An exhilarating ride by long tail boat was just one of many adventures to be enjoyed as Petra O’Neill discovered

There is magic to a tropical sunset when shades of pink, gold and purple fill the sky and you realise you are in an altogether special place. It was on my first night at Lanjia Lodge, while seated on comfy cushions in the open lounge, that I became transfixed by the brilliance of changing colours as the sun receded behind the Mekong River below.

My day had begun in Chiang Rai, a beautiful small city, where you will find golden temples at every turn.  After visiting the morning market, I was met for the drive to Lanjia Lodge past coffee and tea plantations, rice paddies and lush tropical forests. But where are the other guests? I inquired on arrival. Today only you! After lunch would you care for a guided tour to nearby villages to visit the Sharman? And so it was that I was told by the Sharman or spiritual healer, that my life would be a long one, with the caveat that the reading can change every fifteen days.

Until then, I had not visited a traditional Hmong Village, where neat timber homes are built upon the earth, the men wear black jackets and baggy indigo trousers, the women are adorned with embroidered jackets, their long black hair tied back. I was then shown how to make batik based on traditional decorative patterns. The neighbouring village was Lahu, their homes high up on the hillside. Some women seated together were amused by my hiking shoes.

Hmong woman with batik cloth, Lanjia Lodge

Would you like the village to perform a dance for you tonight? asked the Manager. I suggested we postpone it until tomorrow when several guests were due to arrive. The next morning I woke to enjoy a pot of freshly brewed locally grown organic Arabica coffee, toast, fruit and a banana muffin. With my guides Ton and Sawneng, I visited an organic tea plantation. The Oolong green tea was refreshing.  I then planted a tree and hiked to a waterfall through a forest.

Trekking guide at Lanjia Lodge, Chiang Rai, Thailand

After lunch, much of it from the lodge’s own vegetable garden, I asked what activities I could do for the afternoon. Can I go on a long tail boat ride? The most awesome, best part of my visit to Thailand was slicing through the water towards Chiang Khong, near to the shoreline of Laos. Chiang Khong is a pleasant settlement with internet cafes, shops and guesthouses along the main street.

Mekong boat tour, chiang rai, Thailand

hill tribe women making batik cloth, Chiang Rai, Thailand

On my last night at the lodge, I enjoyed a relaxing traditional Thai massage, another highlight of my stay, and reflected on how special my visit here had been. The next morning as I left, I drove past a village stall selling hill tribe clothing. At that moment, the young girl who had taught me how to make batik recognised me and waved goodbye, her parting smile genuine.

Hmong people with their musical instruments at Lanjia Lodge, Thailand

Lanjia Lodge was carefully constructed to blend in with the natural surroundings, has strategies to minimise waste and energy consumption and uses organic, locally grown fruit and vegetables. Natural ventilation is provided by the gentle breezes from the Mekong and carbon mitigating projects include tree planting.  The lodge has formed partnerships with surrounding villages, providing employment and training opportunities and encourages guests to participate and learn about the culture of the hill tribes to ensure their preservation; a fine example of sustainable community based tourism