Ladyboys, Corruption and the Golden Triangle

Chiang Rai Travel Blog

 › entry 8 of 11 › view all entries
Well...where do I begin to describe about the ladyboy cabaret. It was absolutely HILARIOUS! The dancing was so out of sync, the miming terrible, but you know what? It was so so funny. The costumes and set were amazing, and I couldn't believe at the end that not only were the two very obviously try-hard females ladyboys, but EVERY SINGLE PERSON on stage was a ladyboy! I was blown out of my mind. It wasn't just make-up and costumes, but breast implants, facial reconstruction, the whole works! I think some of them had even had their family jewels removed!!! Even up close when we got to meet them after the show I could still not believe they were men; they looked soooo feminine. I will put up pics when I get home so you guys can all see what I mean. Unbelievable.
The next day we left Chiang Mai and headed to Tha Ton, which is not really notable apart from the 11 temples crossing a mountain range. I climbed up there one very hot afternoon with Missy but we didn't make it all the way; it stretched so far! The next day we got up early and headed for a Karen Hilltribe village, or more specifically the long-necked Padong/Paduang people. This was an AMAZING experience. To see these women, who from the age of 5 have 8 brass rings weighing 1kg in total placed around their neck with 3 more added each year till the age of 25, was a sight that cannot be described. Their collarbones and ribs are pressed right down by the sheer weight of the rings. They also place them around their legs. In the same village were long-eared Karen people who place bigger and bigger objects inside the hole they have pierced in their ear - rather like African women you often see in National Geographic. Culturally it was very interesting but I felt sorry for these people as they are not allowed into local towns as they are treated like zoo animals, and nor are any of the 1 million Hilltribe people afforded Thai citizenship (or any citizenship of any nation for that matter) meaning they have very few rights.
After that we headed for Chiang Rai, the northernmost point of Thailand. Chiang Rai is a pretty cool place and we visited a really interesting Hilltribe Museum which unfortunately turned the amazing experience of the morning into a rather sickening one. The curator of the museum told us that the Padong people are not natives of Thailand but instead of Myanmar (formerly Burma) and that they were brought over by entrepeneurial businessman who exploited them and set up fake villages for tourists to make money (we had to pay an entry fee of 250B which we were told by our Thai guide would go to the villagers). We were all shocked by this and collectively agreed that we would not have gone had we known this information previously, especially when we were told the Thai guides often received a commission....VERY dodgy...
Anyway. That was yesterday and today we headed to the Golden Triangle. It was very cool to stand on Thai land and look out over the Mekong River dividing Myanmar and Laos. We visited an opium museum which was rather interesting - it takes 3000 seeds to make 1.6kg of the stuff, and we saw all the pipes and everything. After that we were very fortunate to be able to visit both Myanmar and Laos which I had not expected to be able to do. We visited Dao Sao Island, part of Laos, (by boat) which due to its proximity to Thailand was not much different but still interesting, and then drove to Myanmar where the immigration point was much more complex (there was no official visa system operating in Laos and it only cost 20B to enter, whereas Myanmar cost 250B to enter and we had to get our passport stamped going in and out). In Myanmar we only had a very short time as the border for day visitors closed at 5pm, but it was good to be able to see it. I noticed there were a lot more beggars there which was very sad.
We returned to Chiang Rai and here I am now. Tomorrow I head back to Chiang Mai then take a sleeper train to Bangkok where I have 2 more nights before flying to Shanghai via Singapore - yay! I'm really looking forward to catching up with Mich and her family. Bye for now!
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Chiang Rai
photo by: Pearl510