Destinations Magazine

Jungle Trekking the Hills of Chiang Mai

By Livingthedreamrtw @livingdreamrtw
Jungle Trekking the Hills of Chiang Mai Jungle trekking from the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai is an activity that is on every traveler's list along with a cooking class and a visit to an elephant sanctuary.   To no surprise, the mountainous region outside of the city is full of rolling hills, tiny villages, and a kind of beauty that is unmatched in most western societies.  If cheap flights to Thailand and the traveler's black hole of Chiang Mai are calling your name, do not miss the jungle tours that are available, as trekking the gorgeous region surrounding the city was one of the highlights of my entire trip.
Booking the Trek from Chiang Mai
The most difficult aspect of considering a trek is the seemingly simple act of picking the right one while in Chiang Mai.  With as little as a few brochures and word of mouth reviews, choosing the best group for a multi-day trek is a rough choice that could make or break the entire experience before it even begins.  With limited time, I sadly had to choose a one-night only trek that included a visit to many local villages, hiking through the wilderness, and a quick stop at an elephant sanctuary to get up close and personal with the majestic creatures.  For one night and two days worth of activities, food, and transportation, the jungle trip was quite affordable at around $50 US (1500 Baht).
Starting in the Villages
Jungle Trekking the Hills of Chiang Mai
After a quick stop for supplies, we began our trek in a local village a few hours outside of Chiang Mai.  With only a few houses and no locals in sight, we were a bit perplexed by this starting location.  The questions soon subsided; however, as the village itself had many beautiful intricacies that are a photographers dream come true.  But just as we were getting started, it was time to trek.
Jungle Trekking the Hills of Chiang Mai
Hiking through the hills and forests of northern Thailand is quite a thing to take in.  Rolling hills, rivers and mini waterfalls leading into an gorgeous (and freezing) swimming hole, local farms with crops barely peeking out of the ground.   Every hour brought on a new vista, activity to try, or local village to explore.  In what seemed like an instant, but was in fact several hours later, we arrived at our village stop to make camp for the night; exhausted, but with enough energy to keep going for several more days.  The view calmed everyone down in a heartbeat.
Jungle Trekking the Hills of Chiang Mai
Overnight Accommodations
Jungle Trekking the Hills of Chiang Mai
Much like the trekking in Sapa, Vietnam, the accommodations for travelers from Chiang Mai are built to suit the masses.  In what seems like a family home on the hills, the accommodation appears to be a large dormitory with row after row of mattresses lining the ground; protected with nothing but a mosquito net.  Yes, you become close friends with your fellow travelers while trekking, and the accommodation style, cold showers, and squat toilets were quite familiar to me by this point in the trip.
The similarities in trekking accommodation continues as the night time activities almost always involve learning about your host, sharing stories of the village and of yourselves, enjoying the beautiful scenery, and playing with the family's puppy.  For some reason, there is always a puppy.
Jungle Trekking the Hills of Chiang Mai
Visiting the Elephant Park
Having visited an elephant park just prior to the trek, I was anticipating the following day's experience of getting up close and personal with my new favorite animal with a slight hesitation.  With only a few hours at the park, the interactions with the elephants are quite hurried and typically only amount to feeding and a quick ride around the park.  For having such a brief time with the animals, my initial thoughts were that nothing good can come of it.
Jungle Trekking the Hills of Chiang Mai
While the elephants we visited looked well cared for, visiting an elephant park on these guided tours is the only potential downside a trip has, as you have no control over which park you choose to visit (as most brochures do not advertise which ones they support).  Without knowing what park you are visiting, you will not know if you are inadvertently supporting one of the less savory parks that exist in the area.  But in order to do many of the advertised treks from Chiang Mai, a stop at one of these parks is almost obligatory.
After visiting the elephant park, it was time for our group to part ways.  Those of us who were on a one-night trek were returning to Chiang Mai, while the two remaining travelers continued on for their multi-night excursion into the wilderness.  As my experience in Sapa had taught me, the second night is almost always more authentic and offers an even more detailed glimpse into how the villagers in the region live, work, and play.  For all those who have the extra time, I'd highly recommend considering the extended tour.  For those that do not, the one night trek throughout the hills of Chiang Mai are an unforgettable experience, one I will remember for the rest of my days. 
Jungle Trekking the Hills of Chiang Mai
Have you been on a jungle trek outside of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand?  Was your trek like ours or different?  Let us and everyone else know about it by commenting below!
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