far horizon in breathtaking panorama. The villagers are ethnic Chinese descendants of the KTM nacionalist army regime that took refuge in Thailand almost 50 years ago when Communist forces won the civil war in mainland China. Staying here gives you the feeling of having being transported to China. Chinese language rather than Thai is more frequently spokern here. Almost all the noticeboards are writen in chinese characteres. The food menu is mainly chinese. The land’s severe inclines boast terraces of tea and coffee plantations and there are tea houses all around.

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    An early morning visit to the interesting market (make sure you go there between 5 and 7 a.m.) gives you good chances to see and interact with the town residents and many tribespeople of the hill villages surrounding the town (Akha, Lisu, Lahu, Hmong and Karen among others).

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    We stayed in Shin Sane Guest House, one of the best guest-oriented lodges we have found so far in northern Thailand. The rooms were pretty basic, but laundry was free, internet access very cheap and the owner was very friendly and helpful, giving loads of information and even a handmade map of the area, so you could trek independiently through all the surrounding hill tribe villages. We did a couple of treks and ended up completely knakered (20 km trek in just one morning!!), all wet and miserable, since the monsoon caught us up on the way back, but feeling so happy to be able to trek alone on that marvellous sceneries and been received with smiles in the villages we visited.

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  • Trekking in Umphang

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    Early in the morning we got up, had breakfast and started our 3 hour long trip down south along the sinuous mountain roads. We all four –Julia, Hector and a couple of kiwi guys- end up feeling motion sickness due to the over 1200 bends of the way. Appart from that, the first day of the trek was perfect. We started with a 4 hour rafting in the Mae Klong river, stoping aside to collect “jungle food” such as bamboo shoots and mushrooms. Then we arrived to a camp on the river side, where we prepared dinner –Thai food of course- and where we spent the night and felt asleep hearing the beautiful jungle sounds.

     

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    The second day started with another 2 hour raft down the river, entertained with the moonson rain and some more stops along the way before starting a 3 hours trek –all wet and miserable- through muddy paths in the jungle forest. It was great that they provided us rubber boots for the trek, so that we felt confident and free to step anywhere, either streams, puddles or mud. The trek ended in a kind of camp site near the National Park entrance where we spent the whole afternoon and night with other people from other trekking companies, still raining…

     

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    On the third day we visited the highest waterfall in Thailand (Tee Lor Su, which in Karen language means waterfall), it was quite impresive and full of water at this time of the year, although we missed the opportunity to swim in one of its pools due to the heavy rain and the chilled air. On the way back to the camp, where our guides were waiting for us, we had the best experience of the trek when we found a 1,5 meter long King snake –apparently quite poisonous, as our guides told us later- and played with it for a while. It was the first time we have seen such a big and dangerous snake in its habitat and it was one of the few animals we were able to see during this trek (they either don’t like rain or us).

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    After that we kept on walking –all the different groups separated although very close to each other- on the way to the Karen village where we were supposed to spend the night with a local family. We didn’t feel very welcomed in the village and could not interact much neither with children nor with adults of the tribe, they did’t seem very interested in us, so we respected them. We arranged a gathering though with all the non locals in town: the tourists and their guides. We spent a nice evening with an international taste: kiwis, english, danish, thais and spanish all together singing and chating for many hours.

     

     

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    The fourth and last day was the shortest and also the worst one since we only did the way back to Umphang on the back of an elephant, who didn’t seem to be very happy with the treatment it received from its owner (bastard!), plus the uncomfortability of this kind of transport. From there we were driven back to Mae Sot, where we spent hours chating with Mr Om and had a very good recovering night on a mattress again.

  • Mae Sot

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    Thanks to a very friendly Thai family who picked us up from the side of the road after we were waiting for a a bus which was not coming and decided then to try to hitch-hike, we arrived in Mae Sot after a good 4 hours ride under the sun and the rain and against the wind, sitting on the back of their pick up van.

     

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    Somebody had told us about the Nº4 guesthouse so we decided to look for it and check it. We got a quite basic room with a mattress on the floor and a -very important- mosquito net, but for only 2 euro a night. Besides, the guest house was an old teak house with a lot of character and full of Thai artifacts and music instruments hand made by Mr. Om.

    We came to Mae Sot with the idea of joining a trekking tour through the jungle to any hill tribe village of the area and Nº4 guesthouse had been one of the first companies arranging this kind of tours for “farangs” –western tourists in thai language-. Mr Om, owner of the guesthouse and former tour guide, seemed to be very professional although a little bit shy and taciturn person. After having red feedbacks of other travellers and a couple of different guidebooks rewiews, we decided to book a 4 day-3 night trekking with his company, starting the next morning travelling on a van to a southern town on the Tak province, Umphang, the closest town to the National Park of the Tee Lor Su Waterfall and close to the Burmese border.