Monday, December 14, 2009

On tour: Chiang Rai - Golden Triangle

We had booked the Chiang Rai-Golden Triangle tour from the agent in BKK Domestic. Slightly more expensive than what Uncle Map was offering, but we still got quite a lot out of this one-day adventure. First stop, the White Temple. The design is a fusion of traditional Thai mythology and contemporary pop culture. From a distance, the building is quite impressive -- blindingly white in the daylight. The imagery portrayed in the intricate details are quite head scratching. Visions of hell on the outside, and on the inside the walls are painted with incongruous images of technology and modern pop cultural icons, reminiscent of graffiti art with an Asian influence. And acid. Painting was still being done at this time. Wonder what the finished product will look like.

Visited a "Karen village". Actually more like a village facade where the Karen and other hill tribespeople bring their handicrafts to a tourist-accessible location and display some of the more photogenic aspects of their culture.

We watched some young Karen women weave similar scarves on looms attached to their booths. The scarves were fine and colourful, and we couldn't resist buying a couple at 200B apiece.

A boat ride up the mighty Mekong to take a closer look at the Golden Triangle area. No poppy products to take home as souvenirs, unfortunately. Somehow, the authorities seem to take a dim view of people trafficking in such produce. The place looks to be being developed for tourism in place of illegal agriculture. Sadly, development still seems a long way off yet.

We land on the Laotian border: Done Xao, a little village set up to receive Golden Triangle visitors like us. Lots of little shops selling touristy junk which we can already get from the Thai side. And a handful of little urchins like this one begging for a handout. We quietly gave this one 20B. Five minutes later, this same urchin was still holding out his cup to other tourists with just one hand. In his other hand was a chocolate coated ice-cream from which he was taking bites. Ahh, the simple pleasures of life.

The Burmese border. Only 500B to cross over and look at exactly the same market set-up run by Burmese instead of Thai vendors. We remain on the Thai side because there are lots of bedroom socks and preserved fruit to buy for friends and family; fresh fruit and roasted chestnuts to take back for dinner later.

We didn't really need this stop other than just to break the monotony of the long ride back to CMX. A hot geyser around which has sprung a yet another tourist trap. One last photo op for the day.

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