Today we woke up to a warm relax and rest day in Chiang Mai. It was our final day in Chiang Mai as at 3:30 pm we left Chiang Mai train station on our over night train to Bangkok. Some went to the Chiang Mai museum before we left while other enjoyed reading a book in the hammocks or eating some lunch. The overnight train was a little less than our high standard as there was no air-conditioning but it was the best we could get! The train ride was long, but enjoyable as most of us played cards, read books in the light of the red sunset and then turned in for an early night, as we had to get off the train at 5:30 am in Bangkok.
Today is our full rest and relaxation day. Our meeting time in the morning was 9 o’clock, so I slept until 9. After meeting, we decided that instead of being a whole group, we would like to split into groups for free time, so we split in to groups of 4 and 5. My group was quite boring, we stayed at the hostel until lunch time, and then went to have Burger King after that. At 1, we went to the monk chat to learn about the monks culture and life. The Buddhist monks have four top rules:
- No killing
- No stealing
- No sex
- No lying
Along with these rules, they believed that the mind is what controls your body and emotion, so by meditating, you can control yourself to always stay in a happy state. After that, we had free time again, where we decided to stay at the hostel to relax. My questions of the day was “if you see a door, would you push or pull” and “to what extent do you believe in the Buddhist idea of your mind being the most important thing.”
Last day of the trek, we were going to do four hours of down hill. However our captain, Ryan, didn’t feel well since yesterday’s trek. So we had to take the truck down back to the office to get our belongings left there. I was really excited for the last part of the trekking with Mo, a dog from the first village we stayed overnight. Mo followed us for six hours of trek yesterday keeping us with great company. The terrible thing is that we had to leave him at the village since we couldn’t take him with us. Reaching to the hotel, we had free time from 3-5 pm in small groups (minimum four people, not including teachers/leader). The whole group together did the reservations for a Italian restaurant and exchange the rest of the US money to Baht. The Italian restaurant was quite expensive but the food was quite exquisite. We had dinner early so we could go to the night market again to explore even further because last time we had little time. We then left the night market at 8 pm to the hotel for safety precautions.
Waking up after our first day of trekking was hard, especially when getting a full night’s sleep was impossible thanks to all the roosters who started cock-a-doodle-doing at 2am. We had a big breakfast and prepared to trek for 6 hours. I was pretty reluctant to trek because of how difficult I found the first day, but there was nowhere to go but forward. We had some difficult times during our hike which we pushed through with encouragement and a little singing, but it was all worth it when we reached the peak of the mountain, where the view was breathtaking. From there we only had two more minutes of trekking to the village where we would spend the night. Along the way we were able to meet some great guides as well as a dog named Mo who followed us the whole way. I’m looking forward to our final day of trekking downhill and some RnR back in Chiang Mai.
On Sunday we started the day of relatively early by eating breakfast at 7:30 and had to quickly pack to leave at 9:00. I heard a lot of complaining about the trek from the group who had just done the trek (staying at the same hotel) and I asked them for advice, which I later found very useful. They suggested to take timed breaks and told us that the first day was the hardest. We rearranged our bags at the trek office so that we only needed to carry things we needed. Even after taking out all of the “luxury items” my bag felt extremely heavy and I suffered the consequences later on in the day along with my fellow students. When we were doing the trek, I was keeping time for the breaks but I refused to let everyone know the time as it would only distract them. The entire day was uphill, so everybody was complaining about the intensity but we eventually made it and we were so happy to be at the top. Then, we wrapped up the day by eating dinner and we all went to bed early because of exhaustion. All in all, it was a good but challenging day.
Today was spent as a gap day between the finishing of our stay at the Elephant Nature Park, and the beginning of the 3 day trek we will embark on tomorrow. We spent our morning going over plans and wrapping up anything and everything we still had to do in preparation, and sorting out what we would have to do later in the day. Our guide, Yo, from the Journey to Freedom portion of our trip took us around the perimeter of the ENP to introduce us to several of the elephants and talk about their disabilities, and why they were where they were. After several heart wrenching stories of abuse or accidents that left elephants crippled, we wrapped up our tour and packed our bags. We ate one last hearty lunch before we left on a provided bus courtesy of the ENP. Eventually we arrived in Chiang Mai, at the Muan, the hostel we were going to spend the night. Things developed very quickly and issues appeared faster than we thought we could deal with, but we managed to put several plans in place in order to help make sure an injured team member could stay safe, but hopefully still stay on the trip with us. In the end we all jumped to the challenge, worked as a group, and got everything sorted just in time for dinner.