Chiang Mai - Doi Inthanon National Park

Right: Karen women from the village of Maemu, Doi Inthanon.

Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand, standing at 2,563 meters above sea level. In Chiang Mai I signed up for a three day trek in the Doi Inthanon National Park. I was joined by 5 Japanese students, a Frenchman and an Italian woman. Our guide was a Karen called Abraham who was financing his studies in sociology by leading treks into the hill tribe regions. In retrospect this was a good thing as some of the guides are known to have little understanding or respect for the local people.

The trek included a homestay with a Hmong Family where I tried some opium, a short ride on some elephants, a night in a Karen village and a trip down the river on bamboo rafts. On the way back into Chiang Mai we visited a couple of stupas (Phamahathartjedi "Napapolbhumisiri & Napa Maetaneedol, near the top of Doi Inthanon) and a waterfall. All in all a very interesting few days.

Below:Fun with the elephants.

Doi Phra That Suthep

Left: Karen children, Doi Inthanon

The first night we stayed with a Hmong family. At one point the mother cut her foot on something so I gave her a sticking plaster thinking to myself, here we go eroding their culture and traditional lifestyles. She didn't know much about it but the boy was up with the play and saw to her injury. The wrapper was of course neglectfully discarded. It is something of a dilemma. We are voyeurs no less, coming into their worlds bringing with us the spoils of civilization. Certainly some of it is injurious to the traditional way of life but at the same time who are we to deny the tribes people the benefits of modern life? Some would like to encapsulize the hill tribes existence though I feel it's a romantic and unrealistic notion as well as somewhat patronising. We got off to a fairly late start the next day as the elephants were slow arriving at the camp. Apparently at the end of the day the Mahouts let them go in the jungle and call them back when they need them. Before we got under way one of the elephants came very close to dropping a fairly sizeable turd on one of the Japanese students, who had been standing a little too close, an event I took some quiet pleasure from as a couple of them were arrogant little shits.