Chiang Mai Trekking

by - 3:00 PM

I don't remember whose idea it was to do a jungle trek near Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. It was probably my dad's idea, and any idea that includes running through jungles can count on my approval. We'd booked our three day trek at the Oasis hostel in Bangkok, were picked up early in the morning at the Wualei hostel in Chiang Mai and then... The chaos ensued.

The Thai aren't the biggest fans of systems is what I learned on that first day. I ended up in a taxi with people who were going to do a half day elephant tour, people who were going to do a one day jungle trek and Dutch people who were going to do a two day trek. Everyone had to sign a list, then everyone had to get out of the car except for all the people with a Dutch passport. There was no logic whatsoever. In fact that's one thing you'll have to accept when you go to Southeast Asia: there's not much logic to be seen.
In the end we became part of a group full of Dutch people, one Canadian guy called Graham, Louis from France and Julie from Austria. Of course the Dutch immediately flocked together and spoke nothing but Dutch, which made me feel bad for the others and the tour guide. I quickly became friends with Julie and spoke more German on that first day than in the previous six months in college where I was supposed to learn the language. Julie and I stuck together, joined by Louis and Graham. I enjoyed their company so much more than that of the Dutch people. Within an hour the group was split in an international group and a Dutch group. The international group was much more fun of course.

Our split group followed our guide through the jungle, where he tried to explain things. He probably would have done a great job if only his English had been a little bit better. He mostly said things like: "No tiger Thai jungle. Tiger barbecue!" We soon noticed he really liked barbecue, because he wanted to barbecue every animal we came across. "Look, cow. Cow barbecue!" With this constant commentary on animals we could barbecue in the background we went to a hill tribe village ("Pig in village. Pig barbecue!") and went swimming in a waterfall. Eventually when we stopped for lunch we didn't barbecue anything. We had rice wrapped in banana leaves. It was a very basic lunch, but the thought of it still makes my mouth water.

Late in the afternoon we arrived at the Karen Lodge where we'd spend the night. The lodge was in fact one big doorless hut, with a big front porch. I couldn't believe my own eyes when I walked down the path to the lodge: on the front porch was Chris, a Dutch guy who'd stayed at both the Oasis and the Wualei hostel while I was there and whom I didn't expect to ever see again, let alone see again in the Thai jungle. He was there with a Scottish guy whose name was so complicated that just thinking it makes my tongue break in half. Thanks to them the international group became just a little bit more international.
To be honest it was quite sad how much most Dutch people kept to themselves. It didn't get better when a group of French guys arrived. Dutch people on the far end of the table, international group at the opposite end and the French inbetween. Safe to say the international group had by far the most fun. Cats were hugged and accidentally kicked, Scottish accents were imitated and caused loads of confusion, we made loads of triggering jokes after Graham went to 'hang his stuff' and talked about everything we could think of. This night changed me. These people changed me. They helped me see that people who shut me out when I need them most don't deserve me in their lives. That every love is different. That a gap year isn't a wasted year as long as I don't let it. When I went to bed that night I felt happy, truly happy without any sadness lingering in the back of my mind, for the first time since November 2016.

The next morning I went back to being sad. All these amazing people I'd met were doing a two day trek and I was doing three days, so I'd have to say goodbye. Right? Or not? Again, chaos ensued. First Chris and the Scot were supposed to go with us, despite the two day/three day thing. Then they weren't. Then Louis and Julie would join me on the second day. Then they wouldn't. Then they would. And when the confusion reached its peak the entire group, Dutchies and everyone else, left together and hiked the same path. At a point where the path split, Louis and Julie were told to come with me and my parents - after Julie and I'd already said our emotional goodbyes. No one understood this logic, but as I said before, there is little logic in this part of the world at times.

