Chuck Hillig's Travel Blog

Well, I'm going to be doing a lot of traveling over the next 6-7 months so I thought that I'd better re-activate my travel blog. The last time I posted anything here was way back in 2006 when I was traveling through SE Asia. Feel free to read my entries back then about my earlier adventures through India,Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines and Hong Kong. This time (at least for the next six weeks), I'll be traveling through Greece and Turkey.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Around Chiang Rai...

I'm staying at a laid-back place in Chiang Rai called the Chat House. Lots of western travelers, good food and a very mellow ambiance. Yesterday, I took an all-day tour with some new friends, Paul and Pascale. They're from Montreal and are traveling on to the very places that I've just been visiting. The three of us were driven on an incredibly bumpy road up into the mountains surrounding the town. After bouncing around for an hour, we finally arrived at one of the local villages and shared some tea on an open bamboo patio with a commanding view of the area. The folks in this town (around 100) have a very relaxed lifestyle raising cattle and farming on the steep slopes. Interestingly, the government supplies solar panels to each household in order to supply them with electricity. The guide explained that this was being done to protect the trees from being over-harvested by the growing populations of the hill tribes. After tea, the four of us headed down the mountain on a very rough path that was, at times, extremely slippery and strewn with sharp rocks. Unfortunately, Paul and I had only brought our flip-flops because we were not expecting such a challenging trek. Consequently, it was a fairly dangerous 2.5 hour trek down the mountain, and I was lucky to have slipped only a few times. At the bottom, we had a fantastic lunch at a local house and were all happy to climb into the truck which, by that time, had been driven down the mountain by one of the villagers. Then we went to the elephant park and had a chance to ride on these magnificent beasts. Paul and Pascale shared one elephant while I had another all to myself. Since they gave us umbrellas to protect us from the blazing sun, I felt like I was in a scene out of "Passage to India." Naturally, of course, their trainer was also perched on the elephant's head and would often sing to the animal as we plodded along towards the nearby Wok River. Once at the water's edge, the elephants waded into the swift current out to a depth of over five feet. They walked along in the river for about 20 minutes before finally lumbering back towards the shore and to the place where we had started from. Very memorable. Once back in the truck, we headed off into the mountains again to check out one of the waterfalls. I had thought that, by that time, the walking part of the tour was over. However, we had to trek another 15 minutes up the mountain to view the waterfall. Happily, it was very worth the effort. Finally, we drove to a local outdoor spa that had a hot pool about three feet deep and approximately 75 feet x 30 feet. We all were delighted to soak our weary bodies for about 30 minutes before heading back to the Chat House. The weather remains clear and hot. I'll be staying here tonight and, perhaps,won't be heading down to Chiang Mai until Friday to hookup with Thomas and Barbara, the folks that I had met on the boat trip from Luang Prabang. More later...


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