First let me inform you that I am Broder’s son and I have only been to Chaing Rai just this one time. I had a wonderful time and will defiantly go back although I am unsure when. I wanted to give another perspective on Jermsak from a person who had heard of him, but never met him before.
Jermsak is a wonderful person and a fantastic guide. We had water at all times and he insisted that we always had a cold water. I would tell him I was fine, but he would still ask to see if I was in need of a new water. At the orphanage he would help interpret questions we had and ask them to the children.
With this being my first time there, I wanted to learn a lot about the culture and history. Both are topics which can challenge the English speaking ability of anyone. I found Jermsak to be well educated about the area and able to convey this into English. He was able to answer my questions. I did notice that Jermsak, like most people who are speaking a secondary language, idioms are often confusing.
We went to the Karen Elephant Village to ride the Elephants. Jermsak explained the history of the Karen’s as well as other hill tribes. While we were there, a larger 10 person tour group with an Australian sounding guide arrived. I felt very happy to have Jermsak as our guide as we felt like we were respectful to the locals. As opposed to the other guide, who I felt was very hokey/corny (Especially when he told his group that he was like Steve Irwin and fed the Elephant from his mouth.)
For those who feel they don’t need a guide, let me submit this to you. Broder went for a massage in the golden triangle while Jermsak, my sister, and I went into Laos. We took the boat across and went to the stalls to shop. I consider myself fairly adventurous, but going with a guide is defiantly worth while. I felt Jermsak was able to get items for 20-30% less than I could. I tested this by going into a shop first when Jermsak and my sister were in another shop. I attempted to bargain and negotiate a better price for some shawls, but had little effect. Jermsak and my sister went to the same woman and were able to get the same shawls 20% less than my best price. My sister and I figured we saved close to 1200 baht by having Jermsak with us.