Who'd have thought it? You fly all the way around the world to see some lovely jungle scenery, and then ALL the local farmers in the area decide to do some land clearing at the same time.....by burning the fields. Along with all the other farmers in Burma, Laos and Vietnam. As you can guess, Thailand is considering declaring a national emergency because the pollution levels are so high!
Anyway, off we went on our two-day trek across some of the local national park to Chiang Mai. You better believe it was murky and overcast. That real heavy feeling from fumes.
So, after stopping off at a waterfall for a quick break, and some hot springs (90-99degrees celcius as it breaks the surface - toasty), we began our epic 4-hour walk. Sounds tough eh? I spent all 4 hours wishing I was on my own as I think I could have run it in about 40minutes, the joys of a large group of tourists together :)
Still though, we'd a great laugh even if we didn't see any animals whatsoever (due to all the forest fires being caused by the farmers, and accidentally by cigarettes) except the chickens, boars and cats in one of the local tribal villages.
These villages are pretty out-there, and are slowly being turned so that their primary source of income is from tourist groups. I'm not so sure how thrilled I was to hear this. Although there was some sources of hope for the area as all the local villages had solar panels for power (one of the prime minister's last acts before the military coup last September). Considering how poorly rated Thailand is for being considerate of it's own land, this seems to be a big step forward for the area.
Of course, I managed to have the epic by getting lost and walking straight into one of the forest fires. Got a bit exciting for a while :)
the evening was spent chilling (litterally and figuratively) out beside a river in preparation for the following planned lazy day. Some of the group were pretty glad as they looked like they were about to die after the hike!
So, the lazy day? Elephant riding and bamboo rafting! O.k., so it's really cool to get sit up on the elephants but after 2 hours on it's back quite a few of the group were showing their doubts that this was a bit of a circus act. I know I had wished I'd stumbled across them in the wild that being being part of the tourist trail. Still though, it's a catch-22 as the elephant herders have to make some sort of living and afford to feed the elephants (they demolish about 200kgs of food per day). Still not sure what to think of these amazing creatures situation after leaving the trek.
As for the bamboo rafting, yeah it's a great laugh. Very chilled out, and highly unstressful. Exactly as the doctor ordered :)