Tribes in the mountains and snakey whisky in the Golden Triangle

Chiang Rai Travel Blog

 › entry 14 of 22 › view all entries
Worlds loveliest bed stands in Dusit hotel. I haven't sept this nice since the beginning of this trip, very apt, like a rose. The breakfast then, is all what you can expect from a luxurious palace as this. Just name something, and I think I can find it for you here. Sun is already shining on the terrace, while I finish my pineapple and get ready for a fully packed day. While waiting for the bus outside the hotel, the clock hits 8 and the national thai anthem is being played and flags are being raised. It isn't the first time we see this happen, but it is the first time we all really take time to watch what's going on. Something like this is just not imaginable in Belgium. No way you'd make anybody stop and listen when playing our anthem, no way we will all watch the flags in respect for the king.
It is yet another difference that makes this country special, and even though it feels like home by now, still idd and sometimes just unbelievable. I mean that in a good sense. By this time, I am really in love with Thailand. If I could, I would never leave again.

Not far from the hotel we take a pick-up tuk tuk to drive into the mountains. We are visiting two tribes today: Akha and Yao. I feel pretty mixed about this, because of several things. First of all I've read a lot about these people not being respected much by the Thai, and being seen as dirty and low class. On the other hand I also think it is really sad they have to degrade them selfs to some tourist attraction begging you to sell stuff, in order to make a living. And I don't know how to feel just walking around in their homes taking pictures.
It all feels really weird. Most other people, however, look forward to this a lot. They are all fed up with temples and history and want to do something else. I'm sure some hope to see some poverty too, which is simply decadent.

We arrive at Yao first. They are said to be the richest tribe, and our guide finely adds they are much cleaner that the Akha too. Akha are really filthy, she says, and they are also not as clever as the Yao are. I'm pretty much shocked by that. How can a tourguide say something like that? Apparently they don't care much about discussing the background of these people, their culture and religion etc. But they do care about calling them filthy. That's just rude. Things become ruder even when we walk into the village. That is for the couples, who are openly disappointed because these people "aren't poor".
I quote: "We could have better taken some pictures of those slobs in Bangkok, this isn't poverty. I mean look: they even got television!". That simply made my stomach twist. Instead of being glad that these people have found some way of gaining income and feeding their children! No, they rather have them starving on the ground in some puddle of mud. Because frankly, that is what they hoped for, isn't it? I start of a discussion with Raf and Carine about it, but I don't get to them, so I give up and decided to hang out with the Luxembourg girls for the rest of the visit.

Yet it isn't all bad. The nature around here is just amazing. Green mountains and brown fields, some mist between the trees.
At the Yao village
It is really peaceful. And even though this whole tribe visit thing is of course a tourist attraction, it is nice to see the villages and the way these people live. Yes I do know they just get into those traditional clothing because then maybe someone takes a picture of it and pays for it, but no matter what, the clothing is still beautiful, and so are these people. Instead of giving money for the pictures however, we hand out candy to the children, who seem really happy with that. Yet they don't seem to know how to open it. We have to get the paper of for them, or else they just put it in their mouth unpacked.

Ahka tribe is our second stop. This village is much more vivid and build in an amazing setting on a hill. There are lots of children around, although it's Monday.
At the Yao village
Each one of them is really cute and sweet, dressed up in traditional clothes, but would have looked better at a schooldesk though. It is both amusing and sad. We sing "Broeder Jacob" with them, a child song that apparently exists in every language of the world, also in Thai :) Then we hand out all of our candy and the couples hand out pens, because they've heard that's what you do to poor people: you give them pens. These children probably don't even have paper, and they clearly don't know what to do with the pencils because they just put it in their mouth and chew on them, but who cares? The whole bucket of pens gets distributed anyway.

I leave the mountains with an even more mixed feeling than the one I arrived with. Have I done good to come here and spend some money so these people have income? Or do they see me as just one more disgusting tourist that snapshots their long gone authentic way of living and spoils their village with plastic wrapped sweets? I honestly don't know, but I feel more like the last description.
At the Yao village
I can't say I didn't like to visit the tribes, but I can't say I wasn't happy to leave neither. It just isn't my place, walking around there like it's bloody Disneyland, then returning to the Dusit Resort to order roomservice. It just isn't right.

