Elephant Trekking and Bamboo Rafting in Chiang Mai

I had always wanted to ride on an elephant, so after I had been relaxing for a couple of days after arriving in Chiang Mai I decided to pop to my hotels’ booking desk to inquire about the trips available.

After spending some time looking through the many different combinations available I decided to go for an elephant trek, followed by a visit to a couple of hill tribes before finishing off with a trip down a river on a Bamboo raft.

At 8.30am the following morning, I walked to the hotel lobby to find my tour guide already waiting for me, so pleasantries exchanged I hopped into the van. I was the first pick up of the morning, and we picked up 4 more intrepid travellers form various hotels in Chiang Mai.

After about an hour of driving we arrived at the elephant camp, we spilled out of the people carrier, and crossed a small rope bridge to where our next transport was happily munching on palm leaves. After a brief introduction and talk from our guide, we were off.

Getting on the elephant was no problem, with a wooden platform at the height of the elephant we literally just stepped on to the animal.

The ride itself was maybe an hour through the mountainous jungle, we didn’t seem to be following a path, just crashing through the vegetation. I’d always imagined an elephant ride to be a lot smoother for some reason, but it was more like a fair ground ride, although this may have had something to do with the steepness of the incline we were going up, or maybe the fact my animal was far too interested in eating anything it came across than follow the instructions its Mahout was barking out.

The worst moment was getting off the animal, the dutch couple on the elephant in front of me was the first to try to dismount, again onto a wooden platform, but as the lady stepped onto the platform, her elephant decided it was fed up standing there and move away, one of the tour guides tried to hold but to no avail and she fell maybe 10 feet to the forest floor, luckily she was OK, just a few bumps and scratches, how she didn’t break anything I’ll never know, maybe she was an acrobat in earlier life!

After this incident I was understandably relieved that my animal stayed where it should and I got onto the platform safely.

After saying good bye to the elephants, we were back in the people carrier, and we drove for 30 minutes to visit an Hmong village, an indigenous hill tribe, where the women were still weaving in the traditional way passed down through the generations for hundreds of years. It was also an opportunity for the local children to mob some unsuspecting tourists to see what money they could get out of us.

After spending some time in the village, I loved the massive pigs tethered under the houses, we walked through the jungle to a beautiful waterfall, where we were all able to take a dip and cool off. Our guide then hurried us along a jungle track through the most luscious green I have ever seen in my life, before we entered a White Karen village, and again were able to look around and see how these people lived. It was quite humbling to see the very basic way these people still lived, and I was struck at how happy and contented these people seemed compared to us in the west with all our mod cons.

The food they gave us for lunch was superb, just a very simple vegetable and rice dish with some omelette and glasses of ice cold water, meant we were able to relax in the shade and chat amongst ourselves.

After lunch we drove a short distance to the Bamboo rafting, I suppose in my mind I thought they would be like little boats, but it was basically some big thick bamboo poles lashed together and that was it, we were going to get wet!! With 3 people on each raft, we were spaced out evenly along the rafts length, we set off with our ‘driver’ standing at the front, using a long thin pole to push us in any given direction. It was a slow and very quiet drift down the river, occasionally shattered by groups of children on the banks diving in as we went passed. This was the highlight of my day, just drifting down the river, hearing the birdsong and insects.

It was great when I got a turn to stand up and use the pole to direct us, I felt like I was stepping back in time, although the ‘poleman’ on the raft behind thought it would be highly amusing to splash his pole right next to me as to try and scare me so I might fall in, but luckily I seemed to have my sea legs and was able to just laugh with him while retaining my balance. women’s bamboo socks

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