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Traveling Alone in the Jungle of Northern Thailand

A common view from my guest house, Baan Bua.

Some people will tell you that any kind of travel, when done alone, is not the best idea.  It can be dangerous, risky and just downright stressful.  There is no one to rely on when things go bad, no one to turn to when you are lost, no one to watch your fifty pound bag when you go to the toilet.  Most people would tell you this. I might even tell you. But not today.

Chiang Rai: Thailand

I was sitting in a guest house, adorned with green walls, green curtains and white hospital like floors, strewn with tissue papers.  Other than the fan there was not much to look at. My book was by my side, as it was wherever I went.  I lay on my bed, and stared at my feet for three full days.  If I moved, I would  vomit.  This was one of the best days of my life. I had just come back from 10 days in the jungle, a trip that was only to last 3 days.  

I had been in Thailand a month already, but heading into the jungle was number one on my “to do” list.

  I travel alone and before I got to one of Thailand’s most Northern cities, I was fairly stressed out with the day to day logistics of hauling my pack from plane to train to a street-legal rusty go cart. I found a humble room to stay in, and did what most weary backpackers would do: I fell over unconscious and fully clothed. I was not so much sleep as it was pure overwhelming exhaustion. 

I couldn’t help be giddy though, knowing what the next day would entail. I would pack up, and head into an environment I knew very little about. I work as an outdoor guide, but even for me, this was unsettling. Once again I would use my broken Thai and hope I booked the right trip, paid the correct amount and showed up at the right place.

The Thais are incredibly understanding and friendly.  They directed me to a long tail boat and told me to stay away from the edges, as crocodiles love to nip at your  face. I went up river for hours and ended up in a small village full of women working on looms, selling trinkets and elephant rides.  I fell in love with how intelligent and thoughtful the elephants seemed. I reached out to touch one, his trunk outstretched at me, then full out sneezed all over me.  I rather dislike elephants.

The only company I had was a fellow from Japan.  He could not speak English or Thai and was an incessant chain smoker.  To anyone watching us hike up the trail it must have looked like a billow of smoke pouring out of an old steam train coming around the pass. The first two days was just him smoking, my guide not saying a word and miles of hot trail and rice fields.

My guide’s name was Mr. Gun.  It took a couple of days to get to know him but we soon  became very close. I laughed at his jokes and he took that as a  compliment. He adopted me as his nephew. He was Uncle Gun.  Uncle Gun got his name because he was a village protector, a position he inherited from his father.  A village protector gets to adorn a gun and does most of the hunting. 

My uncle Gun and I outside a Lahu village

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