My last post ended with my reflection of the Buddhist Monestary in the Mae Hong Son region of Northern Thailand. I wrote that reflection as I was driving in an old Toyota Corolla through the jungle with the Thai guide and 4 Israeli girls who I had signed up for a jungle trek with.
I don’t know how jungle treks work in the rest of the world, but in the US you’re typically hiking on trails and staying at campsites. In Thailand it’s a bit different. The guides walk you right into the jungle with no trails or anything. Just their machetes. So for two days I was walking through thick jungle in my flip flops with 4 girls speaking Hebrew and one small Thai woman. And it was amazing.
We had some pretty slow walkers in our group, so the hike through jungle up and down mountains was a little tough on some people. The Thai guide kept making fun of them because they were the slowest people she had had.
The first day started out with a boat trip up a shallow river to a trail. Then we hiked and the trail slowly faded as we made it into the mountains and relied on the memory of the guide. At one point I was ahead of the group with the guide who spoke no English. It was just me, him, his machete and no one else. That was a bit scary.
We stopped for lunch at a little waterfall. We swam as Che boiled tea over a fire in bamboo chutes and Chan heated up some Pad Thai’s. We are with chopsticks they carved and cups they cut from bamboo chutes.
We slept at Chan’s (the female guide) brothers house which was in a mountain valley in the jungle next to a dried up river bed. We slept on yoga mats in his open air hut.
he next morning we got up at 6 and started trekking at 7. Chan brought us up a crazy mountain to a viewpoint where we were able to see Myanmar/Burma.
The girls loved the idea that I had a blog and requested tons of photos to be added. Here’s my favorite one:
At the end of the day we went back to Pai. We split up because they had Shabbat and had to stay close to the city. I went back to my favorite hostel JJ&J. They have AMAZING staff. Jan and Mom are so nice. They were always happy to see everyone. And Mom was really the Mom of everyone there. It was on the opposite end of the city as the people I did the trek with but it’s too good of a place to pass up.
I ran into my friend Karl who I met in the south at christmas and I hung out with his friends for a few days in Pai. On the 31st of January I requested a covid extension on my visa. The covid extension is a 60 day extension to your visa in Thailand if you can’t leave because of covid. The only downside is you have to return to the same immigration office 15 days later to get it approved. So now I had 15 days to kill.
I decided I’d go to the south and fly back quick for my visa approval, but when I got to the train station in Chiang Mai I realized I did not want to spend the money to go back and forth just for a stamp. So I decided I’d take the next week to explore national parks around Chiang Mai.
The first park I went to was Ob Khan National Park (NP), which turned out to be closed for construction. Google did not tell me that so I found out when I arrived at the gate. Thankfully the gate had about 5 feet of clearance so I just snuck under and went to the campground.
The campground was positioned right next to a clear cold creek that was so nice after a full day of riding. The photo above took about 5 tries to take. I had to sprint down the hill and jump into the water and sit down. I hurt my foot on the first one. Was mid air on the second one. Running on the 3rd and 4th. But on the fifth I made it.
I made and hung out by a fire that evening while I cooked and ate a rice and veggie dish.
That night I did some research and decided the next destination would be Doi Khun Tan NP. I picked this one because of the photos of the Mountain View’s from the campground. I spent the day riding from one side of Chiang mai to the other and then the end of the day was an insanely steep hill for miles. I had to walk for a lot of it. But I finally made it to the top of the mountain after one hour of climbing.
I set up camp and walked up the mountain to the lookout point. It was an amazing view. Sadly my phone couldn’t pick up the same view my eyes could.
The viewpoints were all a bit hazy because burn season starts in February in northern Thailand. It’s amazing at night during burn season because right as the sun goes down you see farmers lighting up fires from tens of miles away all across the mountains. It’s as if you’re looking at fireballs in the sky because the mountains blend into the dark of night.
I decided I wasn’t satisfied with this view and I wanted to go higher. So what better than a spur of the moment decision to climb Thailand’s highest mountain?!
The next morning I set off for the next stop Doi Inthanon NP. I decided I’d head for the base today and then go for the peak the next morning. I arrived at Doi Inthanon around 5 PM and immediately as I entered the gates I started on the crazy ascents. I made camp at a waterfall for the first night and immediately went down to the river to clean the sweat of climbing in the tropical sun off my body.
Five minutes after I finished my bath a ranger came and said I couldn’t camp there…
Soooo… I had to continue biking up the mountain for about 20 minutes until I reached the place they said I could camp. And my clean river body was gross again. Luckily that camp spot was on the same river so it was an excuse for me to go back in.
