Trekking near Chiang Mai

It seems every other tour company offers this day trek itinerary, which features at a minimum an elephant ride and some hiking in the countryside.

Far from the city

Our tour begins at the Akha village that specializes in weaving. Colorful scarves, shawls, and throws decorate the village, draped over horizontal bamboo strips throughout.

Some tours devote an entire day or two to this village where the Akha will teach visitors their technique. We're only here to get a taste of the village before we're whisked away to our hike that begins at a trailhead near the village and ends at Maewang Waterfall.

Visiting an Akha village.

Akha woman weaving on her loom.

Maewang Waterfall near the Akha village.

Sticks and stones make me go

Despite branding itself as ecologically friendly, the elephant sanctuary our tour company used treated its elephants poorly. The elephants, for example, had developed a healthy fear of sticks and slingshots. When these magnificent creatures stopped to graze or misbehave in any other way (e.g. playing with another elephant), our trainer-guides would swing their sticks or aim their slingshots threateningly. That would get things moving again.

Stick with a metal hook attached.

This happened several times and in one particular instance an elephant behind mine sounded a shrill alarm. I braced as my elephant did a 180 and dashed to the other's defense only to stop a few feet short of collision. I'll be honest. It was kind of exhilarating to feel the acceleration of the charge with the accompanying "thump, thump, thump" of the ground. Still, this was not normal or intended, and it pains me to think how these elephants are treated when visitors and tourists are not around.

Thankfully, not all tours are like this, and I might have avoided this tour if I had done my research beforehand. There are companies that care for their animals well. This tour would've been a perfectly unique way to explore the jungles while bonding with the elephants without the stick-swinging and threats.

This cutie pie. So. Cute.

Shed and houses for scale.