“Bloody tuk tuk drivers” I muttered under my breath as I trudged through Chiang Rai determined yet again to make my own way and not be conned out of a few pence by the local tuk tuk mafia (regular readers may realise by now I am not too keen on them). A guy passing on a bicycle stops and asks where I am from and where I am going. Hes Canadian or Australian or something I cannot remember which. We get chatting and strangely enough he know the guys whos guest house I have just come from in Chiang Khong on the Thai/Lao border. Alan the owner is also holder of the world record for cycling around the world. Top bloke he seemed to me and we did sink a few beers together.
“He’ll stab ye in the eye” He said
“You mean back?”
Did that mean he was an up front guy or what. I never did understand. We chat for a while and he shows me to a cheap guest house and promises to pop down sometime and share a beer. He never turned up. Maybe he was busy stabbing someone in the eye or did that mean what he had stabbed me in the eye by not turning up. Who knows anyway that’s it I was in Chiang Rai. An unassuming town I thought with not a lot to do but it was near the golden triangle a point where Lao, Thailand and Myanmar all meet and a major place for drug smuggling in the bad old days or good if you were a 50’s hippy.
This I thought was worth exploring so I booked a full day trip touring the area. The tour included the white temple, a long neck village, and the black house as well. The golden triangle encompases the confluence of the Ruak river and the Mekong but now the tourist board has hijacked it to refer to the tripoint border of Lao, Thialand and Myanmar. You can stand at one point with this huge Buddha behind you and see Lao to your right and Myanmar to your left. If you look closely you can see Buddhas in each country all looking towards the border. God knows what he/she must of thought of it (pun intended). Nearby is a the opium museum. Worth a look but to me it just seems such a strange thing to have a museum for.
The White Temple is a blindingly lovely place, but also with an eerie side. Look closer and you see what looks like a pool of hands all reaching up out of the ground. One looks like it is flipping the bird and some wag has decided to paint the fingernail red. There was some damage caused during the earthquake and taking a walk behind the temple (not too sure if the Hobo was supposed to be there) I came across people repairing some of the statues. It involved a lot of detailed work.
The Black house is a strange collection of buildings design by artist Thawan Duchanee with some strange ideas for decor indeed. With dead animals skinned prominent and phallic statues and carvings to be found everywhere. Some stuff I really liked and others I thought WTF. for some reason there were horses just grazing around the property. Not sure if they were part of the plan or just locals exercising their grazing rights. Worth a look though.
Hill tribes and long necked villages. There are several villages all close together that are basically a tourist showcase. My opinion is divided on this but I must say with it being out of season I got chance to chat to many of the villagers and they were charming, charming people. A group put on a dance show just for me. I think they just hang around waiting for a group big enough to come before doing the dance but I got my own with it being out of season. You pass many stalls selling handicrafts and I did back down which I don’t normally do and bought from a couple of them some gifts to take away. From one very pretty girl I bought a bracelet as a gift and when I asked how to put it on she insisted on demonstrating by putting it on me. I’m not normally one for jewelery but I am wearing this as I type. The Long Necked village is basically the same people but with this tradition for wearing rings around there neck stretching the neck to give them the name Long Neck. You will of all seen similar pictures probably from Africa where they have the same custom in some villages but what you may not know is that it started some say by a desire to protect the woman’s neck from attacks by from tigers, some say its so they resemble a dragon, some also say it makes them less attractive and stops them being made slaves by other villages. Also Long Neck is a bit misleading as the necks are not any longer then yours or mine. What the coils do is compress the collar bone and the ribs giving the appearance of a long neck.
Personally I dislike any practice which involves mutilating the body but then again I dislike tattoos, piercings and circumcision for exactly the same reason. Does not mean I am right by any means and as long as the person is a consenting adult then its there choice and no harm done.
Thanks for reading