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Solo female first-timer: Thailand

I am a young woman traveling solo to Thailand for two weeks in January 2016, and am seeking advice on three things:

1. Suggested place to stay in Railay OR other recommended beach for solo female? Within the limited lodging options in Railay, reviews are mixed regarding safety of walking back to Railay Garden View bungalows in East Railay at night (best value relative to location I've researched so far). Ideally I'd like something a bit nicer than a sparse backpacker futon, but would like to keep costs less than $50/night if possible. If Railay isn't recommended, any other advice for a more natural/peaceful place (not party central but still safe/not desolate)? I've heard Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, Ko Samui are touristy/crowded/not as nice these days.

2. Advice on a private tour guide (university student?) or reputable tour company in Chiang Mai. I'm not a "tour" person, but understand this is a good way to see things here; the more in-depth, off-the-beaten-path, genuine the better. I'd love to go bamboo rafting, biking in rice paddies, trekking, visit hill tribe villages and cook dinner/stay overnight with a family if possible and truly helpful to the family's livelihood. I'd prefer to go with other strangers in a group, since it seems strange to be adventuring alone with a (potentially male) tour guide; but as of yet, haven't found a pre-arranged tour that does all of these things together! And if it's custom, I understand I would be going alone with the guide.

3. I would love to bathe/feed elephants but only if it is truly harmless/humane. Elephant Nature Center seems kind, but also seems rather superficial/less interactive than I'd like. Chai Lai Orchid tours seem to be what I'm looking for, but are more expensive. Advice welcome!

Thank you VERY much for your help!

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