Monday, January 19, 2015

Heading North, Part Two

Much of the drive was through hills with beautiful scenery. As I haven't mastered getting good photos from a moving vehicle, you will just have to imagine it. Lots of greenery. On the drive I saw many trees that I learned to identify in India -- coconut palms, papaya, mango, teak and lots of bananas.

Just another note about the restrooms at the White Temple -- each cubicle (labeled Western or Thai) had a set of plastic slippers outside. Signs requested that we remove our shoes and wear the slippers into the toilet room. As the floor had some water on it, that was probably a good idea.

Next stop:  The Golden Triangle. The Mekong River forms the border between Burma and Thailand on the south and west and Laos on the east. China is not far away upriver. Once again, we had shopping opportunities, a major feature of the day. Part of the tour included a boat ride on the Mekong with a stop in Laos. The guide had gathered our passports. We got a small receipt that proved we had been in Laos, but it was not entered into the passports. Too much trouble to get everyone a new Thai visa on arrival back.

Looking across to Laos, on the far left is Burma

On Thai side, a huge Buddha on a shore-bound boat (restaurant)

No-man's-land island, where opium trading deals were made

Casino on Burma side
We got off the boat in Laos; guess what -- another shopping opportunity. This was an enormous market. One of the specialties was the opportunity to taste special Lao whiskeys -- cobra, tiger penis, gecko and a few more. Dan actually tried the cobra one. Yuk!!

Also for sale -- whiskey with scorpions and other creatures; not tempting

This is only a small portion of the knockoff designer handbags for sale

Our boat at the dock in Laos

The boat was pretty basic -- we had to wear the life jackets

A working barge with men waiting to load (?)

Thai church on the riverside -- it seemed oddly out of place!
Our next stop was in a nearby town for lunch. This was a buffet with many, many tables. I think everyone there was with a tour group. The food was only mediocre, except for the fruit.

Some of the blah food

Dessert area -- lovely fruit. The sticky rice for mango is nearly gone.
We went on into the town of Mae Sai, which is right on the Burmese border. There was a shopping arcade to the side where we could walk and buy Burmese things. Most of it was junky souvenir items from China, but we did find a rather large shop with Burmese antiques.

Border checkpoint

Burmese puppets

Flowers in the road median
We had one last stop at the Karen Long Neck Tribe Village. These people are refugees from Burma. Read more about them here. Although it feels a bit creepy to walk around staring at them, it is good to know that the tourist trade supports them and this group don't need government (or other) aid to survive. The women weave scarves and sell them. The first picture below shows the thatched areas where they work and sell their weaving. The actual homes are behind these areas. There must have been twenty or so shops, all with a woman weaving and displaying scarves for sale. (They also sell machine-made shawls and scarves.)

Dan trying on the coils

Weaver using a home-made swift to wind yarn

Child playing "Frere Jacques" and "Twinkle" on plastic flute while mother weaves

Scarves -- many color combinations, all this loose pattern weave in two colors

Bamboo bridge over gully to enter village

Statues at village exit -- ??!!
All in all, we were glad we did the tour. It was a long day in a cramped van and most of the sights were very catered to the tourist trade. Far too many shopping opportunities (I did buy one of the Karen scarves). For the most part, we like being in Chiang Mai and we don't feel like gawking tourists; we just go about our lives. This foray into tourism was enough for us! And... who buys all those key rings, purses, and other junk?

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