Chang Mai- Trekking, waterfalls and Thai Boxing

So 10hrs and my first long haul bus ride later, I arrived at Chang Mai from Bangkok. There are other alternative modes of transport, you could fly or try the sleeper train. After arriving at the bus station, and after wrestling my way through the men offering me the ‘best hotel in town’ (call me cynical), I took a short, shared tuk tuk to a hotel pretty central in town. My hotel, and my trek in hindsight, definitely were not the best on offer. Although I did ‘fall’ into a great group of people for the 3 day trek; the 10 strong team combined with a fantastic tour guide really made the experience what it was. Lots of hotels and things to do here, but again bare in mind, the heat will kill you during the day so if your budget can stretch as far, go for another hotel with a pool 🙂 (glampacker or what?!)

Brushing over the trekking quite swiftly, once thing I cant stress enough (and perhaps a little obvious?) is that the lighter you travel, the more comfort you’ll reap…its funny watching the girls carry their huge packs full of gear they don’t need for 5-6hrs a day up almost vertical slopes. I was away for 2 nights/3 days, and managed on 1 swimming trunks, one pair of shorts, 2 t shirts, trainers, flip flops (for around camp), 2 pairs of socks and 1 pants (I had to go commando on day 3… perhaps a little too light in hindsight). You will get given a list of what you’ll need to take when you book, but not forgetting the obvious essentials like a torch, spare batteries, mosquito spray and water. The trekking is incredible. On day 2 we camped next to a river with a huge waterfall, which made for one of the most incredible showers I’ve ever had the pleasure of. We sat up long hours, drank beer, ate great homemade food cooked before us and played cards well into the night. Sleeping tablets may help if you’re a light sleeper…there’s alot of peculiar noises out there, and although you’re provided with a mosquito net (only 1 or 2 holes in them), you cant escape those jungle sounds!

Alot of trekking packages comes with elephant rides. A point to note- there will always be alot of talk about how some elephants are treated over there- I didn’t witness any poor treatment. All I can say on the matter is, if you don’t feel happy with the way they are treated, then simply sit this one out.

3 days out in the jungle takes it out of you. We grabbed food with all the gang from the group the evening we got back. Followed by a day lounging around the pool, where I managed to sizzle many exposed areas of my body (for a second time) in the high heat- SPF 20 apparently will not suffice around here…

One of the most incredible food markets I visited was right in the center of Chang Mai, full of all kinds of goodies, cooked up before you- satay, currys, soups, fish…so ridiculously cheap that I tried my hands to all that I could stomach. The market is only on during the day, and finishes up around 3pm. Don’t leave it too late because you do not want to miss out.

On the subject of great food, Chang Mai comes highly recommended as a place to learn to cook local foods. For a small parting of cash, you can spend the morning visiting markets to pick up your fresh produce, before taking it back to the class room where you can prepare a number of different dishes of your choice. Something I still regret not doing today…

The last night, and we went for a walk through the centre and stumbled across the Thai boxing arena. Tuk tuks drive around daily with huge signs on the back to promote the fights that evening. As luck should have it, I was about to watch my first Thai boxing fight. And boy does it make for great entertainment. I watched 5 fights, and 3 of them knockouts. Brilliant.

Next stop, the legendary Pai. Idyllic little town situated in a gaping valley, with hip and trendy shops, a hippie market, and alot of waterfalls and caves to explore. Onwards…

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