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Exotic Tribes
Be a responsible traveller. Show tribal people respect and meet them on their premises. Visiting people with a different lifestyle and culture could sometimes be a very rewarding adventure, but be aware of that many tribal communities are extremely vulnerable to outside influences. All tribal people need to be protected from tourists in order to preserve their unique lifestyle and cultures. Travellers should understand that some tribes would like to live undisturbed, and that visit would be an intrusion.

Thailand - Thrill trekking in the Golden Triangle - Part 1 of 4!

The good, bad, bizarre and the unknown jungle. This is the area where you can encounter the most absurd reality: exotic tribes and cultures, beautiful scenery, monks and religious rituals, opium and addictions, poverty and garbage, smuggling and narcotic traffic, military and police, guerrillas as Red Khmer, Cambodia, and freedoms fighters from Burma, refugees, prostitution and Aids, and more. Something is going on here!

Photo. Rise and shine. It was just for a moment. Some tribe people having a good time smoking Opium in a hut. © Travel Explorations.

The Golden Triangle is located on the border between Thailand, Burma and Laos. The area is also near the border to other countries where many strange things happens. In the end of July 1987 I and two friends took an expedition trip in to the disreputable jungle area call the Golden Triangle.

The Kingdom of Thailand has attracted more visitors than any other country in southeast Asia with its amazing combination of beautiful nature, fascinating temples, great hospitality, and ancient wonders. Since Thailand is a large country in Asia there are plenty of opportunities for adventures, but for us we were looking for something really special.

Me and my two friends we ended straight in the middle of a mess. We started our tour from Chiang Mai, Thailand's second-largest city and the gateway to the country's wilderness walking in the north. We looked forward to trek into the mountainous areas inhabited by hill tribes, but there where more to see than we expected.

On our way further we took a boat from Chiang Rai. We appreciated the beautiful lush river scenery of the Cook River without know what we were encountering.

Photo. A man crossing a bridge.

Further up we stopped by the riverside and walked up to a mountain. We entered a cave where it was a Buddha altar inside. Our guide sat down on his knees and called for Buddha. Hopefully he got the blessing he prayed for, because we had some challenges to deal with.

Photo. Our guide prayed to Buddha. Did he get the answers he wanted?

Karen Village was our first stop. Some of the children where shy, but incredible charming. We got a warm hearted reception, and had a really good time there observing the village life. I could see people worked hard for living, but they never stopped smiling. For me it was now obvious why Thailand is called the country with the thousand smiles.

Photo. Pretty little girl with a great smile - in the Karen Village.

Photo. Washing in the river.

After touring around in Thailand for a while, including the Golden Triangle, I could understand that the elephant was the national symbol in the country. Alle over I found references to the gigant, and it was a aninal threated with respect.

Photo. Bathing the elephants.

Attached by bloodthirsty mosquitoes
In the night the bloody thirsty mosquitoes attacked us. They were all over us. For a while I forgot these words of wisdom: don’t kill anything you don’t eat. I smashed every bug I came over. My conscious was absolute clean. I claimed the right to defend myself.

The first night was terrible. I feared for Malaria. I didn’t sleep much. Several times during the night I woke up sweating and felt tired. The sound from the irritating mosquitoes sounded like Jet Planes penetrating my ears. Later we used other “vehicles” to move forward. We rented some elephants to take us up the steep hillsides.
Photo. Riding an elephant up the delta hillside.

To explore the jungle effeciently, we arranged a special kind of transport. We went off-road on the back of an elephant in Thailand's Golden Triangle. With professional instruction from our guide, we learned how to control the elephants by use special words, kicking and beating. In the beginning we were little bit sceptical sitting on an back of an elephant, but the steady animal convinced us about that it was safe.

Photo. Riding an elephant deep in to the jungle. The great Norwegian adventurer Sigbjorn - Sigbjørn - took the control.

On our way further in to the jungle we left our big beasts in a small village. After some hours on foot, we arrived in a village where we should stay overnight. The area looked like a big slum. The tribesmen throw the garbage straight out in the river or just outside the entrance of their huts. That was the easiest way, but it didn’t look nice.

It was strange to serve breakfast to the elephants. The liked soft, sweet sugar cane sticks and bananas. After their morning feed, the elephants were taken for a bath. I noticed that the Elephants' appetites wre huge, even bigger than my big friend Geir.  The elephants can eat more that 200 kg of food every day. Their favourite snakcks are sugar cane, bamboo shoots, and bananas. For us riding elephants were one of the more interesting rides of our life, especially because of the dense jungle.

Photo. We left the elephants, and walked by foot from village to village.

For us the tribe life looked harmonic from the outside. Soon we should see the dark side of the life (read the continuing story in part 2).

This story continues in Part 2: read and see more photos from the disreputable Golden Triangle!

Stein Morten Lund, 20 November 2001

Additional information
Etiquette: according to the web site Chiangmai-Chiangrai: (http://welcome-to.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/hiltribe.htm):

• It is kind, but not necessary; to give gifts to people you visit. Some suggestions or alternatives to sweets and cigarettes are balloons and other inexpensive toys, cosmetics, medical supplies antiseptic, mild painkillers such as aspirin, food, fruit, clothing, sewing supplies and foreign coins.

• Follow the advice of your guide; don't be afraid to ask questions. Respect the fact that you are a guest visiting the homes and villages of these people. By showing them that you foreigners are genuinely interested in them; your friendliness, sincerity and goodwill are the most precious gifts you can offer.
For general news, arrangements, tribes, cultures, customs etc. in the Golden Triangle and the rest of Thailand:

Read more about Thailand on our web site: Thai-boxers - the modern gladiators
Read more (click here …..)

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