Day 8: Karen Longneck Tribe, Chiang Rai, White Temple, Laos, Golden Triangle, and probably a lot more that I'm forgetting!


This morning started out with breakfast at the hotel then a pick up at my hotel to head out on an all day adventure to the northern part of Thailand (to include Myanmar/Burma and Laos). 

On the ride to the first stop (a hot spring), Natty, the tour guide was super informative about Thailand, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and all of the sites we would see. I learned something interesting about Buddhism that I didn't know, there are 5 rules: 1. No lying 2. No stealing 3. No cheating (one husband one wife, she didn't say anything about same sex marriage and I do wonder the Buddhist stance on this, I mean I would like to think they would be in support as long as no one is cheating (same as man/woman relationships) 4. No alcohol and 5. No killing (this one seemed obvious to me until she clarified that it meant no killing ANYTHING! No mosquito.). Committing just one of those things just one time will send you to hell. So, with that (and the thirty thousand Mosquitos I killed in the last few days, I say, see you in hell. I still like Buddhism best out of any organized religion, it just seems more accepting, more peaceful, and more about being a good person. 

Here is some more knowledge that I gained on the way to see the sites. The golden triangle is an area where you can draw lines from Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos to make up a triangle. Within that (in the Mekong River) is a small island, "no mans land" that used to be off limits to foreigners because it was very dangerous, no rule, gangsters, heavy drug trade. It's still very heavy in drug trade (opium) but not dangerous/violent (just happy drug dealers!). It's called the golden triangle because the three countries had different currency so to buy opium they would use actual gold to make it unified, 1kg of opium= 1 kg of gold. Thus the golden triangle. 
The white temple is privately owned (the man is an artist). He built it with his own money because he didn't want other to tell him what to do (I like this guy). He started it 18 years ago and says it won't be finished in his lifetime. His vision is for it to be a world heritage site like Ankor Wat in Cambodia. 
Chiang Rai was the first city of Thailand. It's quite small and people migrated to what is now Chiang Mai (new city) because Chiang Rai was so closed to Myanmar and there was too much fighting. 
Chiang Mai is specially bigger than Bangkok but only has a little over a million population. 
In Laos you can buy/drink whiskey with various animals and animal parts in it. Whiskey with snake (come on I live in Okinawa, you have to do better!), whiskey with tigers penis (it's said if you want to be a tiger you must drink this), and whiskey with gecko (I don't know the purpose of this)
The Burmese, Laos, and Thai people believe that the Mekong River is home to a mythical creature (like a dragon) names Naga. There is a festival after the rainy season and a ball of fire/light comes up from the bottom of the river to the sky. There is no explanation for it but the people believe it's Naga's offering to Buddha. 

Just as you cross over the border into Chiang Rai you reach the hot spring. A total tourist stop with tons of shops, lots of places to put your feet in the hot spring, and probably the nastiest toilets yet (I literally gagged the entire time I was trying to rapidly pee). We only had about 20 minutes here and I would have liked more time because I was haggling a last for a 24k Thai gold chain and had her down to 600 baht but ran out of time and didn't want to just rush to purchase something without having a chance to see other chain options. Thai gold is a way higher quality so I've been eyeing the chains (despite my lack of interest or care for yellow gold typically)

Back in the van for an hour and a half to the white temple. 

The white temple is this completely ridiculous looking spectacle! I can't even describe it properly or effectively so perhaps a picture will help. 

The bathrooms are in this building houses in gold. There is a purpose though. The owner was glorifying the fact that something can be gorgeous on the outside yet still just be a toilet inside, same with humans, the outside appearance doesn't always reflect the inside. Someone can be beautiful on he outside and a train wreck on the inside. 

This is the building housing the toilets...

And this is the entrance as you walk up to the toilets. When you enter a stall it's just a plain white toilet. 

From there we drove for a bit (to near the boat departure for the golden triangle and Laos) and had lunch at a restaurant that serves a buffet of traditional Burmese and Thai foods. 

Shortly after it was on a rickety old boat (I was glad didn't capsize) boating through the golden triangle and eventually to Laos. We were able to see the 3 countries (Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos) as well as the point on the Mekong River that would take you to China (in 200km). Upon landing in Laos there were all kinds of vendors including the whiskey sampling (with various animals and parts). Despite not liking alcohol or really wanting to consume those animals/parts, I did suck it up and try the ginseng whiskey (for women and youthful beauty) as well as the tigers penis whiskey (to turn you into a tiger, who doesn't want that?!) Laos was hot. Like disgusting hot. I was happy to get on the boat to leave. Unfortunately the short time and only limited section that we were able to see wasn't quite the Laos experience I was hoping for. Guess I'll have to go back!

Back in the van to drive to the northern most point in Thailand, Maesai, where there is a land entry point to Myanmar. Unfortunately we didn't have time to get the visa to cross but we were able to see the border crossing and the "other side of the tracks" so to speak!

When we excited the van the temp on the border crossing read 32.2 degrees Celsius. I think I've sweat out the equivalent of a small child. 

It is disturbing the amount of ivory that is for sale in Thailand (it was in Laos too). For a country that claims such high respect for elephants as they are sacred creatures, they sure do sell a lot of tusks. Whenever I saw a shop with ivory products or the big tusks displayed I would walk past quickly. I absolutely can't support that. And maybe I already have unknowingly but I can't let my money go to support such a cruel practice toward an animal that is truly breathtaking (and smart and funny)!

Back in the van to head to the Karen village (I've been to the Karen village before but not the Longneck Karen's) I'm very excited about this part and anxious to see a new culture, and some interesting body modification norms. 

The Karen tribe migrated from Myanmar due to conflict and tribe fighting. Some of them are legal and some are illegal. Many have become Thai citizens but the process is lengthy tracing their roots as they have no documentation and Thailand needs confirmation that they entered the county legally before granting citizenship. 

Women wear the brass collar (now it's a choice for families to decide if they want their daughters to wear it (they start at age 5))
The collar is only taken off one time per year and that is for cleaning. When it is removed they are X-rayed and it was shown that heir neck isn't elongated but their shoulders dropped making the illusion of a long neck. The brass collar is insanely heavy. I was able to hold one and was shocked. 

When a family does choose to have their daughter wear a collar, the size is increased every couple of years depending on the person. 

After the Karen Village it was back in the van to head to the hotel (3 and a half hour drive!) it will be a late night getting in and I have an early flight to Phuket in the morning.

Have I mentioned how exhausted I am? I have jam packed so much into this trip but haven't actually just relaxed! So much to see, so little time to do it all in!

Trip Details:

Excursion: It was hosted by Journey Tours, but I booked through Travel Hub. They have tons of tours all over Asia and I found their pricing to be the best for what I wanted.


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