Golden triangle: long boats, long neck, long day

Trip Start Apr 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
A minibus

Flag of Thailand  ,
Thursday, August 5, 2010

After deciding to stay in Thailand for a little longer before heading to Laos, we were informed that going o the immigration office here would cost us the same amount as taking a day trip to the Myanmar border, where we'd get to see some sights or our buck, so we opted for that. We got up super early and boarded our minibus at 7:30. Planning ahead we wore our bathingsuits, since we knew our first stop was at some natural hotsprings. Once we arrived however, we discovered our bathingsuits were no necessary. The "hot springs" consisted of a geyser of egg smelling water shooting out of the ground, surrounded by shops, with a few small concrete basins to soak your feet in. I considered just stripping down and trying to fit my entire self in one of these little pools, but I didn't want to attract any unwanted attention. So we just soaked our feet for a little and returned to the bus.

The second stop on our day of fun was at a Hindu and Buddhist temple (yes, both), Wat Rong Khun designed and funded by a millionaire genius slash madman, depending on who you were talking to. The temple is designed in white color with some use of white glass. The white color stands for Lord Buddha's purity; the white glass stands for Lord Buddha's wisdom that "shines brightly all over the Earth and the Universe.". And it was freaking bright. Caitlin and I could barely open our eyes to look at it, and after about thirty minutes we both had headaches (they were definitely not a result of the Chang we had had the night before). The temple had some amazing and imaginative sculptures, including a pool of hands reaching up at you like something out of a Salvador Dali painting while you cross the bridge toward the temple. Inside the temple was a giant painting of Buddha on one wall, while on the wall directly behind you was a giant planet with characters whirling around it, including spiderman, superman, and I'm pretty sure I saw skeletor. Definitely not something I would have thought I'd find in a temple, but it was definitely one of a kind.

We got back in the minibus and headed to the golden triangle where the mekong river is bordered by Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. There we took a longboat out into the river and went into a small Laotian trade village with items like local whiskey infused with scorpions and snakes and many other delicious things you'd want in your manhattan, as well as leather bags and local crafts, ooh, and opium pipes. He golden triangle was known for it's growth of opium poppies, but as of late they are no more (allegedly). While lost among the tents of goods, I used the family whistle to try and find Caitlin, a whistle that has proved flawless throughout our travels. To my amusement and dismay, the local boys in the market thought it was cute to mimick the whistle, and continued to do so until we got back to the boat. Everytime we hear it we turn around and think the other is looking for us, but when seven or eight little Lao boys are running around doIng the same whistle, it gets a little confusing. Adorable, but confusing. It was a fun game.

We got back in the minbus after our boat ride commenced and once again found ourselves in Thailand running for the border, only this time we were perfectly legal, had a guide, and it was no stress at all. Twenty minutes later we had fifteen more legal Thailand days stamped in our passport.

Then onto the next part of our day of fun, visiting the local hill tribes, the Paduang, a subgroup of the Karen people, best known for their gold neck rings. It was interesting to see their crafts, as well as how young they start wearing the rings. We got to Hold the first rings they start with, they are about as heavy as a bag of apples, as Caitlin liked to describe them. And that's just what they begin with. The older women their had their necks stretched up longer than a foot. They stretched their knees as well, and most of the women were sitting down. When they were up and walking it was at a very slow pace, it was incredible though. Suh an interesting concept of beauty. The sad part was that most of the neck stretching tradition had started to die out for practical and medical reasons, since they can survive without the rigs once they're stretched, but began to pick up again once they discovered the income brought from tourism, which we contributed to. Can't do everything right.

Then we had another three hour ride back to Chiang Mai, with a quickstop at a 7/11 for a delicious Thai cup o noodle, way better than any cup-o-noodle we've ever had at home. Then it was bedtime, while visions of the delicious Thai meals we would make the next day danced in our heads.
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