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Trekking in Chiang Rai

When we were at New Life Foundation, we were offered a chance to participate in an excursion. The Foundation organizes some kind of excursion every Sunday and anyone can join, although residents and volunteers take precedence and there is a small fee to pay for expenses. In this case it was 300 baht, which is pennies when you hear what we got for our money.

We drove out about 45 minutes from the Foundation to a hill tribe village, the name of which I never caught. There were 11 of us participating and we had three local guides, one of which was fluent in English, Thai and local hill tribe languages/dialects. Tiu did not join this trek as it was described as ”rather challenging”, ”mostly uphill” and it was a hot day. So I went alone with the other foundies (as the people at the Foundation are called).

We started by hiking (rather steeply) uphill for the first hour and a half. The nature around us was beautiful. It wasn’t only the views but also the smells, the sounds and the feeling of walking in new terrain (which I felt wonderfully thanks to my Fivefingers). After reaching a plateau, the guides took us steeply downhill for the next half hour. Once again thanks to my footwear, I didn’t slip up as much as the others, as I was able to jam my toes into every little nook and crevice for better footing. The Fivefingers were perfect for this kind of terrain – dry and steep.

After two hours we stopped at a stream and waited for an hour or so while our guides started working their native magic. They cleared a small area out of the jungle on the other side of the stream for us with machetes. They made a sitting area on the ground out of bamboo leaves and started hacking down bamboo for a variety of things:

  • diverting water from the stream through a bamboo pipe which made washing hands and dishes easier
  • boiling water above an open fire in a larger bamboo tube. I don’t know how they managed to get the water to boiling without the bamboo catching fire!
  • making noodle cups and chopsticks for everyone
  • making a ladle to stir and ration the noodle soup with
Preparing noodle soup in the jungle

Our guides made noodle soup for us. All cooking and eating utensils were made from bamboo, right there, on the spot. Amazing!

Where did we get noodle soup you ask? We carried noodle packs, vegetables and eggs with us and the guides chopped everything up, dug a hole in the ground, covered it with several layers of bamboo leaves and just poured all of the ingredients and the boiling water in there. After a few minutes of simmering, the soup was ready. And it was delicious! I ate two and a half cups of it. :-)

Eating noodle soup in the jungle

Noodle soup tasted pretty damn good after 3 hours of hiking up and down steep hills. I even got to keep the bamboo cup the guides made for me! Too bad I didn't sun-dry the cup properly before putting it into a plastic bag for transportation... It was covered in mold within 48 hours. :( After all, bamboo is very nutritious. D'oh!

Our lunchbreak lasted two hours, and we set out again at 2pm. The rest of the hike was either downhill or flat, which was a welcome change. We walked through cow and horse pastures and splendid rice terraces (although they were dry in this season), through forest and finally the place we had all been waiting for: a waterfall!

Cow pasture crossing

Humans could pass - cows could not :-)

Waterfall fun

Waterfall fun. About half our crew decided to wade into the pleasantly cool water and some even took showers under the waterfall.

A video compilation was even made of our trek, albeit the trek was a lot less surreal than the video. ;)

I haven’t been on many hikes but I have to say I was super-impressed all in all. A lot of fun, and those guides are wizards. You have to respect their experience and skill – they never seemed to break a sweat during the entire hike, even though they worked with machetes at midday. Can’t wait to go on my next hike. :)