We're after leaving Thailand for the time being and are currently in Laos. We spent 3 days on a hill tribe trek in Northern Thailand. We were trying to decide whether to go from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. In the end we went with Chiang Rai because it's supposed to be quieter so there's less people in the groups on the the treks. We went with the PDA company which was recommened by the Lonely Planet and the Tourist Authority here because they give some of their profits back to the communities that they visit on the treks.
We started off with long tail boat trip about an hour up the river.
After that it was on to an elephant ride. It was very uncomfortable altogether being bounced around the place plus our elephant was the worst behaved and as slow as a wet week.
When we got off the elephants we had lunch and because we hadn't actually gotten too far away from civilisation it was just take away rice and chicken.
It was on to the trekking then and it was about 2 hours of up hill and down through the 'jungle'. It was cool seeing things like bananas, tangerines and pineapples just growing all around you. We were able to just pick bananas straight from the trees.
We arrived at Ban Yafu, the Laku village and were shown into our bamboo made house.
It was amazing to see how people get by without so many things we consider modern conveniences. They did have electricity alright though from solar panels. Had a nice evening there trying out the rice wine provided by our wonderful guide Kao and playing cards with the others in our group.
The next morning was tough going hiking up to the top of the hill to the view point over all the surrounding area. It was nearly as hard to get back down but lunch was worth it. Kao and one of the local tribesmen prepared, cooked and served lunch using only bamboo. The fire was lit using bamboo, we got water from the river using a hollowed out bamboo tube and the veg and meat was boiled inside in it.
Our cups, bowls and chopsticks were all made from bamboo right in front of us while we were waiting for the food to cook. It was unbelievable, and really tasty too. We even had boiled fern and banana flower that we had gathered while trekking.
After lunch we headed to a waterfall and we went swimming there. Pretty impressive I have to say.
The trek on to Ban Apa, the Akha village where we stayed the second night was a fairly flat path except for the last 15 minutes or so. The villagers there seemed much more outgoing and our bamboo guesthouse was much bigger. We even had our own room.
On the last day we trekked back over the hill we had come from. It was tough going because it wasn't the normal route and so in some places there was no path and we just had to figure it out for ourselves. We got a longtail boat up to Pha Soet hot springs then. A nice way to unwind after 3 days hard walking. We got a pickup truck back to Chiang Rai then, with the six of us sitting in the back.
Overall it was a fantastic experience to see a completely different way off life and some wonderful sceenery and nature.