Pakumlum, an elephant-ride away

Day V – March 23

Even in the jungle we are served continental breakfast; scrambles eggs, toast, jam and butter.
They grow green tea and coffee right here, of very high quality, should we believe Sit. We get the instant stuff though… Other than that it doesn’t at all feel like we’re the millionth group of tourists to come by, but still feel like we’re a rarity, especially because of the way Sit treats us, like friends of his.

What we learned about the Karen tribe last night:
They’re originally from Burma, and settled into northern Thailand about the same era Bangkok was founded, around 1770.
A few decades ago they converted to Christianity, but of course influences of generations and generations of jungle life and nature spirits are deeply rooted in their traditions and stories. They live as a community and lend each other a helping hand wherever needed, on the rice paddies, with the cattle or with the building of a new house.
These houses are on poles, about six feet above the ground, creating space to keep stacks and cattle. The cattle can tell you a little of how rich the family is, starting at chickens and small bits like that, dogs as guards, pigs differing in size according to wealth, then cows and water buffalos, and elephants for the really rich folks. They in fact have those in the larger village we arrived in today. Here, they even have a paved road and I saw some motorbikes too.
Inside the homes it’s usually one open space, changing function to the need of the hour. All simple and easy, nothing more than necesary.

This morning we leave early to avoid the heat, but after an hour we were already covered in sweat and dust. Today’s walk is much harder, much steeper, but also more rewarding, with amazing views and a really refreshing dive at the end. And a ride on an elephant!
Yeah, felt pretty touristy again, even encountering another group, so not super awesome in that way, but at least now I can cross it off my list. And they really are the most gracious giants ever! With their huge feet they’re more capable of walking these narrow hillside paths than we are. Beautiful! At some point there was a very steep, very windy bit where, if we’d been walking, one of us at least would’ve fell. But these animals didn’t even have to pay attention to the path to go down easily and just swung their heads, picking at the leafs here and there.

This calm and away from the rumble is so pleasant; I’m finally starting to feel in tune.
I no longer seem to fall asleep to the image of my welcome-back-committee at Schiphol on June 4th, but rather to what might be coming tomorrow, and I slowly feel myself relaxing and settling into my eternal Saturday.

The girls have a little tan after the dive. Then we use the next best shower ever – a compartment in the concrete-brick washhouse, with a shabby door, closed with a rope around a pin, and a big barrel of water and one of those pouring buckets you see with the toilets, to ‘shower’ yourself with – and take a walk around town.
Everyone here seems to be more accustomed to farang, and the kids don’t run after us the way the ones in the other village did, knowing we’d come baring gifts. They’re still very happy with the balloons I give them and thank me very politely.

Let me tell you about the little fellow I hung out with – or who hung out on me, I should say. Sit caught him and let him walk over to my arm, but quickly he’d ran up and down both, as well as my back. It was neither gecko nor chameleon -though he did do the colour changing trick- but something related. It felt really funny too. I expected scratchy nails but I didn’t feel those at all. It seemed more like he was holding on with his sticky tummy.

Sit treats us to another amazing meal, with a snake curry today, that I pass like a pussy. *
And after dinner we play some silly games until bedtime. “Thank you. I see the moon in the spoon.” Sit loves to put these little teasers on us.

* I’m so sorry I did, now, as I never came across a chance like that again. So here’s a lesson: don’t pass on any exotic meal, as scary as it might seem at first.

[this was day 4 of my personal experience with G-Adventures: Northern Hilltribe Trekking, a 7 day trip starting and ending in Bangkok, taking you up to Thailands beautiful North and into the homes of the Karen tribe, which I booked through Kilroy Travel]

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