your travelogues are incredible, missy.
they remind me of my trip to thailand and point out to me all the great things i missed.
keep on rockin' in the "kinda" free world.
when you head up into chang mai, you'll be wooed into hill treks to see these tribal people in their native environs. they're really just human zoos. i was grossly (and i do mean GROSS) disappointed... the akha women were hostile to us when we didn't wanna spend money on their crappy trinkets. they would yank their kids away from playing with us (and our sunglasses and water guns) gnashing their betelnut stained teeth. come to find out the government provides them with these souveneirs so they can keep up the show.
our group was kept to one side of the village. when we went walking around we found another group on the same tour. not the deep trip into the hills we had expected. we spent the night in a thatched hut with a group of gassy canuck frat boys. it was cold and the village rooster(s) crowed all night long.
apparently the thai government also compensates the northern tribe that does the neck stretching with gold rings so that they will continue to do that. (personally, i don't see why they'd want to quit. i've always LOVED that look.)
don't mean to put a pin in your balloon or piss on your parade, but these are some of the other realities of travel. it's good to see it all.
however... our second night we did get to spend time in an opium den....