Laid Back Up North

Posted on October 6, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

So we sit here in an Internet cafe, quietly catching up with the
world. It’s late Sunday evening in Luang Prabang,
the old Lao capital and we’ve just completed a two day traversal of
the Mekong from the border with Thailand at Chiang Kong/Huay Xai,
whence Rachel sent her last update.

But before we go over that (and update the picture stream, natch), a
quick word about Chiang Rai. The
town is usually used as a staging post for tourists heading up to the
Golden Triangle – the area of borders between Myanmar (Burma),
Thailand and Laos. However, being laid back, reasonably poor and
having organised nothing in advance, we didn’t do any of that
traditional tourist muck. Not for us the tours of the opium museum, oh
no.

Instead, we spent every night in the night market in the center of
town. We arrived on a Tuesday and left on a Friday, but there were
traditional Thai dances on display every night (see Rachel’s post
below), along with some good examples of hilltribe products and a good
restaurant.

The second day we explored the town a bit and found our way to Wat
Phra Kaew – one of the previous homes of the Emerald Buddha (which we
saw in Bangkok). The outstanding feature of this Wat is the new museum
– opened in 2007, and filled with buddhist artifacts from the region,
as well as short histories about famous monks. Even the building
itself is beautiful, constructed from local teak:

The other interesting thing we found around town was the Hilltribe
museum. It has been set up by the same people that run the Cabbages &
Condoms restaurants in Thailand – in fact there is a C&C outlet
underneath the museum. By eating at the one in Chiang Rai, you’re not
only supporting the availability of prophylactics to the people of
Thailand, but you also get a free ticket to the museum upstairs.

The museum is thoughtfully laid out, has a good history of the people
from the different Hilltribes (who don’t actually have a nationality
as such – Thailand doesn’t grant them citizenship, neither does
Myanmar nor (depending on how far into the country you are) does Laos.
The opium trade has a long history through here, and the recent
tourist trade hasn’t done many of the tribes any favours. Most tours
that are run through the tribal villages don’t benefit the tribes at
all, and many tourists will unknowingly buy the only tribal costume
that the villagers own, and so the culture of the region is slowly
being torn away by collectors.

If you’re in the area, I’d recommend visiting the place. They also run
tours from there that are organised by the villagers (there is another
company that does a similar thing in Chiang Rai, but as far as we
could tell, only the two places actually benefit the tribes.

The third day we chilled out, and then on the fourth morning we caught
a bus overland to Chiang Khong – the border with Laos. It was a local
bus, stopped everywhere (including picking up and dropping off
addressed packages for people, and was generally great fun.

So – that (after a quick tuk tuk ride and border crossing) was our
Thailand journey done.

Phew – don’t forget to check out our Flickr photos for more details of
Chiang Rai. Our upspeed connection is a bit slow at the moment, so
bare with us as we add more pictures to it.

‘laters,

James

Posted via email from dreadpiratesarcas

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