This is a story about an extraordinary dog, whose profession happens to be a tour guide in Chiang Dao, Northern Thailand. Her name is Son, a small gold hair dog who resides at Malee’s Nature lodge.
After an early breakfast at Malee’s, I decided to go on a leisurely nature hike with the amiable middle-aged German couple that I had met at the lodge. As we left, we noticed that we had an unexpected companion for our hike - it was Son, the cute gold hair mutt whose status as alpha dog at Malee’s had been usurped by a young Lhasa Apso by the name of Jennie. Son assertively took the lead, and led us up the narrow paved road for about 400 meters before she exited onto the nature trail just off the side of the highway. Smart dog! Khun Malee briefed the German couple about the trail – it was about 5KM long and ended up at the Chiang Dao Cave, a popular tourist attraction in the area. Son stayed in the lead, always wagging her tail, from time to time stopping and looking over her shoulder to make sure that we were following her. It was quite obvious that Son was intimately familiar with this trail; we surmised that she had escorted many visitors at Malee’s on such excursions. The trail wasn’t well marked and there were several secondary trails that forked from the main trail. About an hour into the hike, Son took a detour that meandered up a steep wooded slope and we followed. After about 10 minutes of hiking up this secondary trail, the German couple and I determined that Son had inadvertently chosen the wrong path and we decided to return to the main trail. We speculated that Son had taken birdwatchers on this side route before. Upon reaching the main trail, Son assumed the lead again and expertly guided us to the caves.
The German couple, having taken an excursion of the caves the day before, decided to return to Malee’s. Bidding adieu to them and Son, I continued on the tour of the Caves. After completing the tour about an hour later, I was greeted by a friendly face and a familiar wagging tail - sitting patiently near the entrance of the caves was Son, who unbeknownst to me, had waited for me to return. What a wonderful dog! To reward my tour guide for an excellent job, I bought her a skewer of meatballs, which she graciously accepted and devoured. After finishing her snack, Son and I walked back along the paved road to Malee’s about 2KM away. This has to rank as one of my most memorable travel experiences.
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