Lessons I Learnt from Trekking in Northern Thailand

Jungle Climb

Travel is a great teacher as the saying goes….

Mount Chiang Dao was the first mountain I climbed in a hot country.

It taught me some important travel and life lessons that have stayed with me.

LESSON ONE: Trust the Local Knowledge

I admit to having doubts about our Jungle trek climb up 7,365 foot Mount Chiang Dao when our two guides from the local village, Doyen and Delan, pulled up in a pickup truck.

Faced with a long bumpy ride in the back of a flat-back along rocky mountain roads, Doyen taught me to sit on my haunches while balancing myself on the sides of the truck.  My legs absorbed most of the bumps, it was surprisingly comfy and


Picked up with some initial intrepidation

LESSON TWO: How to conserve water

Only an hour into the climb, I was lagging badly behind and struggling to cope with the searing heat.

Our training in the the Lake District and Snowdonia was poor preparation for the remote jungles and mountains of Northern Thailand.

Now on an exposed part of the mountain, I had to stop every ten minutes to guzzle great quantities of water only to watch it gush straight back out through my bright pink pores.

After several stops, I noticed Delan would find a shady spot, sit in calm contemplation and wait for five minutes before taking a sips. I followed his lead and for the rest of the climb I quenched my thirst with less water.

LESSON THREE: Equipment doesn’t compensate for raw ability

Doyen and Delan carried half their body weight strapped on with tablecloths and string. They soon pulled ahead of us and our lightweight nicely fitted backpacks.


Strapping Lad


LESSON FOUR: Not everything in nature wanted to bite, sting or kill me

My compulsive insect repellant ritual had already been the subject of amusement when we came across a rumpus of buzzing bees. I panicked and clambered over rocks to escape the fear of being killed by multiple stings. Delan held out his finger and allowed a bee to land on it. It was a clear Buddhist message to me that I should save my energy and my repellent.



Lunch Break


LESSON FIVE: The best things in life really are free

Once I got over my melodramatic fears of mother nature, I pushed on through the jungle and rock formations. The landscape and scenery spurred my curiosity to discover what was over the next rise and a renewed strength took me ahead.

After six hours of climbing and trekking, we arrived at a small flattened area where we set up camp for the night. Bits of scattered charred wood were the only evidence that  people had been there before us.

I watched the sun set from the summit and drank the best cup of instant coffee I’d ever tasted. It felt like heaven.


Trip Notes:

My two-day climb to the peak of Chiang Dao mountain was organised by a local company who paid the village guides well.

Heavenly Sunset


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6 Responses to Lessons I Learnt from Trekking in Northern Thailand

  1. Johanna April 12, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    Looks like an amazing hike and I enjoyed your ‘lessons learnt’. Your blog-site is looking fabulous, by the way – I could be going completely dotty, but I think it’s even better than when I last visited 🙂

    • Tracey April 13, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

      Awwww thanks Jo. I haven’t changed anything but I think it looks better now it has a few posts on it.

  2. Red Nomad OZ April 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    I share your sense of direction (thanx, Mum!!!) but appreciate that being aware of weaknesses means you’re less likely to be caught out by them!! So I always travel with my indispesable GPS and compass system – aka partner Pilchard!!!

    • Tracey April 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

      Yes I have a GPS system like that too. What would we do without them : )

  3. Amy April 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    Love your “lessons learnt”! And also loving your amazing photos!! I am yet to do a hike in a tropical climate (some how I can’t see it being easier than one at altitude), but one hike I desparately want to do one day is the Kokoda trail. Sure it’s full of tourists, but I do have a personal link to the trail…. so it’s on the bucket list.

    Will definitely be keeping your tips in mind though.

    • Tracey April 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

      Hi Amy, I haven’t done the Kokoda trail but I’ve heard much about it and would also love to do it. I believe the main challenges are the hot and humid weather in the day – with the potential of torrential rain – drops at night to freezing. I would say with those conditions it would be as physically draining as trekking at altitude albeit in a different way. I have no doubt with the right preparation you will find it an enjoyable and rewarding journey. Your personal connection would make it an emotional one too.

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