I slept in my hammock in a little sheltered stage area.
The next morning I woke up at 4 am and began climbing. I decided to get an early start so I could avoid the sun. What I did not account for is how scary it is biking slowly up a mountain in the jungle for hours in pitch black. My heart dropped everytime I heard movements behind the trees.
By 7:45 I was still climbing. By now it was light out and I was in the clouds. I saw a flat parking lot and I dropped my bike down and collapsed into the dirt for a break after nearly four hours of steep climbing.
I heard someone say something in Thai from across the parking lot so I turned my head in the dirt to see and someone was waving me over.
Next thing I know I’m having breakfast and coffee over a fire with 6 Thai lumberjacks who live in tents in the forest on Doi Inthanon. They didn’t speak English but we were able to talk with our hands. I told them about my trip and they told me about their lives on the mountain.
After breakfast I thanked them and went on my way. I finally made it to the top at 10 am. By far the hardest day of the trip. Topping the road to Pai by a landslide.
When I made it to the top I had a little crowd waiting and clapping and a man even bought me a meal.
Sadly when I got up there everything was just white because we were in the clouds so I didn’t get the views I was looking for. But it felt SO GOOD to have done that. For the first time in my biking career I wanted to give up halfway through, but I couldn’t let myself and I’m glad I didn’t.
What took me 7 hours to climb took me 40 minutes to go down. I got to the campground at 2pm and ate food then went straight to sleep.
The next day my legs were swollen but I had ran out of food and money so I had to ride to the nearest town which was 20 miles away. For the second day in a row I arrived at camp, ate and went to sleep.
The next day I made my way back to Chiang Mai. I spent a few days wandering around the city and resting my legs.
On the 12th of February I went back to Pai. I needed to be back on the 15th for my stamp so I left early.
I went back to JJ&J and said hello to Mom and Jan then I got my care package that my dad had mailed to the hostel. Inside was a new handlebar bag from Arkel, since my last one had broken after 15,000 kilometers of use. There was also some new clothes, some break pads, a letter and a book called Vagabonding.
Backstory on the importance of Vagabonding.
When I was in Bangkok I met a English chap named Chris, he was intrigued by my bike trip and told me to listen to two podcasts. One was about a man who biked from Ottawa to Patagonia, the other was an interview of the author who wrote Vagabonding. He told me they were his inspirations to travel. I took the recommendations and left. A week later I had listened to them both and absolutely LOVED them. I was so sad that I hadn’t got his contact to thank him for sharing them with me. I sent them both to my dad and he also loved them and ordered the book Vagabonding which is all about traveling cheap. So once he finished it he mailed it to me so I could read it.
Now I’m back in Pai opening this package and as I pull out Vagabonding Chris from Bangkok walks around the corner and I got to thank him for sharing the podcasts with me.
For the next few days in Pai I was hanging out with Chris and having a great time.
On the 15th I got my stamp and hitchhiked back to Chiang Mai. Then I decided I’m really going to the south so I can see some friends who I met from Thailand and I can meet back with Ben who I met in Venice and travelled with in Europe. He is flying in on March 3rd.
I’m now sitting at the train station in Bangkok waiting for my train to the south to arrive. For the next few weeks I’ll be on the islands hanging out with old friends and soon showing Ben the ropes of Thailand.
As I took my first train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok I rewatched the movie Into The Wild and I had one part of the movie that I really liked and wanted to share. Alex was writing a card to his friend and he wrote “I’ve decided I’m going to live this life for some time to come… the freedom and simple beauty is just too good to pass up” in regards to the nomadic travelers lifestyle.
I have been in Thailand for nearly three months and I am happy and sad to say that my days here are coming to an end. I have loved traveling Thailand. The culture is like no other and everyone is happy and kind and the landscapes are unbeatable.
But I am happy to begin my next leg of my adventures. About twenty minutes ago I booked a flight to Kochi, India where I’ll be spending my next few months cycling and exploring.
One last little message:
If anyone is interested in starting their own trip and wants to buy gear please consider using my links to buy Arkel panniers. I receive 10% commission on the purchases through my links so it’s a good way to support my trip while starting an adventure of your own. They are an amazing company for panniers. I’ve used them all my life and never had any complaints. My current set has been with me for 5 years now and travelled over 15,000 KM with me. It’s definitely a purchase you’ll only have to make once with their durability.
If you’re interested in buying your own setup you can check out my link which will bring you to my specific products or any other ones you’d prefer.
I’m also here for questions if you are looking for advice. You can send me an email at email@example.com.