Thursday, November 09, 2006

Day eight Doi Chang Dao and the Lisu Hill Tribe

Our van left early, heading north from Chiang Mai towards the third highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Chang Dao. It's an impressive limestone ridge up to 2225 meters, where we were to spend a night with the Lisu. We arrived at our initial destination, a small private compound, where they were to guide us on an elephant ride, followed by a river raft adventure before starting up to our nights bivouac.
It was my first elephant ride, and our guide let me drive the beast. Thinking that an elephant is fairly wide, it was much more difficult than expected. My bony butt on the elephant’s neck vertebra was not as easy to stick as I'd thought, but it was fun. Then Dry Foot had his try and did pretty well. Next we visited a small village and had some beer and beetle nut before going to the river rafting.
The rafts were 12-15 foot pieces of bamboo tied together in a flat floor with a higher square for us to sit on. Our drivers used bamboo to push us down stream and we were off. The river was fairly high as we traveled leisurely down to a beer stop with box lunch. Then it was off to the hills.
We rode in the back of a pickup truck most of the way up the mountain, until it became so steep that we'd have to walk. The trail up to our destination was modestly steep, as it switch backed up the mountain, eventually ending at the Lisu village.
Beers were popped and food was enjoyed, as we were entertained by the locals with dancing and rustic instruments playing. There was a group of 6 from Bangkok, who were musicians. They pulled out their guitars and we sang and danced well into the night. Interestingly, one played Thai music, while the other had a great repertoire of American folk songs. The most popular was Paul Simon's the Boxer. "When I left my home and my family I was no more than a boy, In the company of strangers, In the quiet of the railway station, runnin' scared. Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters, Where the ragged people go. Lookin' for the places, only they would know.” How apropos.

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