Thursday, May 29, 2008

Regional Learning

Sightseeing in Up with People is all part of the experience, so we call it "regional learning". This past Saturday was the prime example of a successful and truly wonderful regional learning day. First, we rode flat little boats with funny outboard motors on the back down the Mae Kok river, which flows on the north side of Chiang Rai. The boats only held 6-7 people plus the driver, so we were a long trail winding down the river. The scenery was gorgeous, and as we approach our destination, the cast realizes that what we are looking at is about 20 elephants standing in the river. The best part: they were waiting to give us a ride!

You can ride an elephant two ways: you can sit on its head, which is actually quite comfortable and sturdy compared to the second way, riding on a bench which is perched on its back. It feels very precarious to be up so high, and you wobble with every step. We rode for about an hour, during which I tried both ways of riding, and we ended our ride by coming back through the river that we had just arrived on.

After lunch, we had a surprise endurance hike for two hours up a mountain through hill tribe villages to a waterfall. Granted, we knew it was a hike that would last two hours and that we should wear "comfortable walking shoes". For some cast members that choice was flipflops, which they regretted about a fourth of the way up the mountain. It was incredibly hot and very steep, and a great experience to push yourself to your limit. The reward was an impressive waterfall called Houykeaw, where we swam and slid on the rocks, before hiking back down the short way, to get rides back into town.

The day ended at a delicious restaurant in Chiang Rai, where there was a two-man acoustic band who played top 40 hits with a little Thai flair. We also had guest performers: the arts and culture group from the clay house, most of whom are from the Akra tribes in northern Thailand, performed traditional song and dance for us. It was a picture perfect regional learning day, and something that the whole group will not soon forget.

No comments: