When I was planning my trip, I knew I wanted to see some of the highlighted points of interest before leaving Thailand. I signed up for a 3-day tour (sung in my best Gilligan’s Island voice) and day 1 was a trip to see the White Temple, the Long Neck Karen Tribe village and the Golden Triangle.
Chiang Rai is about 3 1/2 hours away from Chiang Mai and is complicated by a long stretch of road construction. You are diverted to a stretch of dirt road, which slows down the drive considerably. The roads are windy and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing headlights coming from the opposite direction. I automatically think they are on the wrong side of the road and coming for us head on. We had a fantastic driver, though. I never felt unsafe and really trusted him to navigate what I would have freaked out about.
The first stop was the hot springs – which, honestly, I could have done without. Upon exiting the van, I was almost knocked over by the overwhelming smell of sulfur. There wasn’t much to see or do unless you wanted to dip your feet in hot spring water and boil an egg.
Made our way to the White Temple. Really an amazing site to see. It’s a privately owned temple that was designed and paid for by a private artist who has spent a ton of his own money to build the temple. It reminds me a lot of the story of Dante’s Inferno where there’s the level of hell and then you can be elevated to heaven.
We wouldn’t have asked for a better blue sky back drop.
After leaving there, we headed to the village of the Long Neck Karen tribe. The women of this tribe wear brass coils around their neck starting from a very early age. As they grow and mature, they add more and more coils to elongate their neck. The coils are very heavy and are worn 100% of the time, including during bathing and sleeping. In learning about the practice, there is a theory that during the wars between many of the tribes, women chose to wear the rings as a way to make themselves less attractive and therefore not a target for trading or slavery. Now the women seem to be revered and people come from all over the globe to see them and purchase their wares.
Lastly, made it to the Golden Triangle, the area where Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand converge. We took a boat to Laos and was told that there is a great deal of similarity between the Laos people and the Thai people. I actually couldn’t disagree more. When we arrived in Laos, I noticed right away that there was a pushy nature of the market vendors that I have not experienced by Thai vendors. The stuff they were selling was just cheap name-brand knock off items and not regional artistic items that I had found so far in Thailand. There was trash everywhere and I really didn’t enjoy going. I will say, though, the view from the shore was beautiful!
Stay tuned for day 2 of me playing tourist!