A mere two weeks into our Thailand trip Steve and I joined a traditional tour with a real tour guide…and honestly I’d probably rate the experience a 5 or 6 on a 1 to 10 scale. We booked our trip with AA Tours in Chiang Rai (it’s on the same road as the clock tower and the BIG electronics store). It wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t unique or adventurous. We did ride on an elephant down the river….moderately entertaining, but once you’ve done it once you don’t need to go again.
Our WONDERFUL guide did know alot about the local culture and we happened to be there during their New Years preparations… it’s essentially a giant party, complete with spouse-swapping and binge drinking. From what our guide told us they spend a week preparing and a week recovering.
Our guide did get us up to the village before the other groups…awesome… and we had some tea with one of the local women. None of the villagers seemed interested in entertaining any farang (Thai for foreigner), so once we cooled down from our trek up to the village we headed back down the hill through some farmland and a bit of jungle until we reached an extremely cold waterfall. Steve went for a dip, but I preferred to stay dry and warm.
After the waterfall it was a short hike back to the truck. From there we went to another local village where many of the adults were working on rebuilding someone’s home after a fire nearly burnt it down. But the kids were running amok and I was able to snap a couple of fun shots of them acting like maniacs.
And a couple of them looking sweet…
And we still weren’t done. After the third village of the day we headed to a “hot” spring….it was more warm and sulfuric, but we went for a dip anyway. After 20 or so minutes we were ready to go…it had been a LONG day. We were picked up from our hotel super early, so we could meet up with the boat transportation that took us up the river to the elephant village and it was now getting dark and we were ready for a cold beer.
Honest opinion: Skip the day tour. You will be much more happy if you book a multiday trip instead of being rushed along from activity to activity. Steve and I did part of our day trip with other people and part of it just the two of us…which was both good and bad. Our final guide when it was just us was really awesome, but there was always some confusion in the transfer of us between the earlier guides and we were often left to “wait” without much direction or even the name of our next guide. So get ALL of the details before you head out and be clear about what you want and expect.