The first memory of a personal meeting with the Thai people is their ever-present smile! This natural friendliness is a part of the Thai culture that is tied to Buddhism, which is the principal religion in Thailand. Therefore, despite the beauty and history of this unique country, it is the graciousness and warmth of the people of Thailand that is always remembered!

The adventure, excitement, and uniqueness of Northern Thailand draws travelers, but to experience it, one must go to Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand which is located nearly 500 miles northwest of Bangkok near the mountains that lead into Burma.

The best place to stay in Chiang Mai is Tamarind Village which is an oasis of tranquility in the heart of the historic section and less than 15 minutes from the airport, bus and train depots. An easy walk from the property accesses many of the cultural opportunities and shopping districts. This charming and unique boutique hotel is named after the 200 year old tamarind tree that serves as a shelter, and the rooms, suites, and grounds reflect the diverse art and architecture of the tribes of Northern Thailand.
For more information or reservations, go to their web site at: www.tamarindvillage.com

Chiang Mai is a cultural center with many museums, more than 300 ancient temples, and uncountable historical artifacts from the hill tribes. Seeing all of these wonders could take weeks, but it would be a real shame not to journey into the surrounding countryside and experience other adventures!

UpsideDownProbably the best way to get into the “swing” of things is to drive about an hour north of Chiang Mai into the high mountains to visit a nomadic tribe known as the Khamu. More than a century ago, they migrated to this part of Thailand from Yunnan Province in China and Laos and managed to evade civilization for many decades. Today, however, they have joined forces with Smilelink Travel to share their picturesque mountains through an endeavor called Jungle Flight, which is the longest and highest Zipline complex in Thailand. For info, contact them at: info@jungle-flight.com

Upon arriving at the village of Baan Nam Khong, equipment is issued and fitted, an orientation is given, and lunch is prepared by the wives from the village. This lets the people in the small community greet outsiders, allows the visitors to learn about the tribal people, and provides the local ladies with work.

Following a short hike from the village, travelers mount the first of 34 platforms to begin flying through the trees on almost 5 miles of ziplines at more than 30 miles per hour through a magnificent mountain forest at a height of 150 feet above the ground. Sections as long as 3 football fields, transitions between platforms of spiral stairways, swinging sky bridges, and vertical rope drops of more than 100 feet will keep the adrenaline flowing! To top it off, a 1/2 mile climb along a dusty road back to the village has everyone clambering for refreshments and rest.

Coming to Thailand without experiencing a day of personal contact with the Southeast Asian elephants would be a travesty. These sacred creatures are as important to the history of Thailand as the railroads to North America. Elephants are a symbol of royal power in the Thai culture and an important ingredient in Buddhist art and architecture.

At the Patara Elephant Farm north of Chiang Mai, a one-of-a-kind opportunity is offered where you can become an elephant owner and trainer for a day. Under the expert guidance of farm owner Teerapat Trungpakan (Known as Pat), you receive a crash course about the history of elephants in Thailand, how to approach them, what to expect from them, how to feed them and check their health, and even a few necessary Thai language commands that the elephants understand.

elephants2According to Pat, the primary reason for the Patara Elephant Farm is to breed healthy baby elephants to reintroduce into the wild. He also uses his farm to provide an educational opportunity for visitors to Thailand and to create a pleasant working and living environment for domesticated elephants.

After one look into the soft, friendly eyes of your own elephant, you will fall in love. As you speak softly, while feeding it a basket of fruit, the special bond will grow as you realize that this huge animal is warm and sensitive with a zest for life and a sense of humor.

The day continues with checking your elephant’s health…including handling it’s poop, cleaning and brushing the dirt from it’s skin, and bathing and playing with it in the nearby river. Then, you learn how to properly mount and ride your elephant…not in a chair, but on its head. This leads to a ride up into the hills to a gorgeous waterfall with a large pool at the bottom where all the elephants can cool down and play in the water.

fieldsAfter a tasty lunch of local cuisine by the waterfall, everyone retreats to the farm for farewells to Pat, his family, and the marvelous elephants. Being with them and feeling the invisible connection with the largest animal on the planet is a magical experience that will never be forgotten. For more information, go to the Patara Elephant Farm Website at: www.pataraelephantfarm.com

Not more than one hour north of Chiang Mai is a rich, green agricultural valley where time seems to have stood still. The people wear traditional clothes and speak an ancient Chinese dialect that even native Thai people don’t understand.

Because of the Asian Oasis Mythical Journeys Group and the now famous, eco-friendly Lisu Lodge, the valley has become a sanctuary for Lisu traditions and a job provider for this mountain tribe. It is a perfect blend of how to maintain the tribal heritage while benefitting from responsible tourism.

More than a dozen years ago, the award-winning Lisu Lodge was built and has always been managed and staffed by the native Lisu community. Though it is constructed in a traditional style without all the frills, enough western comforts have been incorporated to satisfy most visitors. For more information, visit their website at: www.asian-oasis.com/lisu.html

Besides being a perfect place to enjoy tribal culture in a tranquil setting with vistas of farm fields and nearby mountains, travelers can venture out to experience exciting soft adventures. These might include mountain biking through gorgeous fields, villages, and along the river, whitewater rafting, or simply mild hiking.

Lisu Lodge’s guest rooms are built around a common area where delicious local meals are served and during the evenings entertainment is provided by traditional dance. This beautiful property offers solitude and simple activities with tradition and plenty of class!

Leaving the mountain people of Northern Thailand and historical Chiang Mai is difficult. The smiling faces, warm hospitality, and elephants makes everyone yearn for just one more day!


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