March 13, 2012

Chiang Mai Take Two: Elephant Trek and Rafting Adventure

Day 5 - Elephants, Hiking to Hill Tribes, Waterfall Lunch & Bamboo River Rafting   

The past few days have been fun, but today was by far the most exciting. We woke up at 7am and enjoyed breakfast at the hotel as one should before any big adventure. For transportation today, we headed out in three smaller vans towards the elephant camp. It was about an hour drive, but nothing short of entertaining as the drivers shared stories and facts. Outside the window we watched urban Chiang Mai melt into a rural mountainous village. 
                                                                                                                                                                     Everyone was beyond excited when we arrived at the elephant camp. Immediately after parking, a baby elephant greeted us, eager for us to feed him bananas. We then loaded onto elephants, two riders and one driver per elephant. It was awesome, though a little scary at times because we were so high off the ground. The elephants and their eager riders trekked up hills, over  tree limbs, and through a shallow river. Everyone was sad when it was time to get off the elephants, but we were still excited for the rest of the journey to come.                          

Our next adventure was to hike along a 40 minute trail through hill tribes in order to reach the waterfall where lunch was waiting. The beginning of the hike was easy as we were following a dirt road. It soon got more challenging as small bamboo bridges and thin pathways were thrown in the mix. It was all worth it though; the waterfall was breathtaking. After eating a box lunch courtesy of last nights restaurant, a few girls went for a swim in the refreshingly chilly water. When our quick swim in the waterfall was over, we hopped into the vans to continue our adventure. After a short drive we arrived at a small Karen village, consisting of very small homes made from bamboo and other found materials. The women of the village sold various items, such as hand woven scarfs and bracelets. While some of us shopped, others observed the villagers' pigs and dogs, and the women weaving their beautiful  scarves.

After our shopping break, we headed off to our next activity: bamboo rafting.  These rafts were simply bamboo stalks that were bound together by ropes, making it a very wet ride! As soon as we got on the rafts the raft drivers started playing pranks on us. They would scream "Water snake" and then splash their bamboo pole in the water, making a few scream and everyone soaking. Although the drivers were joking then, a few of us did cross paths with a water snake, fortunately swimming happily away from the rafts. The drivers then allowed us to drive the rafts for them,  which I'm sure many of us found more difficult than expected. Finally, our ride was over and we jumped out to meet the vans where our guides were waiting, singing Rolling in the Deep with their guitar. 

We arrived back to the hotel where we freshened up. Dinner hit the spot with delicious Tom yum soup, fresh fruit and other various thai dishes. Then we headed back to the hotel where we all hit the sack quickly after an exhausting and incredible day.                                      

By Sam and Xani

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