What does Thailand have in common with Canada, Norway and New Zealand? Well, not a whole lot on the surface. But the Southeast Asian kingdom easily matches any of those countries (and many others) in the trekking category – whilst offering a totally unique hiking experience!
Whether you explore the ever-green hills of the north, the dense forests of the south or the vast planes of Isan state in the east, there’s plenty to see and discover. And while trekking has long been a staple activity for backpackers, regular holidaymakers have been catching up with the trend in recent years. Don’t see yourself swapping Bangkok for Ban Tawai? You might want to consider the following:
You get to see rural Thailand
With a hypermodern, international capital and picture-perfect islands that cater to a traveller’s every desire, Thailand’s ancient customs are sometimes hard to come by. A trek around the country’s less visited regions will take you past the shiny veneer of Thailand’s hospitality sector for a more immersive and perhaps more meaningful couple of days.
When trekking, you’re guaranteed to come across sights that conjure up memories of Thailand’s past – locals practising their crafts, Buddhist monks collecting alms, children proudly wearing ceremonial garments at rural festivals, and much more. And then, there are thousands of square kilometres of untouched, tropical countryside, sure to strike a chord with anyone – not just nature lovers!
You can make new friends
One of the highlights of trekking surely is meeting like-minded souls. Though private treks with no one except your other half and a local guide offer a romantic escape for lovebirds, joining a group is the best way for a trek filled with heaps of fun!
Most groups tend to be around ten people strong and you’ll be grateful for the extra company when your foot gets stuck in a mud hole (remember, this is about making memories) or you need someone to hold your hand whilst stamping through a jungle stream. Most importantly, nothing beats late-night storytelling sessions with an international bunch of travellers sat around a crackling campfire underneath the starry sky…
You can support local communities
While Phuket and Pattaya have greatly profited from international tourism over the years, Thailand’s off-the-beaten-track destinations haven’t quite received the attention they deserve. By trekking around the Thai countryside, you can support communities living in the misty mountain villages around Chiang Mai or the lush rainforests of Kanchanaburi state.
And it doesn’t stop at local guides: during your trek, there’ll be chances to stay in a local’s house, eat at family-owned restaurants and purchase everything from hand-made jewellery and soap to foodstuff and clothing (for a fraction of what you’d be paying in Bangkok). Moreover, simply chatting with locals who seek to hone their English skills is a way to offer support – plus, it’s good fun!
You get to enjoy simplicity
Imagine waking up to a pink sun rising above the jungle canopy, a cup of freshly brewed coffee in your hand and friendly dog at your feet as you inhale the crisp mountain air in Mae Hong Son. Trekking isn’t always luxurious but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more authentic way to take in your surroundings.
There’s something about this more modest way of travelling that simply appeals to the human soul. Some find that it puts them at ease and helps them recharge the batteries, while others find inspiration in reconnecting with nature. Whatever it is you’re looking for – chances aren’t all that bad you’ll find it somewhere down a little-trodden dirt path!