A two-day overnight trek in northern Thailand left me speechless. I met Chai, the guide and a native Karen tribe member and we began our trek into the jungle and to the Karen village. We hiked about an hour and a half passed rice paddy fields and lush landscapes. The mountains are breathtaking. Although in his 50s, Chai was a strong and youthful soul whose eyes tightened and lit up when a smile spread across his face. He taught us about the native flora and fauna, like one plant that crumbles into a red "paint" when you rub it between your fingers. The villagers used to use it to dye their clothes. He also taught us games the children play and I thought back to how similar life around the world can be when you're young.
During our trek we passed sections of jungle where orange robes were tied around various trees. Buddhist monks mark the trees as sacred in hopes of bringing an end to deforestation in northern Thailand. We stopped for lunch at a waterfall and took a dip. Another 90 minutes put us through a couple villages, a school, and finally to our home for the night. I was astonished. The view was amazing, overlooking rice fields and mountains.
I helped Chai and our host prepare dinner. I stirred vegetables in a large wok over an open flame while the sun set in front of us. I slept in the open air underneath a mosquito net and fell asleep to the sound of frogs and insects buzzing.
Awaken to roosters and a gorgeous sunrise. Our host served us pancakes and fresh papaya. They showed us how to extract rice with a wooden mill operated by one's own foot. After that, the woman of the home puts the rice on a bamboo mat and filters it through. It was almost rhythmic in sound--the wood banging, the rice crunching, the sifting on the mat.
We ended the tour with an hour-long ride on a bamboo raft down the Wang River. It was quiet and calm. I let the sun warm my face and the water wash up around me.