Chiang Rai Trekking – 1991

Yao Family Chiang Rai trekking 1991

Trekking in the old days

In the early nineties, I worked as a tour leader in Thailand for the Dutch company Baobab Reizen from Amsterdam. Our tour included a four-day trek Chiang Rai trekking, starting and ending in Chiang Mai. It was the time in which trekking was the most popular tourist activity. There were no zip lines, cooking classes, bicycle tours, mahout courses, etc.. Everyone went on a trek, and four days was not unusual.
Usually, my groups had 20 persons. Most of them had booked as individuals or couples.

Classic boat trip to Chiang Rai

We left Chiang Mai early in the morning and drove to Thaton on the Kok River, stopping for coffee at Chiang Dao. In Thaton, we had lunch in a local restaurant. After lunch, we boarded local boats for an almost three-hour ride on the Kok River. We disembarked opposite Ban Ruammitr, the Karen village. Elephants were waiting for us to take us to a Red Lahu village, high in the mountains. It was quite a long way, and we arrived in the village around dusk. It must have been an arduous trek up that mountain for the elephants. They had to go down in the dark as well.

After having spent the night in the Lahu village of we descended towards the Shan village Pong Nam Ron. By now, about 10 Lahu tribesmen who were hired as porters until the end of the trek accompanied us. It was a big group of almost 35 people trekking through the forest. After lunch in this village, we hiked up to a Yao community on the top of a mountain. This climb took the whole afternoon, and quite a few guests arrived in the village exhausted. We all stayed together in one house.
In the evening, the porters huddled together, and some were enjoying their opium. At night we could see the lights of Chiang Rai. It was stunning.

Picturesque Akha village

The third day we descended to a very picturesque Akha village where we arrived in the early afternoon. After lunch, there was time to explore the village. In the evening, our guide took us to an Akha house to meet the family. The next morning it was a hike of less than two hours to a Thai village near Chiang Rai where cars were waiting to bring us back to Chiang Mai. We always stopped at Charin Garden Resort, which was a real treat for everyone after having spent days in the jungle. Charin is still a regular stop if I travel to or from Chiang Rai. Their pastries are out of this world!

Chiang Rai trekking

The Chiang Rai trekking was one of the highlights of the trip for most guests. As a tour leader, I enjoyed it, although four days was quite long. It was also a very intense group experience. There were always a few incidents or tensions and conflicts within the group. Great memories, though. Nowadays few tourists embark on a four day Chiang Rai trekking. Two days is the norm. Elephants have disappeared from almost all trekking routes which is good.