A Palong villager - her teeth are blackened from chewing on betel nut.
I spent most of my day in a minibus, watching the scenery go by at top speed. Some of it was rather picturesque at times, but the driver was on a mission, and I don’t think it was to get us back alive. At one point he tried to pass a car while it was turning right, and it had its indicator on showing its intent to do so (we drive on the left here). That woke us all up from our morning slumber.
Speaking of us, I found myself most fascinated by our company in the bus. A pocket-sized couple from Oman was aboard, and the husband was a roly-poly little fella that I just wanted to fold up and take home. I tried desperately to snap a photo of them unseen but had to settle for a picture of them from behind.
I don’t know what it was but both my traveling companion and I couldn’t get over them. At one point the little bugger leaned back and told John his brother was studying in New Zealand. So random. Oh, my travel buddy is from NZ.
One of the Karen Long Neck girls - they start wearing these around age 4!
Then there were the other people I went to see: the villagers. But first, whirlwind stops at a temple in Chiang Rai, a stop at the Golden Triangle for a photo op (note: gold=opium back in the day, and this was the hot bed of activity for trade in such substances, thus the name), and then onto the actual Myanmar border. You apparently cannot go over, during a tour that is, unless you are in need of renewing your Thai visa, so we settled for yet another photo op.
I was beginning to feel like a Japanese tourist. My co-traveler picked up an opium pipe supposedly made out of bone, just like the Rolexes are supposedly real, and then onto the “village.”
Making a woven scarf
Now we were promised a visit to the actual Karen Long Neck village, but it turned out to be yet another tourist trap. Thailand so far has been one row of tourist traps. I obviously need to get out in the bush. Speaking of, they are also fond of the Bush-hater t-shirts here. Now I usually don’t take offense to such things, but some of them are down-right nasty.
Anyway, we showed up at the village, and it was in reality a row of shops with sort of token villagers, if you will, representing various hill tribes in the area, including the Karen Long Necks, Palong, Akha and Yao.
I was greatly disappointed but snapped photo after photo anyway. I bought a few items as well. These ladies know how to put on the pressure. I guess one of the latest NG magazines debates the value of tourists, well, being tourists and visiting these villages, especially the Karen Long Neck as maybe they aren’t so interested in the practice but for it brings in some dough. I don’t have an opinion other than at least we both were getting something out of the experience.
My favorite Oman couple
Despite our driver’s attempts, we made it back alive, as you may have already guessed, and managed to sort out our next few days. Well, sort out meaning I insisted that we just jump on a bus tomorrow morning and see how it goes rather than book a package making our transition into Laos a breeze. Now I’m not so sure why we decided a 12 hour tour by bus was a good idea prior to spending a day by bus getting to the Thai-Laos border, followed up by two days on the slow boat into Laos, but as it is here we are and off we go. Next up: why I hate traveling by slow boat.