Whilst staying in Chiang Mai, it won't take long to realise there is much adventure to be had here. Entering your hostel, you'll be met by hundreds of glossy folded leaflets full of excursions, tours and activities - colourful and visual, before you know it you'll be making the tough decision of weather to zip-line through the jungle or go cliff jumping in the Canyon. We chose to spend a day with elephants. And then we chose to spend two days hiking and living in the jungle.
We chose to go for the more pricey trip with 8Adventures as it included water rafting and we're so glad we did. We were introduced to Sak and Not, our guides, at basecamp and they really made the excursion what it was with their knowledge of jungle and how to survive off raw materials, as well as their humour and character. Here's a little inside peak into our two days in the jungle...
After two hours of trekking uphill through a maze of thick, tangled bamboo we finally reached our first checkpoint - a clearing in a rice field offering views of the village in the distance. From the muggy and humid interior of the bamboo jungle to the clean and crisp air of this open space, we quickly realised how difficult this hike could become.
We came across some local villages harvesting their rice in front of a glorious mountainous backdrop. They laid down a wide blue mat, bound together their rice stems with string and smashed them down on steel barrels, forcing all the rice to come loose, discarding the stems. I asked the eldest of the group if I could help and as soon as I finished one band of rice stems I was immediately handed another, and then another, much to the amusement of our guides!
After about six hours of gruelling trekking uphill, we finally reached our base for the evening at around 1600m. Constructed with wood and bamboo, with a small room full of thin mattresses and mosquito nests, we found our home for the night fascinating. Reaching 6:00pm we realised we needed to find our spot for sunset, so we set out about the village, coming across a set of bamboo houses mid-construction; floors, roofs, but no walls - perfect. We set up our camera's and took in the view before a curious young Thai boy found his way to our spot, immediately reaching for the camera's, turning our village sunset into a welcomed photography lesson.
After sunset, the skies colour disappeared pretty quickly until we were left with torches and a fire as our only sources of light. We had an amazing home cooked meal around our fire, with soups, pork belly, sticky rice and more, all cooked over a fire and with bamboo sticks. After food we asked Sak questions which were greeted by many stories of his life living in and around the jungle and these remote villages that function here.
At around 9:00pm, in the pitch black of night we were given a question: bed time, or night hike? Sak, excited as ever, grabbed his essentials and we head to the ATV. Five people in one quad was far from comfortable, so i had to sit on the front hood as we climbed the steep hill, also far from comfortable! After a short drive and an hour and a half hike upwards, we reached the 5500 ft summit in pitch black. You couldn't see where you stepped on this tiny base without a torch, all you could see was the stars.