Chiang Rai is the largest town in Thailand’s most northerly province. This borders Burma and Laos, while China is only some 200Kms further north. As such a multiple border area the “Golden Triangle” has a chequered history, filled with wars and migrations, and in recent times was a major centre of opium Poppy cultivation. These poppies and the opium, heroin and other drugs they produce were a major source of income for the “hill tribes” until a concerted governmental policy enabled them to earn a living in other ways.The hill tribe people remain among the poorest, and their home areas the least developed, in Thailand. The Akha are one of the smaller groups, though around Chiang Rai (because of the multiple frontiers) there are several small people groups.
The Akha Hill House ute takes visitors from the city into the hills at (about) 4:30pm each day, and returns them to Chiang Rai at 9am. After following the made-up main road for a while, the road into the hills is a dirt track that climbs steeply. Barbara and I as elders, the oldest of the foreigners, and only outranked by the energetic Mr.Apae Amor’s father in the front seat, rode in the rear of the cab, while the rest of the new visitors had better views but a much rougher ride 😉 in the back. (The ute is a working vehicle, hauling supplies during the day, so not equipped with padded benches like a Songthaw.)
After several Kms of dirt road we pass through first a Lahu village, and then tea fields, before the final sharp ascent to the Akha village and the Hill House. A pair of main buildings are separated by the road, one has a kitchen and sleeping rooms and the other an open dining/resting area, with a welcome fire in the evening. Most of the guest accommodation is in small bungalows scattered around and below the main building. These are a nice mixture of local style and some Western convenience.
In ours the sleeping room is of local board construction, with a bamboo veranda jutting over the drop, but it has concrete tiles on the roof ensuring that it will be dry even in the rainy season. The bathroom (with a warm shower but a local-style toilet) has concrete and mud walls, but a grass thatched roof (dryness is less important than privacy in a bathroom 😉
Between here and the tea gardens and Lahu village there is a beautiful waterfall. It can also be reached by a higher walking path direct frm the Hill House. The Hill house backs onto a steep jungle covered hillside, so offers beautiful but different views to each side.
Food is cooked to order from a menu (between 7am and 9pm) by a team of Akha women, and a fridge holds cold water and drinks for which we list our usage in a book. We have three blankets, as it gets really cool at night. This morning Barbara and I woke early and got up, wrapped in thermals and blankets, and sat on our deck to wait for the dawn. At first we enjoyed the stars, then gradually as they vanished the mist shrouded valley became clear, as rosy-fingered dawn stole the sky. Finally the sun rose above the hills, and we were warm 🙂 Soon it became too hot to sit and read in the sun, and I came up to the dining shelter to write this, back up the photos and enjoy a different view.
Beautiful views, nice food and interesting walks for when it gets cooler in the afternoon make this a great place for R & R. Did I say, our room
with ensuite and stupendous views is just 500Baht (NZ$25) per night.