Tom's Trip to South East Asia

Out of the 'Boat for a few months of tropical travel. No lease, No Dog, No work, No snow, might be the best time of my life to do something extreme. Watch from your office as I soak in sun and culture in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam this mud season.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The trek was great fun. Real light hiking compared to Colorado standards, but it still tired out some of my less mountain oriented companions from Ireland, England, Brazil, Spain, and Canada. The first day we drove to the trailhead and made our way 45 minutes to a camp for a picnic lunch of fried rice. After that we finished off our 9 Km hike up to a White Karen Hill tribe village. The Villagers live a rural but slightly modern life style. They have some electricity from solar panels and running water from a nearby spring. They still practice plenty of hand crafts, making hand woven bags and using steel hand tools to build their homes out of natural materials. While I was there they framed and thatched a roof for an extension onto one of the buildings. Quiet handy folks. They have been substantially influenced by Thai and modern culture through tourist groups like mine. The villagers have converted to Catholicism after being visited by an American missionary. My guides tell me many of the hill tribes have converted in the past 15 years. Different families around the village host groups just about every night and much of their cash income comes through goods sold to trekkers including beer and water. Our guides cooked us a fantastic meal that evening and my British mate Dave, whom I picked up at the Bangkok airport, entertained us all with games and songs on the guitar he lugged in. It was good crack, grand and class as the Irish girls in our group would say.

The next day we woke to a relaxed breakfast and headed on to another village about two hours away for a lunch of ramen noodles and local produce soup. The second village was a good bit larger and had building with corrugated steel roofs and a school for children from all the surrounding villages. Thai schools are on holiday now so school was not in session, but it would have been interesting to visit. This village has been settled for over a hundred years and has decent dirt roads running through it. I think the town is accessible by car allowing them to get more outside supplies in town. From town it was a short hike down to our camp for the evening set beside an impressive waterfall. We all took a nice swim under the falls before another amazing dinner cooked by our guides. After dinner we had more of the same campfire entertainment.

Our final morning had a short hike out to paved roads and a truck to an elephant camp. We climbed on two each to elephants sitting on scary benches and got carried on a short circuit up a hill for a view and back down. These animals are incredibly strong. However the ride was treacherous as they have little concern for keeping you balanced on your bench. Everyone hung on tight and it was fun but not something I need to do again. After the elephants we made our way to a river that runs about as wide and strong as the Yampa at the end June and boarded 25 ft long bamboo rafts that we steered by a guide in front and a trekker in the rear with bamboo poles to push off the river bottom. I took the aft on my boat and it was fun ride with a few decent rapids to maneuver through. Definitely could have done better with a paddle to rudder the ship but we got through it without dumping any passengers, probably due more to the expert work of our guide than my fumbling with the pole. At least I didn't screwup bad enough to flip us, as all the other boats did. After that the trek was over and we returned to our guest house for some rest before heading out for some clubbing. Chang Mai has bee amazing and I think I will extend my stay by a day. Cooking class is tomorrow and there are still many sights to see before I go to Laos, probably on Tuesday. Thanks to everyone for updates and hellos (GG, you were successful).


At 4:33 AM, Blogger mom said...

Another sucessful leg of the journey. Thanks for being so faithful with the updates.
Dad is back from London and now off to New York for next week, then he is done with work travel and we can focus on New Zealand. I suspect that you will pass on NZ as everything in SE Asia is going so well. Let us know ASAP if you are thinking about a side trip to NZ. Busy at work for me for the next two weeks until the election is done. Love Mom

At 9:45 AM, Blogger mom said...

what's up for the next few days?

At 8:29 PM, Blogger travis said...

man, that journey sounds like a blast. riding an elephant must be amazing. blue bird skies in the boat today. more snow on wednesday. glad you are enjoying your missions.

At 10:20 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

Hi Tom. We just got info on your blog from
Gramma. Sounds like a great trip, and you even enjoyed the beach! Looks beautiful. Aunt Barb


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