Hi all, Dave here. While my sister, Gigi, was visiting us in Thailand, I took her on an overnight trek out of Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, Stef had to miss this one because she was working, but we wanted to write a post about the trek and specifically, the company we used, TravelHub Chiang Mai. So, here goes…
Our driver picked us up from our hotel at 9am on time, a nice change from the normal Thai tour company delay. After picking us up, we made two more stops to pick up the rest of our group before stopping at the local market for some last minute necessities. Our group consisted of four other young people, all very cool and in very good shape. There were 2 guys from Britain but one was currently living in Sydney, one German girl and one French guy. Plus me and my sister. It was probably the best group of people I’ve ever been on a tour with.
After making some last minute purchases at the market (I bought a sweet new water bottle holder and bottle of alcohol), we drove about 30 minutes to the elephant camp. Although our elephant was a bit wild, overall it was a nice 30 minute ride through the woods and through a river. And although it wasn’t as good as a half day elephant camp experience I did a year earlier, if you’ve never been on an elephant before like my sister, it was a great taste. Plus a lot cheaper.
After the elephant camp we drove another short distance before having lunch (fried rice in bamboo, which was very tasty). Then we set out for our hike. The 1st hour or so was surprisingly difficult (all uphill and very hot), but after that it leveled off for a while and we enjoyed a nice walk in the jungle and to the local village. In the village, we saw the warthogs which are the staple of any Karen tribe village, and of course the adorable kids. After buying a couple of bracelets from the kids, we set off for our next stop, the waterfall.
Although surprisingly very cold, the waterfall was a nice refreshing welcome after a couple of hours of trekking. With a little urging, eventually, our entire group went in, even my sister though she was the last to commit. After the waterfall, we hiked another 30 minutes or so to our final stop of the day, the jungle camp where we’d be sleeping.
Although I thought we’d be staying in a local village like I’d done before, the jungle camp was a very nice experience. It was more like staying with a single local family in the middle of the woods, rather than an entire village. Our crew (the six of us) all shared a sort of dorm room which was the biggest room in the house. After getting settled in, we all enjoyed some drinks (they sell beer and snacks for a pretty reasonable price) before a nice dinner of green curry and a pad thai sort of dish.
After a surprisingly good night’s sleep, we had a leisurely morning and a nice, filling breakfast (eggs, toast and coffee) before setting out for another hike. This time, our group split up as the two Brits and French dude were staying another night in the jungle whereas me, my sister and the German girl were only doing one night. Fortunately for us, we got to keep our guide (Nuke) who we had come to really enjoy.
After another hour or so hike, we made our way to another waterfall/swimming hole, but this time no one partook as it was a little too early for a swim. So instead, we relaxed for a bit and then walked a little more to the main road where we were picked up by our van and driven to lunch (huge bowls of pad thai and fresh watermelon).
After lunch, we drove another short distance before arriving at our final destination of the trek, the bamboo river rafting. I thought it would be a short and probably boring ride, but surprisingly, it was long (about 30 minutes) and very fun. We went through several small rapids and our boatman even let my sister steer the boat on several occasions. After the bamboo ride, we drove back to Chiang Mai (about an hour) and were dropped off at our hotel around 4pm.
Overall, it was a very nice trek and probably the best value for your money of any activity you can do in Thailand. Considering just an elephant ride or bamboo rafting may cost up to 1,000 baht in some places, for about the same price, you can get an overnight jungle trek which also includes transportation to/from Chiang Mai, 4 meals (two lunches, dinner and breakfast), accommodation and a friendly and knowledgeable local guide (ask for Nuke if you can). In short, if you’re looking for a fun, authentic experience for a great price, I highly recommend this tour.