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Chiang Rai

Adventure into Asia
Venture to northern Thailand and the Golden Triangle where “one-of-a-kind experience” takes on a whole new meaning. Head to one of Chiang Rai’s luxury lodges for hands-on excursions for adventures of a different kind. Ride elephant back through the jungle atop one of Thailand’s majestic animals for a true understanding of “local transportation.” Your experience will be completely hands-on as you spend your day as an elephant trainer or “mahout” for the day. With culturally rich activities paving your way through the region, there are many ways to get to know the local way of life. Head on a long-tail boat up the Mekong River towards Laos or visit the ornate temples of Chiang Rai. For a truly immersive retreat, book an overnight stay with one of the local hill tribes, found deep within the jungle. Whether you are trekking on an elephant through mountainous northern Thailand, journeying through the jungles of Cambodia to the ancient Angkor temples, or whitewater rafting on the rivers in Bali, the region’s adventures are limitless. To book your next adventure to Asia or one of Swain Destinations’ other exotic locales, visit www.swaindestinations.com, email info@swaindestinations.com or call 855-202-0008. —Swain Destinations

Learning how to release a paper lantern
After a two day trek around northern Thailand which included staying in a local hill tribe village, our guide finally brought us on our last night to stay at the Akha village. Here, after he cooked us an authentic Thai dinner that was so out of this world, he said he had some gifts for us as it was our last night with him. He then proceeded to show us each how to light and release paper lanterns that he had got for us. He said lighting and releasing these lanterns were symbolic of good luck and we should let our problems float away as these lanterns do. We each proceeded to light and release them one by one - he asked us to also make a wish as we released our own lanterns. It was so beautiful and special because it was just me and my friends standing outside our bamboo hut, overlooking the mountains, and experiencing this aspect of the culture with our guide. That moment is forever etched in my memory. You can get a lantern anywhere in Thailand, but to stay in the Akha village, please contact the guide, Addy at addy04@ymail.com> for such homestay experiences and he will also cook delicious Thai food for you.

Coffee and Development
I spent last weekend harvesting coffee with a small Akha hilltribe community through a very localized trek with Akha Ama Coffee. Akha Ama is a small coffee shop in Chiang Mai that exclusively distributes coffee produced in Mae Jan Tai village. The company was created by Lee, the first person in his village to be college educated, as a community development project to strengthen the local economy. We stayed with the local farmers and learned about the entire process of coffee farming, harvesting and processing. We also learned how coffee production can be used as a poverty alleviation strategy if middlemen are cut out and local farmers are given the resources to control more of the process. Beautiful People Beautiful Scenery Delicious Coffee Amazing Experience picture: Lee's mother and newborn niece

Beans Beans Beans
picture: pre-roasted coffee beans drying in the sun

Lee showing us proper harvesting technique. Its a lot harder than you'd think, especially when the trees are situated on a very steep hill!!

Chiang Rai, Thailand