The Golden Triangle Area

Trip Start Dec 09, 2005
Trip End Jan 08, 2006

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Meri and I decided that we celebrate chirstmas in Chiang Rai.

We embarked early in the morning from Tha Ton to Chiang Rai by boat on the Mae Nam Kok river. We decided that we wanted to be in the front of the boat so that we could get the best pictures. But it turned out that the ride was a wet and chilly one. Water splashed as the boat cut through. The boat was a low and flat with a sharp front nose kind.

Not to mention that early morning in the high mountains is the tempature is between 10 c to 15 c pretty cool when just standing still. We tried to keep warm with our silk travel sheets used for bedding in cheap inns or village homes. However despite of cold and wet, we had an enjoyable sight along the river. We saw some low land tribes, Mostly Red or Black Karen Tribes, fetching for water from the river. I hope not for drinking. Laundry would be alight if they don't dump the soapy water back into the river. We also saw some Lisu tribes, they were sitting and waving at us as we passed. Guess they were on break. We were expecting to find some long neck Karens but there weren't any when we passed. There were also no Ahka tribes because they are a highland kind of tribes. They lived on Mountian tops. On our last stop before Chiang Rai, We stopped at an elephant camp. (photos were shown in Dec 19 photo album.

Anyway, Chiang Rai, proved to be busy little city with more people than in Pai, Mae Salong or Tha Ton. There were more international chain restaurants and stores in the city. Some American and some Japanese too. The history of Chiang Rai is very interesting. It used to be a trading base for Opium lords. I could find many antique pipes and weights used for measuring opium 2g, 5g, 8g, 10g, The weights were elaborated. Some of them were shaped into animals, others were into little buddahs. I bought a 5g rabbit weight, my Chinese zodiac symbol.

While in Chiang Rai, Meri and I stayed at a guest house for 2.00 USD. Really very cheap. the building was old but we had a clean room, private bath and hot shower. Finally a really hot shower! We surely missed hot shower.

Chiang Rai is pretty small and easy to travel around. Easy though somewhat dirty and I believe dangerous. There were street kids running around as well as many poor people begging for money. I learned that there were a high number of refugees from Myamnar in Chiang Rai and we had to be careful because we heard that they were professional pocket pickers. They need money and I felt sorry for them.

We finished walking around Chiang Rai in half day. The city was small and was easy to get around by foot. Meri and I decided that we should go to Mae Sai and Chiang Sean to visit the Golden Triangle. We were going to go by bus but we learned that we would need to rush through everything. We decided to hire a driver. Our guest house manager who surprised us that he was Japanese, helped us find a good deal and a very visually articulated driver who appeared as if he knew sign language. I was amazed at how easy it was to understand his gestures. Meri and I asked him if there were any opium flowers. He said that we came too late, meaning there weren't going to be any to see. He also explained that the government does not allow growing Opium flowers but he heard that there were some patches hidden some where in the mountains. Instead he took us to where there was an opium field. The field was turned into an orange and pineapple orchard. Tobacco was also grown.

After seeing the fields, we went to Mae Sai and crossed the border to Thachilieik, Myamnar. First, up on arrival in Mae Sai there were lots of hawkers, merchants and people bawling at each other. Then after we crossed the border by foot to Thachileki we found a very busy open market. We saw that many people from Thai side came into Tachileik to buy souviners, spices and other junk and bring them to Thailand to sell. You should see their trucks. I have a photo.

I was also sad in Thachileik. My heart also broke when I wandered around Thachilik. There were many barefooted street kids puffing whatever was inside the plastic bag they had in their hand. And many people appeared very poor needing some assistance.

Following Mae Sai, We went to Chiang Saen, to have a glimpse of the Golden Triangle. The Mekong River divided Mymnar, Thailand and Laos. The wide river area where the three countries share the water, was point where Opium was traded. There was a museum that described in English the history of the Golden Triangle. For those of you interested in the historical events of the Golden Triangle should visit Chiang Rai, Mae Sai and Chiang Saen.
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