The trip to the Golden Triangle was amazing....the hotel was over the top - but what was the most fun was experiencing the elephants and the people of northern Thailand.  We learned history around the Opium Wars and how Thailand has been working to change what the hill tribes do for income beyond growing poppy.  Although the hotel was only 15 tents - this was not like any camp I have ever been too.  The hotel was built into the hillside and designed to blend in with the environment.  You could only get there via a was about a 45 minute drive from the Chiang Rai airport and then a quick 10 minute boat ride.  The pathways, flowers, spa, restaurants - everything was so well done - it was awesome.  Every morning we would go to breakfast and they would bring 2 elephants for us to feed - one was a "baby" at only 5 years old.  Elephants are viewed as working animals in this part of the world - very similar to horses in the west.   They are not ready to go to work until they are about 12-14 years old and they work until they are about 60.  One of the problems is they are expensive to maintain so people do not treat them well once they can't work - that is why so many refuges have been set up in Northern Thailand.  Elephants were a major part of the industry that logged Teak Wood.  However, I would like to say after riding on them for 4 hours I was so sore the next day because they are so big and trying to stay level on them was a little challenging.   After riding them we got to take them to the water hole for a bath - it was so funny - I got sprayed multiple times by the trunk of my elephant - she decided it was a great game and I was laughing to hard to be upset.  Eric's elephant loved having the hose give her fresh he did not get nearly as wet as I did....We had a private dinner one night in the elephant sanctuary and at the end we got to light several wishing lanterns to be sent was so fun.  We got to feed the elephants before our dinner and then get to enjoy a area that was set up with lanterns, music and amazing food -- a super cool experience.

We also went to Burma for a day.  This was very interesting to do - although we had to leave our passports at the border which always makes me a little uncomfortable (if we had not been at such a good resort I would not have done it).  While we were there - it was crazy to see the difference in just one border.  The cell coverage only happens in a really small part of the city.  The poverty was everywhere - not as bad as Mumbai - but still significant and this is viewed as a top tier city in Burma.  We were looking at this little store front on the side of the road and our guide let us know that this was a gas station.  I asked where the pumps were - and he told me the gas was in the juice containers that were being sold...they don't use pumps and they only get about 1 liter at a time.  The other thing that was so obvious was the mix of cultures.  As we drove down the street you could see faces from India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Laos, Han was one of the most diverse areas I have seen.  Most of the countries we go in feel very homogeneous because the populations are so large - but that was not the case where we were in Burma.

From Chiang Rai we went to Chiang Mai.  This hotel was also great - we had a private villa with a pool - which in this climate is fantastic!  This part of the trip was a little more relaxing but we still went to a Sunday night market which was really busy and fun to see what everyone was doing.  We also spent a day up with a hill tribe area.  This was a little more challenging because there are 5 hill tribes that are living together in this area that is about 1 hour from the main city.  It is obvious that they do this so tourists will come and see them (this includes the women who wear the gold rings around their necks to grow them longer)....on one hand you do not want to support them because it feels like wrong - on the other hand they do it to support their tribes that are farther away.  When we talked to the hotel about it they recommended we go even though we were not sure we should support it.

One of our favorite parts of Thailand is shopping for antiques because they get a mix from Burma, China, Bali and China.  We did find several things to send home.  The other thing we did here was go to pet tigers.  This was a crazy experience because we petted tigers from 3 months old up to 18 months old.  When you see the pictures you will notice that we are always behind them - that is because they tell us not to get close to the face - and I was slightly uncomfortable because they are really big when you are close to them.  The paws they have look really dangerous - not even talking about the teeth!  It was late in the afternoon when we went and all the tigers were really active except the large ones - Eric asked if they were drugged - but they told us no that it was due to the heat - with their fur they do not like to move a lot (and it was really humid and hot).   I am not sure I believe them - except it was obvious that none of the others were...but the 18 month old ones were big!

Eric has done up a video of our trip if you want to see it and it has footage from all our experiences....

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