We left for Chiang Mai around mid-day, meeting at Changi Airport with our parents for check-in. Since one of the group members bought the tickets together on one account, we all had to check in with the details from her flight details. We were using the digital check-in, and ran in to slight problems when only two of us could check in. While going to the counter to fix the issue, the two girls tried to get the printed ticket set. After completing check-in and immigration, we waved goodbye to our parents and went into the terminal. Some of us exchanged money to prevent having to worry about it later on, while others already exchanged money beforehand. We had lunch and then boarded our flight to Bangkok Don Mueang International Airport. Landing in Bangkok was confusing, as the airport didn’t have much signage for transfer flights and there were many people going in and out of the terminal. However, after going through a second immigration, we had around an hour to relax and get re-situated. Two of us bought Thai sim-cards in the airport, while the rest were going to use their Singaporean numbers with data plans. There was a slight mixup with our gate and our flight was delayed, but we landed in Chiang Mai International Airport on time. We arranged for a shuttle service to pick us up from the airport, but there was confusion with where they would wait for us as international passengers are divided from domestic passengers, even if the flight was domestic. Eventually, we found the shuttle and drove to the hotel. It was a short distance and checking in was very quick. After setting our things down, we went to the hotel cafe to eat dinner and went to bed not long after. Overall a successful journey 🙂
Bright and early, we scheduled our day trek with Wild Planet to begin at 8 am. Wild Planet came and picked us up, and we were informed that we would be driving for around an hour to a market to pick up supplies, before continuing up to the mountain area where we would be trekking. It started out fairly cool, but the weather eventually warmed up, and by the time we reached the base of the mountain to quickly stop for a break, it was already quite warm out. The temperature was estimated to reach 38 degrees, but humidity would make it feel like 42. As we drove up the mountain, I started getting a bit carsick as the road was very windy, but it was a beautiful location, forested treescapes as far as the eye could see. The top of the mountain allowed a wide view of the surrounding lands, and our guide pointed out our final destination, approximately 15 km away. That was our first issue, as we anticipated the trek to only be around 5-7 km. While I have done several hiking trips before, they have never been in such warm weather, and I knew this would be a personal difficulty. The initial part of the trek was slower going and also easier than the later parts of the trek as the descent was not as steep and we were not in heavily wooded areas. On this part of the trek, our guide showed us many local Thai plants, including coffee and tea plants, along with several different fruits and vegetables. He also showed us a particular type of wood that easily burns and was once used as torches by the local hill tribes. During lunch, we stopped in a small village. In my past hiking trips, we did not get the opportunity to interact with the local culture, so I found this to be a slightly different experience compared to what I have done in the past. After lunch, our trek because much harder. We were in much steeper sections of the forest, with many uphill and downhill changes. The path was only wide enough for single file walking, so we all took turns in the various positions. There were some parts of the trek where I was quite scared because one side would be the side of the hill and the other side would be straight down. I was concerned that someone in my group would slip and would be injured. It was also getting progressively warmer, especially as we exerted more effort, so we started taking electrolytes to make sure we stayed properly hydrated. One of our group members became slightly heat-exhausted over the course of the trek, leading the rest of our group to take initiative for various small tasks, such as periodically giving her water, ensuring she wasn’t the last person, fanning her if she needed, and trading bags so she was carrying a lighter load. This sense of responsibility and teamwork was the most important aspect of the 7 hour trek, and we gained not only an appreciation for the Thai landscape and Hill tribe culture, but also an understanding of our personal strengths and weaknesses, along with how we could support each other using these discoveries.
I found and organized the cooking class that we went to on Monday for the aspect of Creativity. We decided on cooking because food is an important part of culture, and we wanted to be able to take what we had learnt back home through learning something practical. There are actually many different cooking schools in Chiang Mai, but I found a cooking school within walking distance of our hotel called Thai Akha Cooking School that looked interesting because we would get to experience going to a Thai market to buy ingredients before cooking a variety of dishes. It was only around 10 minutes or so to walk to the school, and after the other participants arrived, we went to a local Thai market. Our instructor showed us various different food dishes and ingredients that are important to Thai cooking. I noticed that many of these ingredients were familiar to me, as my mom grew up in Thailand and cooks Thai food fairly often. Additionally, Indonesian cuisine also uses similar ingredients. The entire cooking experience was nicely planned out by the cooking school, despite there being 10 different dishes to cook. We also learnt that the Akha in the name of the school refers to a particular hill tribe, which has their own cooking style that differs from traditional Thai dishes. This day was far less challenging than our trek, but more creative and interesting. The environment we were working in was friendly and inviting, and the situation
was a very dynamic and animated one. I wouldn’t say there were any downsides to the cooking class, other than the fact that is was essentially outside, and therefore very warm, and the fact that we made 10 dishes and ate them all. I personally really enjoyed learning how to cook as I don’t cook very often, and I don’t often cook complex dishes such as some ofthe ones we made. It was an overall fun experience for everyone, and time passed very quickly through the “learning process”.