Everyone should travel internationally at least a few times in their lives and everyone should create an opportunity to travel with a friend. I mean at least once travel with someone you like a lot outside of family, that you have a great time with, and that is up to seeking out adventures. A recent trip to Thailand with my dear friend of 13 years, Karen, proved to be a trip full of once in a lifetime experiences that included staying overnight with a hill tribe on the top of a mountain, to trekking for hours in the jungle. But I am getting ahead of myself here; the trip started in Singapore.
Having already spent the better part of six months in Singapore on a Fulbright grant, my time doing research was coming to an end. On my calendar this meant I had just one more visitor, a dear friend from back home. Karen and I had talked about her coming to Singapore at the end of my stay and scheduling could not have been better as it coincided with summer break. Her job at a middle school meant she had some leave over the summer. About 5 days into her trip we were searching the internet with the intention of next heading to Thailand when Karen comes across an add for an eco-adventure in northern Thailand. I’m up for most anything, so with little thought, and throwing caution to the wind I say, “Book it!”
With our email sent and reservations now on the books, Karen reread the summary out loud of what this eco-adventure entailed and I grew increasingly nervous. Nervous due to the fact that I’m 53 years old and Karen, much more fit than myself, is approaching 60. I would say we are both in relatively good shape from our years of running and hiking together, but the agenda for this trip pushed my mental boundaries. With Karen’s enthusiasm and can- do-attitude, I was on board and willing to give it a go.
Once in Thailand we firmed up the details and each packed a small day pack for our outing. Our adventure started with a 1.5 hour van trip into the hills of northern Thailand. Once we arrived at the base camp, the fun started right away. We donned motocross gear from head to toe and rode an hour on mostly flat, muddy terrain that skirted an elephant sanctuary park. I was feeling a bit cocky as we headed up into the hills. My confidence waned as I fought with my handle bars for two hours climbing the rocky, dirt trail that lead us up into the mountains.
We came to rest near the top of the mountain near Huay Kakap, an indigenous village that is part of the Kerrin tribe. We were graciously shown around the village by our host Pim, and her younger brother, 5 year old Anu.
Dinner was prepared for us as we stargazed and relaxed.
With no electricity, we had candles and flashlights to light our way. We stayed in a traditional bamboo house on stilts, where we slept on almost comfortable mattresses swaddled in mosquito netting.
We woke with the rooster crowing, and I learned they wake up way before the sun rises. After feasting on breakfast and the view, we were met by our guide, Ken. We both grabbed our packs and he led us for 3 hours through the jungle on a trek past four separate waterfalls. He showed us different plant species, picked fruit for us, he made Karen a wreath of ferns, and trail blazed the path for us.
We jumped in the last waterfall to clean off, get refreshed, and revive ourselves for one more hour of trekking out of the bush.
We arrived back to base camp and had yet another meal prepared for us. We feasted on fresh pineapple, green curry, rice and vegetables.
With nourishment and a quick rest we headed out for our next adventure, white water rafting for 3 hours. By this time Karen could tell I was wilting so she encouraged me by telling me I just had to hold on for this part. I wanted to believe her as I was beginning to feel the effects of the last 24 hours. We once again donned safety gear, met our rafting guides and jumped in our kayaks. The trip down the river was riveting and despite my eyelids growing increasingly heavy, the crashing currents, huge boulders, and my guides stern directions to paddle faster kept me awake and somewhat on point.
The views were breathtaking and the cold water was exhilarating. We both managed to make it down the river unscathed & still smiling.
Needless to say, both Karen and I were nodding off on the van ride back to our hotel. With a few high-fives, some great pictures, and even better stories, I can honestly say that this adventure would not have been nearly as fun without my dear friend. And to those of you who need encouragement to push yourself beyond even your own expectations, may you be blessed with a friend or two that signs you up for adventures and may you go boldly along!