the first day started by being dropped off out the back of a pickup-truck with our packs on a small cement slab near the entrance of Salawin National Park in the North Eastern corner of Thailand. Already soaked from the monsoon moving through, we walked up the very first hills through some brush past a toppled wood-post sign. We proceeded with our guide, Anne through flooded rice terraces, up mountains of dense jungle and sliding down steep muddy paths.
After summiting the highest peak of our hike, immersed in clouds, we sat down for a simple lunch of chicken and rice wrapped in pandan leaves. Anne warned us of the upcoming mud-filled trails notorious to be plentiful with leaches. We soon learned that we should have packed some longer socks, and completely misjudged the number of leaches. Perhaps even rubber-bands would help to keep the ends of our pant legs completely closed! The second half of the hike was spent on edge (literal mountain edges), keeping our eyes peeled for the sticky little buggers that had a way of rapidly latching onto any exposed skin. Anne quickly ran about from the front of our line to the back with a pair of scissors cutting off any leaches burrowing into our ankles. Coming from the Pacific North West, I have never seen anything quite like it!
Hiking with a bit of chaos, without any properly gripped boots, the five of us slid everywhere on the downward mud paths, sometimes cutting through branches to continue down our own trails. All of the scratches, bites and intense focus was well worth the beautiful views. We were absolutely ill-prepared, but didn’t know what to expect entering in. The stormy weather, also caught our entire group a bit by surprise. For any hike during the rainy season, we highly recommend plenty of long pants, long shirts, galoshes with a grip, and a sturdy poncho.
As we entered entered the village, the rain came to a roaring climax as we quickly traversed down the drenched paths. Our gracious host, Mae greeted us outside with open arms. She immediately shuffled us under the hut’s covering and offered us home-made moonshine which we drank from bamboo cups. As we set up our wet clothes to dry, she began to prepare a simmering curry over an open fire.
We were filthy, exhausted, a bit beaten up from the trek, and still invigorated with the serene beauty of the village. The sun set around us while locusts and other creatures chirped in the distance. The rain temporarily parted, and our guide Anne helped us tend to our wounds from the leeches we encountered on the way.
I felt a bit of a mess, entering Mae’s home with my dirty feet and wet clothes. Water and mud surrounded the raised structure, yet under the wooden covering it was completely homey, clean, and comfortable. Mae continually offered us more to eat, a cushion to sit on, and even moved her own belongings to give us room to hang our soaked clothes. After we ate an assortment of fried veggies, tofu, and a curry complete with delicious mushrooms that felt and tasted like steak, we settled down for the evening. We all slept side by side, sharing a bamboo mat. Anne & Mae brought extra pillows from a neighboring hut. I felt a strong sense of belonging, lying by the dwindling fire, and still a huge curiosity from this sensory overload of a completely different way of life.
It was not entirely quiet, amongst the numerous sounds coming from the jungle; however, I didn’t want the moments of the night to end. It was all unfamiliar and surreal. After hours of hiking through the storm, being completely ill-prepared and our packs soaked through, I was awestruck at our experience - welcomed into a stranger’s home in the middle of the jungle like neighbors.
Not able to understand even a single word of Mae’s Karen dialogue, Anne helped to translate along with our many nods and gestures as we talked about what life is like living in the village.
I cannot say enough of the hospitality, generosity and openness of Anne & Mae. We can easily say it was the most difficult hike we experienced while in Thailand, but also one of the most memorable and valuable human experiences we’ve ever had.
Our time with Good Morning Thailand was one that we will never forget. It was incredible, and we highly recommend checking them out if you are planning a trip to Thailand, and you’re up for a real and ecofriendly adventure. Anne comes from the village in which she gives tours. She grew up there and knows the community very well. The funds from her business help to support their local community, and the trek takes a max of 6 people to ensure that the village is not overwhelmed with foreign tourists.
For more adventures from Thailand and elsewhere, make sure to subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Instagram!