So I spent my second jungle day with Julie, my parents, a new guide who kept shouting "oh my god, OH MY BUDDHA!" and... well, I didn't spend the day with Louis because we kept losing him. He'd walk ahead and then we wouldn't see him for ages. We spent what felt like half the day yelling: "Louis! Where are you?!" To be honest, that was pretty much all that happened that day. We gate chrashed a few rice paddies, slipped down a ton of hills when it started raining and eventually made it to the village where my parents and I would spend the night. There Julie and I said our emotional goodbyes for the second time that day. And then... I was alone.

Okay, I admit it. My parents were there and we were staying with locals, so there were people. But I was missing my friends. On top of that I was dying with pain thanks to an ingrown toenail. It's when I write sentences like this that I realize I'm literally the least charming travel blogger out there, but jungle trekking isn't all fun and games. In the end it was all fine though. Staying with locals is really something else. My hostess kept using my flip flops, the food was awesome and I got to sleep under one of those nets you put over your food to keep flies from sitting on it. Quite the experience.

One short night later my parents and I were ready for our last day. We'd walk for a while, go to an elephant sanctuary, then end the trek with bamboo rafting. So we walked. And walked. And walked. And somehow managed to pick up a dog along the way. Don't ask me why, don't ask me how, but this little stray do followed us for miles. My mom decided to name him Skippy. Everything was awesome as long as Skippy was with us. Then we were picked up by a car, Skippy chased it but wasn't fast enough and that marked our descent into chaos once again. You see, because we'd go to an elephant sanctuary the next day as well, the people who organised this trek had cut the elephants out of the trek program. After a furious phone call from my dad we were brought to elephants, but that's another story for another day.

The end of the trek was near when I was standing in the back of a pickup truck pretending to be on the Titanic. We were dropped near a river, where I climbed aboard a bamboo raft. Bamboo rafting is nothing white water rafting. It's calmer, you don't have to do anything except sitting and not freaking out when you see a water snake. It's a nice end to your trek, even though it doesn't feel like a jungle trek thing to do.

After three days in the jungle I returned to Chiang Mai. I stank, my toe hurt like hell and I was craving a hamburger like crazy. To say I was exhausted wouldn't be an exaggeration. My head hurt from all the chaos and broken English. But every second was totally worth it. 1/1 Envy Fishers would do it again.

x Envy

You May Also Like

8 Fellow Ramblers

  1. Hi, glad you got to enjoy your trek despite the initial organisation chaos at the start. Sometimes simple food like rice can taste amazing and there probably wasn't time to barbecue. I bet the swim in waterfall and the bamboo water rafting sound amazing.

    1. In hindsight the chaos made it even more enjoyable, hahaha. It made the trek so unique and funny. The food still makes my mouth water. I'm also not sure if our guide even knew what a barbeque was! His English was so limited... And swimming and bamboo rafting were so awesome. With the humidity there it feels so good to get into the water every now and then.

  2. Sounds amazing, and so adventurous - you go on the coolest holidays! We went to Chiang Mai for 3 nights when we went to Thailand last year and loved it. We spent a day at an elephant sanctuary which was so cool and the other full day just exploring and looking at all the different temples.


    1. I did that too! The elephant sanctuaries are such great places, well, the ones that don't do riding. I loved seeing the temples. Old town Chiang Mai was one of my favorite urban areas I visited in Southeast Asia, but the countryside was even more amazing in my opinion.

  3. This sounds like so much fun; sometimes the chaos makes everything that little bit more exciting!
    Tara xo

    1. Hahaha exactly, chaos can make things so much more fun sometimes!

  4. I love your travel blogging. You're so honest about it, no glossing over. It makes me feel like I was on the adventure with you!
    This seems like it was so much fun despite the confusion and chaos and bittersweet parting.
    Cora ❤

    1. I'd feel so fake if I didn't tell about the shitty and painful parts of a trek like this one. Besides, I prefer reality over a phantasy I'll never achieve when I read blogs, so that's what I aim for in my own posts.
      It was fun indeed and I'm so grateful for all the amazing people I met. They helped me so much. Sometimes I still laugh out loud when I think about that one night at the long house.


I solemnly swear that I am up to no good! Wait, no, I mean: I solemnly swear that I will answer each and every comment ;)