Thailand Diary: Trekking & Tiger Balm In Chiang Mai | Tea & Post

Monday, 17 March 2014

Thailand Diary: Trekking & Tiger Balm In Chiang Mai

We arrived in Chiang Mai at 5am having only had a few hours sleep. Luckily the hotel, Chiang Mai Gate, had someone on their reception desk. We made the decision to pay an extra night for the hotel just so we could get a bit more rest before our trek the following day. I really liked this hotel which surprised me as we didn't have a choice when it came to this one as we booked through STA for the trip.

Once we woke up we went for a wander to get our bearings and see what was near our hotel. We passed several massage shops and figured after a night on a bus we could do with some relaxation. We found out the hard way that these massages were not the same as the one that lulled me to sleep in Bangkok. This felt like some kind of torture. Bones were cracked, knuckles were popped and our muscles were thoroughly pummelled. As soon as it was over we turned to face each other and both mouthed the same word, "OUCH!" 

As there were several other massage places nearby we thought we'd go for another one, a gentler massage to ease the pain of the last. This time I went for a head and shoulder massage thinking that it would be softer... Nope. I was in for another hour of pain that I couldn't get out of. At one point I genuinely thought my shoulder was going to end up dislocated as the lady threw her whole body weight into pushing it down. By the end of the massage I felt as though I'd been hit by a bus.We limped out and found a restaurant nearby with free wifi and delicious green curry to make ourselves feel better before heading back to the hotel. We were to meet our trekking group in the lobby that evening. I'm pretty apprehensive about meeting new people so I was a bit nervous about who we'd be spending the next 4 days with. Fortunately, they were all rather lovely. Our group was made up of three other girls from Germany and two guys from New Zealand. We actually ended up going to dinner with the boys that night before we headed to Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.

I think I preferred the Night Bazaar to Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok. As it was at night there was no drowning in humid, muggy air with the searing sun ready to scorch you if you stepped out from under the shade. It was also a lot less busy (I'm not a crowds person either) which made it easier to browse the stalls and barter with the stall owner. There was a great variety of items for sale and for quite reasonable prices, I didn't end up buying a great deal as I wanted to save for presents on the way home. One purchase I did make was for a bigger daypack, the one that had come with my rucksack wasn't roomy enough to fit everything I needed for the trek into it. I was really pleased when I managed to barter it down to £10, not quite so pleased when I got back to the hotel and the zip flew off as soon as I pulled it!

The following morning we left pretty early for the trek, stopping at a market on the way so that the boys could get some walking boots (they thought they could do the trek in flip flops?!) Our next stop was Mork Fa Waterfalls, we went for a quick dip to cool down from the blazing midday sun and took some pictures.

We piled back into the pick up truck having only one more stop for lunch before we finally reached our destination. The restaurant we ate at had the cutest puppies out the back, you can see them in the video I've posted below! The final stop was at the bottom of what appeared to be a gentle slope. We were handed bamboo sticks and set off up this 'slope' which actually turned out to be a bloody great mountain! We finally made it to the top with our hearts pounding and lungs gasping for air, I was starting to wish I hadn't packed quite so much stuff. Some of the others were sharing a backpack between them but we'd loaded up ours with as much as we could carry. The quicker ones with less to carry were all sitting in a little hut made out of bamboo so we decided to join them to catch our breath.

At this point a fly landed on my wrist and thinking nothing of it, I swatted it away. Little did I know that it was no fly, but a wasp! A wasp with a lot of friends! Next thing I knew I was being chased up the next mini-mountain by a swarm of them stinging my arms and legs. I am absolutely petrified of bees, wasps and pretty much anything that flies so I'm so surprised I didn't start crying. Eventually they disappeared and the red lumps began to appear. I'd only ever been stung by a bee once before after a trip to the hospital was told I'm allergic to them. Knowing some unknown wasp that could have any kind of venom in it had stung me definitely freaked me out. Luckily the swelling was only as bad as it was last time and only took about a week to go down. Having a great purple welt on my leg wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I imagined lying on the beach. The tour guide was very helpful though, he gave me some tiger balm which took the swelling down slightly.

The worst of my stings just when it had started to go down.
The trek was a lot harder than we had imagined when we booked it, I found myself guzzling water down like I was dying of thirst. It turned out going down the steep hills was just as difficult as going up and at one point I found myself falling over. I was very tempted to slide the rest of the way down on my bum.We made it to the first village at nightfall with aching feet, swollen knees and a sweaty back just in time for a freezing cold shower and some much welcomed food.

For dinner we were given a Thai Green Curry with a twist... it was made with Water Buffalo! It was actually really nice and only had a slightly different taste to normal beef that we have back home. We also tucked into possibly the best spring rolls I've ever had in my life. With our tummys full we grabbed some blankets and settled down next to a campfire with a few beers to listen to our guide tell us more about village life. There was no electricity so the stars were crystal clear in the night sky with no light pollution. I was a bit of an astronomy nerd growing up so I loved sitting out there looking at them. I find it so amazing that you can see the same constellations from your bedroom window as you can from the other side of the world.

Having had a good nights rest we awoke the next morning to arctic conditions, which I definitely hadn't expected in Thailand. It was so cold you could see your breath! The trek on the second day wasn't quite as difficult as the day before but it was still pretty hard! We made it to the next village by midday and had noodle soup for lunch which was so, so good. We managed to get a little nap in before waking up, grabbing our bamboo sticks again and setting off for our next adventure, elephant trekking.


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