Before you get started do yourself a favor and read about my first and second days with these goons
On day three I was up early enough to catch the sun rising over the mountains directly in front of us. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful and peaceful morning and spent it doing yoga and daydreaming about this crazy life I've acquired. Laura was up soon after me and we sat drinking coffee (if you can call 3 in 1 mixes coffee) and talking. Chet came out with his gigantic smile and cheerful “goooooood morning” which was soon followed by another round of eggs, toast and candy spread.” Before leaving for our hike back to civilization we took a small walk through the village to get more of an idea as to what life is like here. Chet explained we should have done more of this the night before, but due to the rain and our tiredness, we didn’t get the chance. I met one man who spoke decent English and upon hearing I was from Milwaukee responded “oh famous basketball – the Bucks!” which of course left me laughing, I'm not sure I'd call them famous.
Seeing as the day before we spent two hours hiking up the side of a mountain I knew that only meant we’d be spending the same amount of time going down. Claire was definitely happier about this, but my knees were not. Thankfully I had my knee brace but downhill hiking on slick leaves and mud is not my friend. We were joined and subsequently passed by a larger group of foreigners before eventually arriving at our second waterfall of the trip. There were loads of people at the falls, all of whom appeared to be part of a trekking group on one, two, or like ourselves, three day adventures. I was the only one of us who actually got into the water; although it was cold it felt amazing, not to mention the shoulder massage I got from the falls (almost lost my suite though)! We spent some time here before once again moving on, the end almost in sight.
The hiking was now a mix of flat and short ups and downs which is more of what I’m used to in SE Asia (to be honest the first two days reminded me more of Korea). While Laura and I were waiting for Chet and Claire to catch up to us Monkey Boy appeared from no where and instructed us to ‘Follow my bum”, another 10 minutes of trailing him and we emerged onto a roadway, paralleled by the lovely brown river we’d soon be rafting in. Chet and Claire we soon to follow and as we were walking down the road we were all scooped up by one of the Jungle Trekkers trucks, the passengers being one day hikers who were surprised we had been hiking the whole way.
As we pulled up to the departure point for our rafting adventure I was filled with mixed emotions and memories of my last near death rafting experience. As much as I wanted to encounter some good rapids I was also eager to stay inside the boat and not get hurt. Laura and I were paired with two big guys from Canada as well as a tiny local guide who seemed to be amused by everything we did. We made it safely down the river through some pretty easy rapids and roughly a half an hour later, but the fun was not over. At this point we were told to switch over to the bamboo rafts which were waiting nearby. I thought this would be a cool/unique experience but as we climbed onto the rafts and they began to sink I started to think otherwise. Four of us were soon situated on one raft (standing looking like lost children) as our guide pushed off away from the others. I was facing away from Laura but after a few short minutes we hit a rock and I heard a loud “plop” noise, turning around to find Laura in the water only a few inches from said rock, lucky she didn’t fall 4 inches to the left. Our guide seemed to find this amusing but Laura was thoroughly unimpressed and ready to be back on land. After this point we were told to sit (that would have been helpful in the beginning) and survived the rest of our short ride to safety.
As soon as I was back on my own two feet I called out for Chet who was waiting for us with his big grin on his face. I ran up to him and was greeted with a big hug as I explained that Laura almost died (obviously a big exaggeration but fitting to Chets persona). He did an amazing job to play along and be sympathetic with us so we finished the day with a big Chet sandwich, sharing our murky brown water logged selves with him. Thankfully there were showers available for us to wash the grim off ourselves and change into dry clothes, before our 2 hour ride back to Chiang Mai. Another lunch of Pad Thai was served, at least this time there were some chili flakes I could spice it up with, and then it was time to go. If I had been given 5 more minute there I’m fairly certain I would have acquired 6 new thai friends and found myself playing cards and drinking with them until the wee hours of the night, oh well.
All said and done I would absolutely do this trip again, although I may have asked for a discount upon finding out that most everyone else didn’t pay the full 1800 baht. Even paying full price I would say the price is worth it, the food is filling, the accommodation is safe and comfortable enough, and the guides are nothing short of amazing. Sure it was a bit touch and go at times on the first day with Chet but had he not been flying high I wouldn’t have had quite as good a story to tell.
If you find yourself in Chiang Mai do yourself a favor and look up Jumbo Trekkers, they’re a great group of guys that love to have fun just remember a few things:
High on the tourist track for a reason, home of good food (mostly) happy people, rich history and culture. Thailand as many tourist soon learn is just easy. Easy to visit, easy to get around and even easier to stay.