Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Chaing Rai : A Retrospective.

Well.  Chaing Rai is a rather pleasant wee city to spend time.  A pocket guide to Thailand cites it as a place best to base yourself to take trips out an about.  The Middle weekend of our time teaching the School headmaster donned his tour guide persona (literally, he used to moonlight as a tour guide...) and we all bundled into the back of his car to see what we could see.  He took us to what he calls the 'Black Temple'.  It's not actually a temple, though it is built to look like one.  It is an art gallery and meeting space built by eccentric artist Thawan Duchanee Aside from the temple, which does actually feel like an evil wizards castle, there are an assortment of meeting houses and guest rooms decorated with dark wood and animal skins/skulls.  Its a bit like an evil wizards commune, really.

After that we went up to Doi Tung gardens.  Its a sustainability project initiated by the monarchy to get folks growing something that isn't opium.  That being illegal and all.  There is a beautiful garden there now, and they grow lots of coffee.  One of their major suppliers is Thai Airlines.  Good economy points. 

We spent the afternoon at the Golden Triangle.  Golden because of its past days of lucrative opium sales (as we learned at the opium museum) and triangle because it is where the boundaries of Laos, Burma and Thailand meet.  They have a number of enormous Buddha and elephant statues on the Thai side and on the Burma/Laos side there are huge casinos.  Cause Gambling is illegal in Thailand (apart from the lottery) so people drive up to the border, get a boat across for a few hours, gamble to their hearts content then boat/drive home again.

We had a wee drive through the ancient city (which is now quite a modern city with a fair few ruins in it) of Chiang Saen and Mae Sai, were I don't think you really go much unless you are doing a border run to extend your visa or looking for fake versions of expensive sunglasses.

The next day we went looking for some hill tribes.  Now hill tribes don't always wear their traditional dress any more (and why should they)  But they live in bamboo huts in the hills, speak their own dialect and see to mostly be Christian.  We ended up in one that has a home stay program with the tourist bored of Thailand, where a lady in traditional garb and a kid strapped to her back brought us into her house for tea in a bamboo cup and a banana before whipping out her handicrafts to sell.  Naturally.

Spent most of the time in Chiang Rai after that just chilling.  Temples and Markets.  And a Reggie bar.  Good times.

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