Wednesday, September 22, 2010

For anyone who's ever complained about walking uphill in the snow both ways...


I spent the past few days trekking through the jungle, sleeping in a hill tribe village, riding elephants, and bamboo rafting. I'm very proud to say that I survived the jungle trek (clearly), and when I say survived, I mean it! There were seriously moments that I feared for my life, like when I almost slipped off a cliff (several times) or when I crossed paths with a cobra. I don't really know what I was expecting when I signed up for this, but this definitely wasn't it! I'm not sure I can say I was having "fun" for a lot of the time, but it was still so amazing and a really, REALLY rewarding experience. I'm so glad I did it!

Before venturing out into the jungle, I went to a waterfall (picture of that at the end), some hot springs, and Hellfire Pass. As I was walking out to see the Hellfire Pass (which is a railway cutting along the Death Railway built by forced labor during WWII) I got my first taste of Thailand's wildlife. Yes, it was as big as the picture makes it look.

After the little warm-up of a morning, I started my trek into the jungle. First was an hour of trekking by elephant, and I swear the whole thing was straight out of a movie! The scenery was picture perfect, and so were all the locals.

Me on my (misbehaved) elephant somewhere on our way up the mountain. I think I'm going to have to find a travel buddy that knows how to take a decent photo for me.

Mommy and daughter elephants! I'm pretty sure the one in the front is the mother, and the one in the back is the daughter. They're 45 and 27... I didn't know elephants have the same lifespan as humans! This is where we left them (don't worry, guides brought them back to camp) and started our 4 hour trek by foot.

Since the terrain was so rough and dangerous as it was, I didn't want to complicate matters and take my camera out. About halfway there, we got to this waterfall and stopped for a break. This is about the time it hit me that I was TREKKING THROUGH A FREAKING JUNGLE IN THAILAND.

Just after dark, we got to the village we'd be spending the night at. It's at the very top of the mountain and it's inhabitants are the people of the Karen hill tribe. Obviously being so far away from "civilization", there's no electricity or running water or anything modern that we take for granted. We cooked dinner over an open fire grill type thing... I got to learn how to cook some Thai dishes, which was awesome. We were treated to some traditional Karen music during dinner, our guide told us some traditional stories, and then I headed off to bed for fear of passing out at the table due to exhaustion. We slept in a little hut, right along this stream. This was the view I woke up to!

We took a different path back down the mountain, and this time it was MUCH easier. Somehow most of it was still uphill, and it since it's the rainy season, everything was super muddy. We walked through the whole village before heading back down, so we got to walk through fields of all the different things they farm.

One of our guides... he's a member of the Karen tribe, but like most of the younger generations, he lives in a village at the bottom of the mountain. On our way back, he picked us lots of different fruits and plants for us to try. As per my request, he found us some guava (which has become my favorite fruit since I got to Thailand... I eat at least one every single day). He got a kick out of a farang asking for farang, as the Thais always do. "Farang" is the Thai word for foreigner, and it's also their word for guava.

Walking through some more (very muddy) fields. As if walking on this steep of an angle wasn't hard enough, the mud made for a lot of slipping and sliding on my part.

One of the Karen men smoking on the edge of the village. I think I might actually be bigger than him, and that's saying something!

Giant ants who were having fun ruining my peaceful break by a waterfall. This picture isn't deceiving- this is a normal sized piece of bamboo. These ants were HUGE.

After we got back down to the bottom of the mountain, we took a bamboo raft down the stream back to camp. I can't imagine something more "Thailand" than that! We got back to camp, were treated to an amazing lunch of BBQ chicken and sticky rice (my favorite!) and then hopped on an old train (the former Death Railway) which brought us close to the city. We finished the last leg back to Kanchanaburi in a MUCH appreciated, air conditioned van.

And what jungle trek would be complete without a few HDRIs to show for it?

This is the first waterfall we stopped at in the morning (along with Hellfire Pass and the Hot Springs). It was SO pretty. I climbed to the top of it, where a Thai family insisted I pose for 5 minutes worth of pictures with them.

I took this one while being attacked by those giant ants (on my way back down the mountain). There's a mini waterfall that leads into this, and one a bit bigger where it drops off.

Of course these pictures don't even come close to doing anything justice, but I think this was a valiant effort at showing what it was like. I guess you'll all just have to come to Thailand and do the trek yourselves now!


  1. Your pictures are great! Love seeing them each time you post. Miss you and love you lots!!!!

  2. Hey Brie! Where did you find your guide for this trip, and your lodging in Kanchanaburi? The bungalow view looks pretty inviting :-)