So, we're back from our 3 days in the jungle, valleys and villages of northern Thailand. What an amazing experience it was. While the hiking was fantastic, the real experiences that we'll remember for a lifetime were in the local villages that we stayed each night.
On average, we hiked about 5 hours per day. Our guide, Pat, was very good at ensuring we maintained a slow, but steady pace. We often stopped in the shade on a bank of the Pai River to catch our breath, soak in the scenery and gulp some water. This also proved to be a good time to count the number of bug bites on our bodies! The terrain varied. We climbed hills, shuffled down slippery rocks, trotted across dried up rice fields and crossed meandering rivers.
Yesterday, we crossed the river about 7 times. On our first crossing, we all took our shoes and socks off and carried them as we crossed the knee deep water. On the other side, we scrambled to dry our feet and wipe the damp sand off them before putting on our socks and shoes again. The guide even filled up his bamboo cups to pour water over our feet to rid them of the sand! Ridiculous! We've signed up for a 3-day trek and here we were getting a poor man's pedicure after getting a little dirt on our toes! He was hiking in flip flops!
As we strolled along, the guide would often point out interesting things to us. It's amazing at how the village people use and rely on the trees and plants for many aspects of their lives....from building material for their huts, to medicines, to cooking utensils. The growth of opium poppies used to be a huge problem here, but the government seems to be getting a handle on the situation. Villages used to be able to make a lot of money of selling opium crops (much more than selling rice or other food).
While we did not see that much wildlife, there are apparently many varieties of birds, insects, snakes and other interesting creatures that call this land home. Most of the animals we saw were actually in villages. Roosters, hens, pigs, wild cows and dogs were very well featured. The bloody roosters wake up at 4AM....and then snooze until 5AM....closely followed by another cat nap until 5:45AM. Click here to learn more about the most annoying animal / alarm clock in the world.
Probably the most interesting part of the daily hikes were when we hugged the river, which was jungle country. Although it's the dry season here (it has not rained since late October), the jungle was very green and lush. The air was refreshingly cool.
More to come....stay tuned for part 2.