Thailand: Hill Tribe Trek

Region: Northern Thailand
Length: 10-20 miles (plus or minus)



I enjoyed an unexpectedly excellent 3 day trek in northern Thailand, about an hour from Chiang Mai. It included surprisingly rigorous and satisfying  electricity-less trekking through hills and jungles and waterfalls and villages; overnight in a hill tribe family's bamboo house with superlative views of banana trees and a deep, wide valley below; an overnight at an elephant camp; riverside elephant ride and sugarcane feedings to a baby; whitewater rafting adventure; and float on a bamboo raft steered by a single super long bamboo stick, which yours truly got to captain. Special bonus: lots of interaction with cute kids in the villages, who entertained us with bubble blowing, songs, judicious distribution of banana leaves, and string trick magic. Another special bonus: campfire entertainment provided by two brothers, a local boy's rendition of folk songs in his tribe's dialect, and, when he wasn't in an opium-induced stupor, our Thai guide.

Uncomfortable stop at a "long neck" village, where even young girls wore multiple tight fitting gold neck braces that extended the lengths of their necks. I understand that the custom originated because Burmese villagers used it to prevent their women from being sold into slavery, but now it seems a painful way to bring in dollars from gawking tourists.

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Booked the trek the night before it begun at one of the random travel agency storefronts on Ratchapakinai Rd, in the old city.  It began with nearly 20 participants in two groups, but only 4 of us chose to do the full 3-day trek.  About US$60 included all transportation, 7 meals, 2 nights, 1 hour riverside elephant ride, 1 hour whitewater and bamboo rafting.