Posts Tagged ‘Trekking’

  • 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.

  • Trekking with a porter

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    Trekking with a porter must be like a very easy walk through fields but it is for sure not as rewarding as doing it by yourself, carrying your own things and walking your own rhythm. But in case someone arrange their services, it is very important to respect their rights and don’t overload them as many groups do. It is very sad to see foreigners ramble around with a small backpack, while their 16 years old porters suffer to go one step further with a 40 kg bag on their backs. For more information about that, check the International Porter Protection Group IPPG or the Porter Progress websites: www.ippg.net or www.portersprogress.org).

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  • Trekking around the Annapurna’s range

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    This is one of the most famous treks in the world because of its wonderful landscapes and also due to the fact that it includes the highest pass in the world (this is what they assert, although we are not very sure about it) at 5416 metres above sea level. The average time to complete the trek is 16-21 days, depending on your strength and also on the length of the trek you choose (if you include the climb to the Poon Hill or the Annapurna Base Camp on your plans). As on the 14th day the weather changed into clouds, rain and cold we decided to quit the trek and come back to the nice and warm hotel room in Pokhara (a really long and hot shower is one of the things you miss the most up in the mountains). The whole way around the Annapurna’s range could be divided into two different parts: uphill and downhill. The differences are quite important and make from your hike an amazing experience or a long fatigue. On the way up (from Besisahar to Thorung Phedi) paths take you through forests, cliffs, rivers and beautiful villages, while on the way down (Thorung La Pass to Tatopani) the landscape is arid, the paths are windy and dusty, and people are not as friendly as they were on the other half of the trek. During your first days in the mountains you feel welcome and almost part of the place. After one week people treat you as if you were a dollar and don’t see much more of you than simply your money.

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    Everyone could do this trek. And everyone could do it independently. Even people like us, who normally party and lay on the sofa rather than practise sports. Even 60 or 70 years old people as the ones we met along the way. Paths are bright and clear and there’s no need of a guide or a porter unless you are lazy and don’t want to carry your own stuff. There are hostels and lodges aside almost every 5-10 km, as well as restaurants and tea stalls, so you don’t need to carry a tent or even food, but prices rise a lot with the altitude (a simple meal or a hotel room can cost up to 10 times more on the top than on the first villages of the trek, as food and other goods have to be carried uphill by porters and donkey caravans).

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