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Chiang Rai Day 3

THAILAND | Friday, 2 September 2011 | Views [422]

Long boat trip on the mighty Mae Khong River

Long boat trip on the mighty Mae Khong River

Can't believe we had to set the alarm this morning to be up for an early breakfast & ready to leave by 830 for a long day sightseeing.

Over brekky I did the usual check of Facebook to see what's been going on Down Under.  Amy had gone into labour early.  So spent much time during the day with her in our thoughts.

Our guide today was Seksan and his first stop for us was a hilltribe village with 6 hilltribes who have together created a "union" of their tribes (mostly for presentation to tourists, but it is still the way they live)...Akha, Yao, Lahu, Palong & Long Neck Karen's.  The Akha and Yao gave us a small presentation of their music and dance, but the Karen ladies with their "long necks" are fascinating...and beautiful.  They wear brass rings around their necks and gradually add more and more until their necks have the appearance of being very long.  What is actually happening tho is that their shoulders and ribs "drop" over time giving the impression of a long neck.  Some of them have very many rings & they are very heavy.

On then to the monkey cave...a temple compound filled with monkeys.  Many of them currently have little ones.  Very cute & up to all sorts of mischief.  Some of the older ones were not so friendly...best to keep a good distance away.

Mae Sai is on the Thailand side of the border with Myanmar (Burma) and we were able to get some great views from a temple at the top of a hill in the town looking out over the Myanmar town of Tachilek towards the mountains in the distance.  There is often conflict between the two countries and the Burmese border is rarely open these days.

Heading further north we made it to the Golden Triangle and our first adventure in this riverside town was a longtail boat ride along the mighty Mae Khong River...the 10th largest river in the world.  We headed upstream first for a fair distance bouncing up & down over the waves that the river creates from its incredibly strong current.  With Myanmar on one side and Laos on the other we turned and headed back downstream where we were able to disembark our bouncy vessel onto an island of Laos.  Quite a novelty to be in another country but sadly an opportunity for the locals to sell dodgy souvenirs to gullible tourists and have their children begging for loose Baht.  Some great photo opps on the river though, with boats criss-crossing the current, tourists zig-zagging to see as much as they could, fisherman sleeping in their huts on the riverbank waiting for a bite.  A visit to the Opium Museum rounded out our stay here.  Interesting stuff...opium was believed to have been brought to the region by the Chinese travelling south through Laos into Thailand and Burma.  Although originally the "crop" was thought to have been brought into South East Asia from Europe for its medicinal benefits.  Opium, along with gems and precious metals were used to support warring factions in the surrounding areas.

One more stop at a temple on the top of a very steep hill for some more impressive views and more photos across the Mae Khong to Laos, and it was time to head back to Chiang Rai town for our last night in the Province.

On our arrival we quickly checked Facebook to discover that we did, indeed, have a new grandson.  And although not technically part of our holiday Jaylen Stanton Howard's arrival was certainly a highlight of our day, and we celebrated with a sunset drink on the deck listening to the sounds of our monks chanting the day to an end.

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