Day 8/72: Day trip to Chaing RaiNovember 4 in Thailand
We woke up bright and early this morning to have a long day out to Chaing Rai and the Golden Triangle. We were downstairs at 0700 waiting for the transport and after forgetting shoes and passports, we hopped onto the minivan with 10 other people for the day. Our guide was called Moon and she was very informative and told us what the day would entail. We were to head up North, stopping at interesting points along the way until we reached the Golden triangle and then head all the way back to Chaing Mai.
Stop 1: Chiang Rai hot water springs
After a hour or so we came to a small village across the main road that was literally steaming. Here, hot water springs come through the earth into pools and spout up in great boiling fountains. Locals boil eggs in the hot pools so the air is pungent with the smell, however further up we escaped it. Up here, there were smaller less violent pools where you could sit and dip your feet. These were about the same temperature as when you run a bath too hot but after a few of dips of the toes can leave your foot in there.
Stop 2: White Temple
The white temple was a spectacle to behold. A huge, pure white and mirrored building, it's a modern take on Buddhism. Outside, you cross a walkway over "hell" and pass by two gate guardians, fiercely fighting off the demons from hell. You then cross over a long bridge and walk up the steps into the temple. Inside, the wall is painted from the entrance to the Buddha at back, as a scene moving from this world to the next. "This world" was almost depicted as hell, with weapons, scenes from wars, and terrorist figures amongst the many demons and dark drawings. Among these, cartoon characters and superheros are painted, showing that even with these fictitious hero's amongst us, nothing can save us from this horror world like the Buddha. Along the walls, the hell world flows into an idyllic garden with Thai people on boats sailing towards a huge Buddha. You can only move through the temple in one direction as to turn back is to go through hell again, so we came out the other side in awe of what was being built. The site is only 25 years into its 75 year construction but this main temple is fantastic.
We then came across a beautiful huge golden building, almost as stunning as the white temple with mirrors and jewels shining in the sun. This was the toilet. This is another Buddhist lesson: on the outside you can be beautiful but on the inside you're still just a toilet.
Stop 3: Blue Temple
The blue temple was constructed by a monk who used to pray at the white temple, but didn't like the commute so decided to renovate the temple in his home town instead. He brought in the architects who designed the White Temple and the Black House (next) and the result was probably our favorite experience of the day. It was very blue, with huge open windows and doors where light could flow into the dark blue interior and shine off the gold inside. We also had some of the best and cheapest ice cream we've ever tasted. Fresh coconut icecream where a large tub cost 50p, the whole experience was great!
Stop 4: The Black House
This was an interesting one. The Black House is an area of land with lots of beautiful, black wooden buildings in the grounds. Owned by an old artist who passed away maybe 2 years ago, it's essentially his collection of things. The things he loved were wood and animal bones, skins and hair. It was very, very strange. The area was idyllic with grasses and trees, and dotted amongst them were huge black wooden buildings filled with complete crocodile skins, animal horns, tusks, skulls. Some buildings were dedicated to animals, a huge room filled with shells, sharks Jaws and fish skeletons. Or others with hundreds of chairs and beds made with wood, animals horns and skins. We didn't warm to the place, or the man: his two passions in life seemed to be dead animals, and phallic symbols. It was a complete contrast to any other temple like place we'd been to though, really worth doing.
Stop 5: Long Neck Village
Next stop was the long neck village, a small tribe of people where the women wear rings on their necks to 1) traditionally protect them from tigers and 2) make their necks seem longer, as the longer the neck the more beautiful they supposedly are. They start with rings at the age of 5 and add 3 every 3 years until they are around 45. It ends up being about 5-10kg on their shoulders, 24/7 for most of their lives. It was a strange feeling, going into this village and seeing their lifestyle. Lots of people were taking photos but we couldn't bring ourselves to take any as some of the other people on our tour made it felt like we were on a zoo field trip. We ended up talking to a girl and her baby sister who had a puppy and bought a scarf she had weaved. It was an incredibly peaceful village and an amazing experience, but having paid to go there and walking along the streets of their homes felt very intrusive.
The final stop was the Golden Triangle. This is a section of river that separates Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. It is named the golden triangle because of the opium trade; 1kg of opium used to be traded for 1kg of gold. We hopped on a boat and they took us up and down the river, showing us an island that used to be a site for black market trade of opium. It was an area of no man's land so no laws applied and no one could be stopped for doing anything. We then pulled up in Laos, got off and explored the market. They showed us some whisky which apparently was a greeting drink, but floating in the glass jars were a snake, a turtle and a lizard. All very bizzare! It was great to go to Laos though as we can add another country to our list of places visited. After the golden triangle, we headed all the way back to Chiang Mai, the van driver hitting the apex of the mountain roads in the darkness with an air of "company van, let's have fun". All in all, a great day out!Read more