Trip Report #3, 4/27/00

Now we're talking adventure.

One of the common activities that people visiting Northern Thailand do is a "Hill Tribe Trek." These are guided 1-5 day treks in the jungle, where you travel between villages and see how people in hill tribes live.

I'd heard good reports from friends that these are fun, but had a few reservations.

First of all, I've been LIVING with some of these people, so I'm not interested in having a village put on a show for me. Secondly, it's generally "More Tribe, Less Trek." I want way more exercise than a 3-4 hour hike.

Lastly, I can't help but envision the following scenario:

[Man on ridge with binoculars. Spots guided tour coming up trail. Picks up Motorola Global Satalite Phone and dials village] "Hey Steve, I spotted the next group. Stop the VCR and hide the bigscreen."

[Steve answers:] "10-4, will do. And quit calling me Steve. My name's supposed to be Maung-Um Lao Ki Thona."

(Of course this scenario is rediculous, given the poverty of the hill tribes)

While in Mae Hong Son, I started wandering up a valley to see what was there. At the end of a dirt road, I found a trail which followed a stream up the valley, which proved to be a great day hike. But it got me thinking: I've got a backpack, water filter, and a trail. Who needs a stinking guide?

Got food and supplies that night, and headed off the next morning. The hike was gorgeous: 5 hours along a stream, 3 hours up to a ridge. Passed two hill tribe villages, and ended up finding an abandoned bamboo hut in an old rice field on the ridge.

Then the adventure began. Realized I was out of water, so I spent 3 hours of hiking to get water back to the hut. At this point, I found that my brand new water filter didn't want to work, so I collected firewood in the dark to boil the water, getting back to the hut just as the first big monsoon rain and lightening storm of the season hit.

Minor hut repairs were in order, but I have to hand it to these people: I stayed dry the entire night. Went to sleep praying that the lightening striking the ridge would miss my new, flammable home.

I had to end the trip the next day, as I had no filter and all the wood had been soaked by the storm. A phenomenal trip nonetheless.

Thailand Primer #3

Songkran: The Thai New Year Water Festival. This festival, which I enjoyed in Chiang Mai, is three solid days of government-sanctioned water fights in the streets. The normally polite and meek Thais unleash a year's worth of pent up frustration in this insane event. Trust me: you have NEVER been in a water fight that comes close to this.

The streets are total gridlock with all cars and pickups dumping huge buckets of iced moat water on each other, including inside of their cars. I saw three guys dump buckets of water on an armed, uniformed police officer on a motorcycle. I witnessed two monks, one with a double-barrelled water rifle, the other with a garden hose, soaking people over the wall of their monestary. I swear, it was total madness!!

Future plans keep changing by the hour, so you'll have to wait a month and see what I've done!

Till next month,

P.S. For those of you who were interested in the "Days Spent in the Jungle Playoffs," I am still winning. The current score stands at:
Ken: 4 (days)
Leeches: 3

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Page Revised 4/26/00