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TRAVEL WATCH: SEPTEMBER 13, 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 10

Detour

By MORRIS DYE

    ALSO IN TIME
Need to Chill? Head for India's Hill Stations
Heavenly. What better word to describe Darjeeling and Kalimpong, two Himalayan towns with their heads in the clouds?

Short Cuts
Tea may be Darjeeling's main claim to fame, but the hill town also offers much for transport enthusiasts

Web Crawling
Before heading to Darjeeling, be sure to check out the local teagrowers' association online salon

While dozens of Chiang Mai travel agencies hawk trips to "undiscovered" villages in Northern Thailand, all too often these excursions to minority areas result in superficial encounters between foreign tourists and the mountain people. At Lisu Lodge, a simple six-room guesthouse about an hour north of Chiang Mai, residents of a mixed Lisu and Akha community have joined forces with East West Siam, a Bangkok tour operator, to promote a more sensitive approach to cultural tourism. The lodge was built in the heart of their village in 1994 under the guidance of John Davies, an American tour guide and author. He envisioned a traditional structure of wood, bamboo and thatch, where guests could experience a taste of local life without sacrificing private bathrooms, hot showers and flush toilets. By employing villagers in all aspects of running the lodge, Davies and general manager Kaikaew Ju'tuar-ee hope to foster better communication between hosts and guests--and greater long-term economic and social benefits for the village. The rooms are small, clean and comfortable, with electric fans and private bathrooms, while a wide, shady verandah looks onto the surrounding mountains and farmlands. Meals, a blend of Lisu, Thai and Chinese dishes, are served on low tables. Locally produced handicrafts are also available, with no intermediaries taking a cut. Guests are welcome to tour the village and visit private homes in the company of a local guide. As the website at www.lisulodge.com notes, "You will meet them as friends, not as exhibits." East West Siam sells lodge packages with optional mountain biking, river rafting, elephant treks or four-wheel drive tours from $50 a person. For details, send an e-mail message to siamex@mozart.inet.co.th or call 662-256-6153.

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