Virtual meanderings

Goin’ Trekkin’

Have I ever ridden an elephant before? No. Have I done white-water rafting before? Sadly, no, but I definitely want to try it. Walking in the rain forest to reach that well-hidden waterfall? What about extras such as a visit to a hill tribe village and an orchid farm to part with some of my souvenir-designated money?
The answer to the question “Why go trekking?” seems too obvious  –  to experience things you had no chance to try at home, to get intimately close to the beautiful countryside, to enjoy the company of others, adventure… the usual marketing points.

The beginning of the rainforest
The beginning of the rainforest

Courtesy: tvidhyarkorn @ Flickr

   Yet, for me there was one more reason – a general one, in fact – coming into play each time I succumbed to participating in organized events. And that reason is… ok, you will need to read the post to the end to find out or jump straight to the last paragraph.
For the time being, however, let’s get back to trekking.        There is no shortage of activities in Chiang Mai. In fact it will take you over a week to exhaust only the most readily available options. Visitors forfeiting Chiang Mai for the beaches of Phuket and Koh Phi Phi are also forfeiting a lot of excellent experiences. But this has its good sides for the rest of us – due to the fewer tourists, in Chiang Mai rip-off schemes are much less common compared to Bangkok and the islands, the people are less greedy and more friendly. And the service is hands down better.
As Chiang Mai is located in the mountainous northern part of Thailand, trekking is perhaps the most popular activity for travellers (because it brings together a number of different experiences?). When some people at the hostel booked a one-day trekking tour, I too decided to join in.

We got picked up from the hostel in the early morning and driven about an hour north of Chiang Mai into the hills. First thing on the agenda (?) was the elephant ride. The elephants were to transport us from our starting point to a location in the beginning of the rainforest.
So we split in pairs and each pair got on an elephant – to do so we had to climb up a special wooden tower, under which the elephant stopped to let you sit on it.  We were also invited to buy a bunch of bananas to feed the elephant along the way – and each of us did so.

Gimme a banana, yo

Gimme a banana, yo

I am telling all that because it is a nice example of how things work in life – people want your money so they sell you bananas. You buy the bananas becase you want to be nice to everyone, and because you think it is only fair to feed the elephant that is carring you, right? The net result of this is that the elephants have grown spoilt, and simply refused to move forward unless you fed them bananas constantly. Here is a photo of my elephant stating that it’s time for another banana, or… Vacuum cleaners…

Through the rice fields we went…

Rice field

…alongside banana tree plantations and lotus-covered ponds we went…

..and then we finally got to the beginning of the wild rainforest, where we had to get off the elephants and start walking on foot. We bid our elephants goodbye…

Oops, wrong picture.  Sorry about that. We bid our elephants goodbye…

    And off we ventured a two-hour walk into the rain forest to a waterfall, followed by a quick lunch at the waterfall.
The words “a rainforest waterfall” should evoke a picture of a serene, secluded place – a closely-guarded secret, a place where you should feel extremely lucky to belong to the select few to be visiting it. Romantic. Enchanting. Unforgettable. And rightly so, here is a picture I took…

But if you truly thought there is no one around… you are wrong. Let’s not forget that this “secret waterfall” is advertised in all hostels, hotels and travel agencies around. Net result: on a good day there are perhaps a couple of hundred visitors. A new tour group is arriving every half an hour. Then each group would take a dip in the waterfall, have a short lunch (noodles, wrapped in a banana leaf, which in fact was quite tasty) and leave. It is Reality 101: all such places advertised in the guidebooks will be awash with tourists.

Then we walked back for about an hour and got to the river – time for some white water rafting, baby! Since it was the rainy season the river waters were a bit rough, but not enough so to cancel this part of the trekking. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I had never done white water rafting before, so I enjoyed it immensely. And since I do not have a photo of it (we had to leave our cameras on the shore), I hereby provide another “water” experience that someone else got sometime else on some other Chiang Mai trekking tour 🙂

Hey, I got none of that amphibia thing
Hey, I got none of that amphibia thing!

Courtesy: Siambrowse

    Next, those of us who did not drown into the river got loaded back on the truck and headed back to Chiang Mai, making a final “orchid farm stop” where you could wander around rows of orchids and hopefully buy some souvenirs.

Two of thousands of orchids at the orchid farm

Two of thousands of orchids at the orchid farm

And since you were patient enough to read through the whole post (or maybe you jumped here straight from the beginning?), I will tell you the one extra reason in favor of going to organized events. Adventure?

What real-life decision making eventually starts to feel like (minus the sexy part)
Courtesy: Twister Game

   Forget about adventure. Relaxation and rest are the words. At such events every part of the day is designed and planned by someone who wants you to leave happy and content. Your guides will tell you what to do and where to go. In a word, someone is taking care of you all that time and you need not make a single decision yourself. And when you are travelling on your own, the name of the game is ‘decision making’. So, every time along the way I felt I needed a break, I would go for something organized, thank God.


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