Our trekking guide Mr Wee was actually great, and we had a fun group. He made sure we took a break to frolic in the poppy field like Dorothy! This is the climate to grow poppies--very sunny, not too hot but not too cold. The hilltribes have been doing it for hundreds of years, but only since the CIA got involved has it taken over their lives to the extent that it has. I've heard horror stories of enforced labor...
We stayed the first night with a sweet family in a Hmong village. The next day we hiked, which was nice since we were at a high altitude, so it was a good 10 degrees cooler than the usual Southeast Asian sauna.
Riding on elephants' necks is not really comfortable because of their shoulder blades, and it gets really hot when the elephant pins your legs back with its ears. The second village we stayed at was of the Karen ethnic group and happened to be a dry, depressing place. There wasn't a spot of color anywhere in the town except in their traditional clothing, which is bright red and purple, and still worn by some of the women. But a popular look was the rugby shirt with sarong (traditional wrap skirt). For the last leg of the trip we rode bamboo rafts down the Mekong River. It's actually pretty cool how they fast they can whip together a floatable raft.