This is the second set of images. If you’ve missed the first part, please click here. It will tell you how we came to be on 16 hours night train to Chiang Mai.
We felt like it was a good idea to travel overnight. We didn’t have to pay extra accomodation and were able to save time. The beds in the train were really good and apart from a freezing air condition system, we slept most of the time.
We passed a lot of agricultural landscape, little villages and a lot of people close to the tracks.
People waiting for the train to pass.
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second biggest city, but has only 148.000 inhabitants. It was a big releave to get out of busy and crowdy Bangkok – even the air was a lot better. At least two degrees colder and a lot fresher. We went to a local market to get some food for 3-day trekking tour to the villages of the hilltribes.
So we packed a couple of clothes, sturdy hiking shoes, toothbrush and paste and of course my camera and off we went, passing this beautiful waterfall.
Our guide waiting for us (kids) to finish our bath.
It was very clean and refreshing water. But standing underneath such power is actually quite hurtful.
Already in the first hour we saw two snakes. This was the small one.
We stopped for lunch.
Eventually we went deeper into the woods. The hike started to get a lot more difficult. Luckily we had our guide “First” and “Sammy” (as seen above).
Walking for hours, the woods got thicker and thicker. We really felt like in the middle of nowhere totally in trust of our local guides who lead us to the first overnight stop.
It was such a strange feeling descending from the hills on a very small hiking trail, when all the sudden a little village out of wood popped up in the most beautiful valley. No streets reach into this hiding place, no electricity pylons or cables could be seen. It felt like going back in time.
The so called “hill-tribes” live in wooden houses that a built on poles. Underneath they hold cattle and other animals like pigs and dogs. They are self-supporter in the traditional way.
Sammy explaining us the culture and traditions of the village.
Straying dogs were everywhere. A lot of smaller puppies too.
We then met the people of the tribe, especially the kids who with big blank eyes watched us bulky strangers descending from the woods behind the houses. We brought them little toys which they happily embraced.
We quickly became the center of attraction when all kids from the villages came to greet us.
I then started to wander through the villages, talk to the people using my hands. The hill-tribe people speak a different language than thai which makes it even harder.
The houses were empty. No single piece of furniture. Thai people traditionally sit on the floor. Therefore it is a strict rule to take of the shoes before entering the house to keep the floor clean.
It was getting later and the people started to prepare food. Only after minutes, it smelled fantastic.
“First” is pretending to cook some chicken.
In one of the houses, a woman prepares dinner for her family.
Sitting on the floor, we ate and tasted very very very smicy thai food. We ate different stuff like Massaman Curry, fish steamed in banana leaves, or pig head with a very spicey sauce (see below). Yes, the thai people ate all pieces of the head including the brain, the eyeballs, the tongue….
After dinner, we lit up lanterns and made a wish.
The next morning, I woke up quite early and started once again to wander through the village. The image below shows the house we slept in.
It was a very peaceful and wonderful experience to spend a night in such a villages.
These kids made me take that picture and laughed when I showed it to them. They were very tough young people.
This little one was a bit shy first, but then his curiosity won over his fear and he came down to us aswell.
This photo is one of my favourites. There cool and careless poses just make me laugh everytime I look at it.
He was the leader of them.
Walking through the village they followed me. Sometimes they took off to play something in the woods, sometimes they would look where I was.
Perfect light and expression in this one.
A lot of small kids here. I later heard that they have to walk 1 1/2 hours to get to school.
Two older women bringing fire wood to the village.
They actually drove on these hiking trails with scooters. We got ready to leave and passed this beautiful house near the river.
When I saw this scene I really had to think. Living this life, as simple and honest it is, is definatly not the worst way….
The second day became a lot harder than the one before. The hike was a lot longer and a lot more difficult. Again we became lost in the woods.
We finally reached a river. It became quite hot, so a refreshment was very much needed.
Patrick, one of our fellow travellers.
Wandering along the river was great. There was a lot of shade to recover from the sun and a nice scenery too.
A couple of moments later, we came around a corner and all the sudden this was in front of us:
A big, and impressive elephant. Just in the middle of our hiking trail. He was not tied to anywhere and just curiosly watching in our direction.
The mahout (elephant guide) soon made him (or her) go down to the river. We washed him which he seemed to enjoy quite much.
We then rode back on the elephant and to the next village.
This girl was already looking out for us. I am happy I managed to catch her face in this one.
We desperatly had to take a bath ourselves, and as the village was next to a river, we jumped right in. A couple of boys of the village thought the same and came to play in and at the river.
View from the bridge, that crossed the river. The people from the village use these bamboo rafts to get to the streets to Chiang Mai.
The village was a bit bigger than the first one.
Again kids followed us wherever we went.
We saw a lot of small puppies again.
Good times in the evenings.
The next day, we prepared to leave on the bamboo rafts.
Some kids and older people from the village came to say goodbye. Or actually just sit and watch us greenhorns enter the rafts and almost trip over and fall into the river.
It became a really nice boat tour. In contrast to this group, we had to steer ourselves (just for you know)…
After lunch, were a big big spider was hanging above our heads, we drove back to Chiang Mai.
Debbie in the open taxi that brought us back to our hotel.
Spending these three days in the hilltribe villages was an amazing experiences. It brought us closer to thai culture than we would have imagined. It was definatly one of the highlights, if not the best of the whole trip.
After the trek, we spent another couple of days to explore Chiang Mai, a beautiful and relaxed city with thousands of temples and buddha statues. But this will be part of the next post.
See Thailand (part one).
See Thailand (part two).
See Thailand (part four).