Our trip to Mae Kampong took less than an hour by minibus, but the change from Chiang Mai's busy urban scene to the tranquillity of the hill tribe people was truly remarkable! By cultivating shade-grown coffee and tea under the large trees on nearby slopes, and by hosting people like us in their homes, the villagers are able to subsist and maintain their traditional rural family lifestyle. After being billeted in various homes, we went for an energetic hike up and down beside a mountain stream with 7 waterfalls! We were all more than ready for a break to enjoy their local coffee and tea in a cafe perched on the edge of the ravine.
But the really great thing about this trip was the opportunity we had to get to know some local people and how they live. We had 4 Thai-speaking guides with us to help translate, since the villagers know little English, and one village elder to lead us on the hike through their lands. Dinner was a terrific array of spicy and not-so-spicy vegetable/meat dishes taken with lots of rice, and more hot sauces if you were so inclined! They refer to the tiny local everything shop as the "7-11" since that chain is very well known here. So it was that in the morning, before breakfast we all convened at the "7-11" to help present their temple monk on his daily begging bowl rounds with gifts of food from our hosts. The diminutive, smiling monk received all the donations and chanted a blessing for us all before continuing on his way. The little children on their plastic tricycles seemed to already have the right attitude to charge around the narrow roads on scooters as most Thai seem to do! Eric, one of our group, delighted them by taking their photo with his iPhone and showing them the result!
On the way back to our hotel in Chiang Mai we stopped in Bosang at large demonstration workshops for making parasols, Thai silk and silver jewellery, and of course, equally large shops attached to sell their wares! We enjoyed another great Thai massage in Chiang Mai, but a few of our group decided to try the "fish massage" in which you put your feet in a tank with lots of little fish who nibble off your dead skin! The Sunday Walking Market, partly on our street, is in full swing as this is posted, complete with entertainers and vendors of everything you can imagine and then some!
Tomorrow, the group heads out of town again, this time to a nearby elephant sanctuary, as our time in Chiang Mai draws to a close in a couple of days.