Yesterday we went on a one day trek through the jungle. We visited the Hmong hill tribe at their mountain village and spent time walking around and seeing how they live. Like many of the hill tribes in Thailand, the Hmong are allowed to gro opium for personal use. The people there were really friendly and I felt lucky to have the opportunity to see such a different way of life. We also visited the a Karen hill tribe and watched them weaving their traditional cloth. It's so beautiful...silks and fine threads all woven together in the most stunning patterns. The Karen are Thailand's largest hill tribe and are still engaged in constant conflict with the Burmese government. They are technically from Burma (Myanmar if you insist) but are being pushed out of the country and are being forced to live in refugee camps along the border. The Thai government has clued in to the fact that the Karen are a tourist attraction (a lot of them are known as "long neck" since they wear gold loops to elongate their necks) and are setting them up in "traditional villages" in Thailand. The ones we visited were far from the border and were living a closer approximation to authentic tribe life but you still have to wonder.
We also spent some time on a back of a big elephant and rode him through the jungle. I was bit reluctant to support the whole "ride an elephant" thing but at the same time, they are a huge (s'cuse the pun) part of Thai culture. It was cool but I was satisfied with the 45 minute ride. I wouldn't have enjoyed anything longer. I did love feeding the elephant some sugarcane when we were finished and I whispered an apology into its ear. Elephants eyes always look a little sad (even in the wild) so I'm not sure if he understood me.
After the elephants we went to look at a waterfall. We hadn't been there more than two minutes when I slipped on the rock and fell right on my hip. Boy did that hurt. It meant the bamboo rafting was out (Brian went and loved it) and I spent the rest of the afternoon in the van. Bummer. Oh well, at least it happened after the hill tribes and not first thing in the morning.
We've collected two really impressive bruises so far this trip, although Brian's story is far more heroic.