There are hundreds of trekking operators in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai and most offer treks as cheap as possible. What is the difference between a cheap and reasonably priced trek? What type experience do you receive for the price, there is a big difference.
Those who use the Internet know there is much more than just looking at
the graphics and information on the World Wide Web. The various Newsgroups and chat rooms
provide a huge source of information and the opportunity for two way
communication. The Newsgroups is where to ask questions about any imaginable
subject and receive a quick response. All Thailand Experiences
monitors the travel-related Newsgroups daily. We have observed many
people asking about Trekking in northern Thailand and some responses
given by those internet users who have first hand experience trekking
here in Northern Thailand are not totally positive.
We took the initiative to enquire about the problems encountered, the answers
varied widely. We have determined that lack of information before visitors
selected a trekking agency was the main reason for dissatisfaction. With
literally hundreds of options and trekking operators in the Chiangmai and
Chiangrai area, choosing an operator is a problem for some visitors. I have also been on many treks as tourist during my time living in Chiang Mai for more then 25 years. For
this reason, we are providing a basic checklist for our readers to use
when considering a trek.
First and most important is to make sure that the trekking company or guest
house you are considering is registered with the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
The TAT has strict guidelines the agency must follow to insure the trekker
receives the best service with good reliable guides.
Second, don't rush into a signing up for a trek, use your option to ask
questions to become a well informed consumer.
Who will be your guide?
Meet and talk with him or her to find out how much they know about your
special interests during the trek. A guide who knows nothing about the
people or area you are visiting or who has nothing to say at all will not
add to the learning experience.
How many people will be in your trekking party?
This an important question as going into a hill tribe village with 12 or
15 people will be overwhelming. Six persons at most is ideal and if it's
possible to afford a private trek so much the better.
Who are the people in the trekking party?
Meet and talk with the other trekkers in the group. You don't want to be
stuck with people for several days you can't get along with. The professional
agencies will have an orientation meeting to discuss the do's and don'ts
of various tribal customers, and the area to be visited, the evening before
starting the trek.
What will be the food on the menu during the trek?
A lot of energy will be burned up during the long hours of walking making
food very important. It's a good idea to make sure they will bring enough
food. The cheapest trek is not always the best as the first expense to
be cut back on is food.
Will the hill tribe children beg for money or will the hill tribe people
bother you to buy handicrafts during the trek?
This is one of the biggest problems we hear about on the newsgroups. A
good guide will teach the children not to beg or bother the trekkers to
buy anything. Nothing should be given to the villagers in person instead everything should be given to the headman of the village and he will give it out. Fruit is the best thing to get for the children not candy.There is nothing more annoying then being bugged constantly
for money. It will ruin your whole trek.
The next question is a trick question or the agency may just tell you what
you want to hear. This is the best way to put it: Can I smoke opium or
marijuana during the trek?
This doesn't happen much anymore but it might happen. If they say yes avoid this agency. If you want to get stoned, do it on
your own time, in your own country. Doing drugs in a hill tribe village
has permanent effects on the children of the village. The children
look up to foreigners as wealthy and well educated persons. Some village
children see hundreds of trekkers a year smoking opium. They will think
that it is acceptable to do drugs and still be well educated and prosper
which is false. They actually think that westerners smoke everyday so they
can too. The effects are very damaging to a village and it's children.
DON'T DO IT.
How long is the ride in a vehicle until we start our trek?
Some trekking starting points are hours away. If your guide talks to you
during your ride actively explaining the area you are traveling through
and answering your questions, the ride will be more enjoyable. If you sit
in the back of the pickup and your guide rides up front, this may the routine
throughout the trek with no input from your guide. Ask your guide to ride
with you in the back and tell you where you are and what's going on. He
or she is getting paid to meet your needs. Keeping you well informed is
one of them.
Overnight in a Lahu hill tribe village Video
Ask for recommendation letters from those who have been on their treks.
For the added plus of elephant riding during a trek expect to be on a route
with more trekkers. There are many people who want elephant riding during
their trek and only a few areas that offer such service. Do not expect
to be the only group in a hill tribe village or area that offers elephant
riding. The same goes for bamboo rafting. The treks are still fun and interesting
but there will be others.
Many travellers are taking a bus from Khaosarn Road in Bangkok for a low
fare. The additional cost is being paid by some guest houses here in Chiangmai
plus the guest houses offer one free night as an added bonus. If you can
take advantage of this offer, go for it. Be aware they are more than eager
to get you to join one of their treks. That's OK, this is how they pay
for the cheap bus fare and the free night.