Chiang Mai, Chiang Rae and the Northern Triangle

To understand where our next Day's journeys took took us, note the portion of the map below which I scanned out of my Thailand guidebook. On Monday, we flew to Chaing Mai, which is near the bottom of the map. Our trip on Tuesday was all the way north to Mai Sai, Burma and Laos. All of this is pictured below.

Our Holiday Inn in Chiang Mai was a bit out of town and we had a 30 minute walk into the city. On the way, I ran into a friendly friend. Later in the week, I was treated to a wagon ride which was pulled by a team of these long horned water buffaloes.
Chiang Mai is an old walled city that used to be the capital of the country when it was called Siam. Much of the wall is still in tact and it forms a square. This is one of the corners of the square.
But now, the city is a busy, noisy, polluted city smaller but similar to Bangkok. We wanted to investigate the silk industry and were told to go to the silk factory which was located just out of town -- beyond the walls. To get there, were were told to hire a tuk-tuk. This is a motor tricycle which seats two in the back. This is a picture taken down the road from the back of the crazy thing. Too bad I couldn't record the sound.
Upper, left is Fred investigating the little cocoon the silkworm spins from which a single thread is pulled. This seems a pretty low-tech process to me. Above, is a loom on which silk cloth is woven. And to the left, Fred contemplates a purchase of silk cloth for a dress Helen wants to make. She gave him the pattern. Below, we found a night market, which started right near a McDonalds that seemed to be open all the time. I thought the stuff was pretty redundant. After you saw 5 booths, you saw the whole lot which was repeated over and over.
The next day, we left for a very long drive to many points north. Our first stop was a very old temple which was many hundreds of years old and no longer used. The low flat building below was connected to a the spire to to the right. Even though the complex was clearly not used for worship, the building above could not be entered without taking off our shoes.

Then we went on a four hour drive north to the river that separates Laos and Thailand. We got to the river near the its lower bend (see map left) and boarded two boats. Our boat ride took us up river and first to the little island that you see just north of the bend. That island is part of Laos and it was our first out-of-country stop that day.
Fred's boat above had a a very nice gentleman from Singapore next to a lovely lady from Israel in the front, and our tour guide next to him.
I was in the front of the boat and behind me were two very nice girls from Japan and a couple from Belfast that you cannot see in this picture.

Our guide told us that Laos is just behind those cliffs.

Sure enough, there it was.

Of course, we had to pay to enter the place.

It was very peaceful, quiet, and had clean bathrooms -- no squat toilets!

I went to a little shop to buy some Laos beer -- I even managed to scan the can I brought home without smashing it flat. Isn't technology great?

The Golden Triangle is the region of river right at the intersection of the three countries, Thailand, Laos and Burma, (which seems to be spelled Myanmar locally.) The picture to the right is taken from the boat and that little triangle shaped island is Burma.You can see all these places on the photograph of the map above.
The picture above shows Thailand from the boat at the Golden Triangle.

We had a very nice, pleasant lunch here. This whole tour lasted from 7:30 A.M. until after 9 P.M. and only cost us about $37 apiece. It included a splendid lunch and the company was really great. I've introduced you to most of these persons in previous pictures. The couple just to the left of Fred were from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Once when boarding a boat, he said, "Thank you for President Clinton. He started the peace in our homeland."

We visited a factory that made jade products. The rock below is worth over a million Baht and is solid jade. (One Baht is 2.5 cents!) The factory has many industrious workers finishing and crafting jade articles. The tiny elephants are being ground and polished. I think one of you looking at this picture page has benefited from my shopping at this impressive place.

We finally got to the most northern point of Thailand. The tour guide at the Holiday Inn said we would be able to walk into Burma, and although the guide thought we probably wouldn't have enough time, several of us were pretty persuasive. This is Mai Sai right at the Burma border.
We had to go through all the complicated steps of immigration, passports and such. After the tour guide saw how much trouble it would be, he momentarily changed his mind and tried to call us back. TOO LATE. Fred and the Chinese ladies were already through. Below, see Fred, just before he entered the Union of Myanmar.

I must add that it was Ken Wunderlich from St. Louis who was responsible for our Burma visit. In several of his letters to me, he mistakenly referred to my "Burma trip". I figured it was only proper to go there to satisfy my brother's secret wish.

Our last stop of the day was to two primitive villages. These are populated by tribes that have not diverted from their primitive ways. Right is a typical kitchen area in one of the village homes. These people did carry out a pretty profitable trade in ginger, as you can see below. (Ginger is the pile of produce, not the pretty lady from Northern Ireland.)
Our next village was populated by a very specific Thailand tribe that has some very noticeable tribal customs. The picture below shows the entrance to the village which consists of some very specific tribal objects, like the cross-like figure at the front of the display. The figures to the left of the sign is some sort of fertility figure.
Below is an enlargement of the two figures. They represent a man and a woman and if you looked carefully, you would see crude sexual body parts on the wooden figures.
Left is typical village street with the ramshackle houses. Occasionally we saw a motorcycle parked in front of a house and we saw at least one villager coming home on a cycle. The guide said that many of the youth leave the village and get menial jobs in the cities and town but their meager education didn't prepare them for a proper life in the real world.

Below, see the tiny village market. The tiny villagers still pestered us to buy their wares.

The next episode; Elephants, Oxcarts and Bamboo rafting is next.

Table of Contents