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JAN-FEB 2017

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28 selecttraveler.com J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7 divided the property so they could raise rice and animals and support themselves. To visit real villages, you need to drive a four-wheel-drive vehicle up into the mountains. Backpackers go up there and stay with them — it's much more adventurous." That evening, we walked through Chiang Mai's labyrinthine night market to buy silk scarves and elephant pants. Kim left home with stand- ing orders from half a dozen people, so we checked those off the list. "It is customary in Buddhist tradition to walk around the temple sites clockwise to keep the shrines and Buddhas on your right," said Pan the following morning as we joined worshippers at the mountaintop temple, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Legend says a white elephant climbed this peak in the 14th century and died, marking the place King Nu Naone would build this sacred site. That afternoon, Pan took us to the Bo Sang Handicraft Centre to see artisans creating colorful paper umbrellas. These decorative parasols are hand-painted on paper created on-site from tree bark. They feature bamboo frames and hinges and have no prefabricated parts. Kim bought one for 140 bahts — less than $5. You could sell them in the United States for 20 times that amount. Our trip was over, and we had one night left in Thailand, so we grabbed a tuk-tuk and headed to Whole Earth, a restaurant we'd noticed earlier in the week. We didn't have reservations, but we were offered a window table on the second fl oor, so we removed our shoes and headed up. There, among many Thai diners, we toasted our good fortune and enjoyed a delicious farewell dinner half a world from home. As we drove to Maesa Elephant Camp the following day, Pan com- pared cultures. "The traditional occupation here in the north is farming," he said. "We grow rice, beans, ginger. But today, tourism is the main business in Thailand. This is the land of the Buddha. Always take off your shoes to enter a temple or home, and bow to those you meet. "Most families today want their children to be exposed to Western culture," he said. "Only our seniors do not want that progress. Buddhism is fl exible. Some go daily to the temple, but others just go on special oc- casions." "Elephants are sacred here," he continued. "When they were used in the forests, most trained for about 10 years to learn how to work. Around 11 to 16, they began working on light jobs. From 17 to 38, they worked eight-hour days. At 50 or so, elephants' vision and muscles begin weakening. Many are 70 years old or more at death." We watched as trainers fed the elephants and bathed them in the river. Two elephants embraced Kim with their trunks, and she loved it. "There are maybe 15 elephant camps near Chiang Mai," said Pan. "They have different philosophies. Many are for people who want to care for elephants. They stay long enough to learn commands and develop relationships with their elephants." We headed up to a demonstration hill tribe village not far away. The hill tribes are nomadic clans that have spurned civilization for centuries. In this constructed village, they grow rice using traditional methods in hand-tilled marshes. "The idea here is to see them all in one place," said Pan. "The owner A temple candle RITZ TOURS 8 8 8 - 3 4 5 - 7 4 8 9 W W W. R I T Z T O U R S . C O M The Grand Palace is the jewel of Bangkok. A young Hill tribe merchant near Chiang Mai

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