The Tuk Tuks descend the hill and we get on the bus to visit the Golden Triangle. Another real classic on the list of must sees in Thailand. Yet I look forward to it a lot, touristy or not. We get in a longtailboat and make a trip over the Mekong, so we can see the neighbouring countries from upon the water: Burma, Laos and Thailand, all in one glance. After a while we get of at the other side of the water, in Laos. Well, not really really Laos, because the stamps you can get in your passport here ain't official at all and the souvenir shops have everything priced in Baht.
At the Yao village
But technically it is Laos, so if I want to be really false I can now add it to my countries visited list :D Yet no, I won't :)

The couples will be pleased. As soon as we get of the boat and walk over the bamboo climber young kids come running up to us begging for money. They hang around our group all the time looking at us really sad and telling us that we can take pictures if we pay for it. I feel another discusting scene coming as it is very clear the couples are relieved to finally have found some poor people, so I leave them alone with their fresh found poverty for a while.

After all we stop here basically to drink Whisky: whisky with animals in it. I don't eat roasted bugs, but I have no problem with snake steeped alcohol. So I chose the bottle with the snake in it.
At the Yao village
It is a big snake for Belgian standards and it is sad they killed the animal just to put it in the bottle, but at this moment that doesn't cross my mind. I just want to taste it. To be honest, I didn't taste any snake. I've just tasted whisky, which is bad enough already, but it wasn't as strong as the one we had before so it did taste a bit better and burned a bit less. Mireille decides for David what to order. He gets a glass with tiger testicle whisky. I guess we all know what that's good for, naughty Mireille :) Now I come to think about it, I don't know if a snake has any side effects. If anyone knows, let me know, so I can check if it worked :)

When I meet the couples again they are at a terrace, watching Carine who is surrounded by little children.
At the Yao village
They are all screaming and grabbing coins out of her hands. She wanted to hand out money but things clearly and literally got out of hand. After some seconds all money is gone and the children who were able to get some run of fast, so no one can take it from them again. The others start crying and after a while disappear as well. It is striking to see the difference with Thailand here. Maybe our tourguides have very well succeeded to keep us away from any poverty until now, but we have never seen such bad circumstances in Thailand before. And here, just across the river, people sleep outside on the ground and children fill their days begging instead of going to school. One can just feel that life is much harder here, and that these people are unhappy. I don't know if handing out coins makes things any better, but I am sure however that Carine meant it well.
At the Yao village
She's been really upset about it for a long time afterwards. I'd say she got what she asked for so she shouldn't complain. But my conscience isn't clean either. I've bought up to three fake Lacoste T-shirts that were already priced just 200 Baht each, and non the less I have got the evilness to bargain about the price. I don't dare to write down only what I've payed for it, but it was scandalously little. Lets say I haven't even payed 200 for the three of them. I would start to feel a bit guilty for that if it wasn't for the whisky, which has obviously eased my mind. As soon as I got out of the shady shops and in to the hot sun, the visual effects I experienced some days ago, emerged again.

Back in Thailand we pay a short visit to the opium museum, before returning to the hotel.
At the Yao village
This is a small but nice place, just next to the Mekong. It doesn't take long to walk through it, but it is worth doing so though. After all, this is the golden triangle right? We must see some opium before leaving again. Damn does that sound petty! I must be still a bit drunk...


Manu Chao - Bongo Bong
missmzungu says:
Leuke blog en heel mooie fotokes!!!
Posted on: Apr 03, 2008
cmgervais says:
Excellent. Thank you.
Posted on: Apr 02, 2008
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At the Yao village
At the Yao village
At the Yao village
At the Yao village
At the Yao village
At the Yao village
At the Yao village
At the Yao village
At the Yao village
At the Yao village
At the Yao village
At the Yao village
At the Yao village
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At the Yao village
At the Yao village
At the Yao village
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At the Yao village
At the Yao village
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At the Yao village
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At the Yao village
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At the Yao village
At the Yao village
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At the Yao village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
At the Ahka village
Ive seen thousands of rice fields…
I've seen thousands of rice field…
Lunch
Lunch
Lunch
Lunch
The mighty Mekong
The mighty Mekong
Burma (left) and Laos (right) from…
Burma (left) and Laos (right) fro…
Laos from upon the Mekong
Laos from upon the Mekong
Burma (left) and Laos (right) from…
Burma (left) and Laos (right) fro…
Laos from upon the Mekong
Laos from upon the Mekong
Burma (left) and Laos (right) from…
Burma (left) and Laos (right) fro…
Thailand from upon the Mekong
Thailand from upon the Mekong
fishermens houses
fishermen's houses
Laos (left) and Thailand (right) f…
Laos (left) and Thailand (right) …
Laos (left) and Thailand (right) f…
Laos (left) and Thailand (right) …
Our boat
Our boat
Snakey whisky
Snakey whisky
Snakey whisky
Snakey whisky
Snakey whisky
Snakey whisky
A small piece of Laos
A small piece of Laos
A small piece of Laos
A small piece of Laos
Little piece of Laos
Little piece of Laos
Little piece of Laos
Little piece of Laos
Chiang Rai
photo by: Pearl510