After renting a scooter in Pai, we wanted to get off the road by, well, getting off the road. Well off the road. So a hill trek in northern Thailand seemed to fit the bill.
We had heard about a 2-day, 1-night excursion with consistently good reviews organized through a trekking company called Back Trax. We went to speak to them, and they offered a couple of custom options where we would visit Lahu, Lisu, and Karen tribe villages, but after I saw this sign in their office, I was sold.
The part I was most looking forward to was not the trek itself, but staying with the hill tribe. Mostly, just to see exactly what they did at night. Would they complain about their day in the field like we complain about the day at the office? Do the kids put up a stink when asked to do their homework? Would Dad fall asleep on the couch watching reruns of Bonanza? And since home rentals in tribe villages are not something you’re likely to see on Airbnb any time soon, I figured this was as good a way as any to get some answers.
We drove for about 30 minutes outside of Pai, just past the Kiew-Lom View Point, and started our hike through the bamboo forest…in the rain.
Along the way, our guide Manit showed us the finer points of bamboozling – the art of cutting bamboo. He explained the uses for various types of bamboo — some are good for catching rainwater, or used as bowls, while some are used for building or as walking sticks. Some are even edible.
If I had one complaint about the trek, it was the lack of wildlife along the way. Maybe it was the rain, or maybe they were just in hiding that day, but we saw only a few spiders, some fuzzy caterpillars, and these beetles engaged in some jungle love.
One other creature we did encounter is one we could have done without – leeches. Our guide and the two other Canadians all had several run-ins with these bloodsuckers. As the only person wearing shorts, I felt lucky not to end up a leech’s lunch.
There was also a small waterfall…
…and a cave where it was nice to get a break from the rain.
After 7 hours of wet trekking, we were happy to see the home where we would spend the night. Manit explained that as part of an initiative by the Thai government a couple of years back, most of the hill tribe homes now had solar power. Pretty forward thinking Thailand.
My feet and hiking boots were soaked…
…so I had to wash off in the palatial bathroom that greeted us.
It seems in this family at least, Dad did most of the cooking.
Bamboo soup made from bamboo our guide had cut earlier in the day.
After supper we took a walk around the village, but a combination of mud and fading light sent us back.
Our sleeping quarters for the night were simple, but they did the job. We had no trouble sleeping after the hike.
The next day, we bid adieu to the family and hiked to a couple of more villages. These kids entertained us at one town – the kid on the right had all the makings of a mini-dictator.
Our final stop for the day was a school, and even though I had been looking forward to spending the night with the hill tribe family, this was the highlight of the trek for me.
The kids were nervous at first, but after a few minutes, they were all smiles and only wanted to play.
Our guide said that normally, we could teach them a little bit of English, but since it was their lunch hour, learning was the furthest thing from their mind.
If You Go:
- Take good hiking boots. The trail (where there is a trail) is mud-filled, hilly, and slippery. Expect to fall at least a couple of times.
- Take flip flops so you can get out of your soggy boots at the end the day.
- Bring insect repellent.
- Check often for leeches. You can’t feel them, so check your legs every 10 or 15 minutes.
- Take lots of water. There is a store in the village you will stay in, but you need plenty to make it through the day.
- Bring a flashlight. The cave is pitch black in places.
- Bring a gift for your host family. Pens, notebooks, candles are much appreciated.
- Don’t forget to tip your guide.