The contrast between us (a well-off expat family of 5) and the hill tribe people we stayed with during the guided trek organised through Trekking Collective couldn’t be bigger. This exact aspect is the lasting memory of our trip 6 months ago (April 2012) to the country we were privileged enough to have lived for two years earlier and where we have had plenty of shop/sun/dine type visits since. Despite my teenage kids feeling a bit out their comfort zone initially, they quickly adjusted and in their own way managed to interact with the two hill tribes we visited. For them, accustomed to the pleasures of expat life, it was a great way of raising awareness of how tough life can be for the majority of the world’s population. Equally educational was to see how, despite having little, a community can make use of their environment and means at their disposal to create a sustainable way of life and a future for the many laughing and happy kids we saw. I won’t forget playing waterpolo with young monks in the river, floating downstream over mild rapids on bamboo rafts, and eating a delicious lizard curry (caught the day before), watching a fisherman catch our dinner. When you see how high (~30m!) the beehives are where (without our western attitude to safety) the guys are able to collect the delicious honey we were given, you will look at produce in your local supermarket differently. Truly an amazing “un-touristy” experience, to be able to be more authentic difficult to imagine. Personally I would have loved to continue trekking for days, being out there with the good weather in the peaceful environment and under the guidance of Guide Tim and his nephew. Kudos to Trekking Collective for the organisation and their clearly long term experience/relationship they’ve built up with the local hilltribes to allow tourists this unique opportunity. I recommend them without the slightest hesitation to anyone if you are looking to deepen your understanding of Northern Thai culture through a bit of adventure.
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