Temples and Tribes

Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
Trip End Oct 06, 2013

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Where I stayed
Jansom House

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Due to a somewhat freakish accident whereby DH threw her shoulder out patting herself on the back after receiving oodles of compliments on her writing style, I've taken the pen back temporarily to document our Chiang Rai stay.

We took our first Thai bus to make the journey from Chiang Mai and it outstripped our recent air travel- we even had the bus version of a stewardess feeding us crackers and drinks as we sped along (although after barking out instructions in a rich baritone voice we were convinced it was a man in womens cloths masqurading as a bus stewardess- men dressing as women is something we've seen quite often in Thailand). For the first couple of nights in Chiang Rai we stayed at the Baan Bua Guesthouse in a very small room with a bathroom that was effectively outside- not outside in a Bali-shower-in-a-romantic-garden sense but OMG-I-finished-building-the-guesthouse-and-forgot-the-bathrooms sense. The bathroom was stuck on the back wall and another wall was built around it- strange but how often do you get to say "it's raining in the bathroom".

Another town in Thailand and... more temples. I can see DH drifting a bit at times but I haven't yet had my fill of these wats/temples; I find each of them somewhat unique and compelling and I get a real charge out of the idea that you can wander through these works of art with very few restrictions other than dress code- most places would be charging admission and constructing souvenir booths. The cake topper in Chiang Rai was something called the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun). This was the personal creation of a well know Thai artist and can best be described as bizzare- with hands reaching for you as you crossed the bridge (some holding skulls), to the 'no smoking' alter, to the statue of the creature from the Alien movie, to murals which included the twin towers, this temple seemed to dramatically defy the conventions of most other Buddist and Hindu temples, and yet still have a serious presense about it (did I mention the magnificent gold building adjacent to the temple which was called the Golden Toilet, and was, in fact, the public toilet facility). Very strange place and well worth the tuk-tuk trip up to see it.

The big reason we made the stop in Chiang Rai was to try for a more authentic experience with some of the hill tribes of northern Thailand- given the ongoing invasion of tourists Thailand experiences, 'authentic' isn't going to happen but we thought if we trekked in we might get a little of what we were looking for. To that end we booked a 3 day trekking adventure with a guide who was going to take us to a series of Lahu, Yao, Karen, and Akha villages. The trek itself wasn't going to be that much of a challenge but it was going to be nice to get some sense of the history and lifestyles of these different groups. Our guide spoke both English and French but called in sick on the day of the trek (I didn't know guides could do that) and a substitute, English speaking, was quickly arranged. Within minutes of meeting our new guide it was obvious that he had invented a version of English that was spoken and understood by a population of one (himself). Neither of us speak Thai so I have to admire anyone who accomodates us by trying to speak to us in our native tongue and if we have to work hard at understanding these efforts then so be it. But our new friend was way beyond hard work- his word for 'meat' sounded like 'pop', and it took us about 5 minutes to get that. However, he would speak with such conviction and volume and, given that I couldn't understand a word he said, I was questioning my own abilities in the English language. We did make it through the first day largely through hand signals and a whole lot of silence. The trek took us along jungle trails with more than my fill of low hanging bamboo (somebody had obviously gone through with a machette and cut the bamboo to the height of an average Thai which had both DH and myself crawling along at times). It was a bit of a downer to stumble across our first isolated hill tribe village only to see that the only other access to the village was a paved road that led back to Chiang Rai. After a pretty good meal cooked up by our earnest guide (he told us what it was in very loud 'English' but...) we did bunk down in a hut that was all ours- it was further up the hill with a million dollar view of the village and valley below. Unfortunately none of those millions were spent on a bed/mattress/pad so there wasn't a lot of sleep happening under the thin blankets on a cement floor- I lost complete feeling in body parts I didn't even know I had.

The next day started out with more of the same- the villages did hold some interest but we couldn't get any history or background from our language-challenged guide and after our morning hike took us back where we had started (the next day was going to be another loop through a number of additional villages), we decided to call off the trek and head back to Chiang Rai. We've had a lot of good luck in other countries with previous treks with great guides so I suppose we were due for a bit of a stinker. We'll try again in Laos and Vietnam.

Even though we hadn't really earned it, DH thought it was time we paid a visit to one of the many Thai massage establishments for an introductory foot massge. She was insistant to the point of painful that we do this as a couple (I think she's feeling some guilt over the many thousands she has spent on her peeps over the years so she wants to drag me into this as well). As with most things Thai, massages of all types are very inexpensive so we booked a couple of foot specialists for 30 minutes at about $5. My tiny Thai had forearms of steel and used her little vice grip hands to start twisting, pulling, and pressing my virgin feet in ways that really discouraged a return visit (what was that stick thing she was using to create pain?). DH seemed to be getting similar treatment but was having a great time- must be an aquired taste.
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Ella Font on

Có một thời gian tuyệt vời tại Lào.
Hãy rất nhiều hình ảnh, nhưng bỏ qua dế rang.
Tìm cho tôi một ly bia.

Love Always :-)

Elaine & Doug on

We sent you a response to your email in our Hotmail account. There's a great juxtaposition regarding the pics in your blog. Vic standing around like one of those overloaded draft animals that you often see in Asia and the Far East, and the sweet, unencumbered Deb lounging around and taking in the exotic vista before her. Deb you've obviously got him well trained. You go girl!

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