Day trip to the Golden Triangle - hill tribes, monkey caves, motorboats to Laos etc!

Chiang Rai Travel Blog

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The Lahu people (rings in ears)

We had lined up a one day tour up to the Golden Triangle and back and we managed to pack a lot in, ahead of me in the day was a monkey cave, a burmese border, speedboat to taste snake whiskey in Laos to name but a few :)

I joined my Slovenian friends Jaan and Sonja in a jeep with the friendly manager Adi and we were on our way norht.  First stop was "Baan ya pa" which are 3 hill tribe villages made up of the top tribe Akha, middle tribe Luang (with rings in their ears) and a bottom tribe (which has rings around their necks).  It was all increible to see but a little like a "people zoo" with everyone just sitting at their stalls waiting for you to come sit next to them and buy something from their stall.  Surreal....  Adi had some interesting tales as we went along, apparently the hill tribe people's name for the King's mum  is Mae Fa Luang which translates to "Big Sky Mother since when she first visited she came in on a helicopter! She really helped the hill tribes who were in exile form Burma, by building a palace that tourists would visit.

Karen longneck people, originally to stop tiger bits, now just to make more beautiful than other tribes (or to draw tourists since opium production ceased)

Next stop on the trou was at a 94 degree hot spring were Adi produced some tiny little weaved eggholders which we hung in the spring and cooked some chicken and quail eggs. Very novel!

Along the drive Adi pointed out 'lady lay down' mountain (possibly called Doi No something?) which is essentially a site of mountains which have their peaks and troughs in all the right places to make it look like a lady was laying along the horizon.  Adi was sure to point out that the lady had big "chits"!!  Also scattered along the hills were buddhas in various sitting and lying poses, Adi described the interpretation of each pose as we went. Other little Adi facts for the day, Chiang means city, Mae means mother (and is usually used anywhere there's a river that feeds the land.

Cute little kid
  so Chiang Mai is New City, Chiang Rai is just a city named after King Rai, both are the same era as Sukkothai, the first Thai capital.

The highlight of the trip for me was this monkey cave.  When you first show up you can buy a packet of snacks to feed the monkeys, but my god you have to be careful with it.  Basically monkeys are ready to steal this off you if you are doing anything other than holding it as far out of reach as possible!    This was yet another moment where I thought....hmmmm....maybe rabies shots would have been good...

The best moment came when you climb up these stairs towards a cave in the mountain.  As I ascend, surrounded by monkeys on the stairs, I came in to this big cavern where a single monk in orange was meditating in the middle of a huge cavern, it was just a breath-taking moment.

Longneck kids pushing a baby around, the tribe can't leave the village since they aren't Thai citizens (from Burma originally)
  The sheer awe of the moment, was then made even more unique by someone who had just been standing to the side of the cavern, suddnely stepping forward with a slingshot and shooting it at monkeys that were getting too close! Very amusing :)

A quite stop as we left the monkey cave to sample som strawberry wine/juice and some lychee wine/juice, all delicious!  Then we were up to Mai Sai, which is the border crossing to Burma.  It's interesting that as cars go from the Thai side to the Burma side they have to switch sides of the road :)  There's a massive market here which we wandered through, you can get 4 VCDs for 100 Baht but I decided I didn't want to load up on movies just yet, not the most practical thing for my backpack.

Feeding a monkey at the monkey cave, monkeys are cool.
   Sat down for lunch and was treated to Arabic coffee which was incredible! I also had the chilli/sugar/red stuff that is always on the restaurant table explained by Adi, so I felt obliged to try some on my Thai spaghetti (just spicy spaghetti really).

Next we drove a bit further to the view over the Golden Triangle.  This is an area where the borders of Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand meet and is well known for being the heart of the drug trade (or at least it was once ?).  We looked out over the Mekong and had some photos with some kids decoratively dressed (paying our 20 baht for their trouble :) )  Nearby we wandered through Wat Phra That Pu Khao were I followed instructions where you lift a buddha and "make a wish" and when you pick it up again it's heavier meaning your wish will come true (I think there's something tricky going on here.

More monkey work
...) It's interesting that Pagoda are always west of the buddha statue, since buddha faces east, monks rise early and want sun.   The other stand out rule was that women are not allowed to enter, as they are considered unclean due to menstruation.

While at the Golden triangle we went through the Opium /hill tribe museum which was quite fascinating. It also had photos of these giant man-sized catfish that used to be pulled out of the river.  Last sight for this area was a giant sitting golden buddha which was a gift to the Thai queen last year, very impressive!

I told you it was a full day!! next we were in to a little motor boat which took us across the Mekong to Dome Xao (Donsao) which is acctually part of Laos.  Apparently this is very popular among travellers since they can get another stamp in their passport, but I was heading there soon anyway ) However all these stalls were set up with jars of snake and scorpion whiskey (literally with these creatures staring out of the bottle!).

Climbing steps to monkey cave
  We sat back eating a cocunut and sampling some Beer Lao! how good is this beer!!  I can't wait to get to Laos now :)

That was the end of our tour and we headed back to Ben's guesthouse for a shower.  I then showen Jaan and Sonja the way to the night market, we headed to the locals seciton this time (which is cheaper for some reason ;) )   I wasn't too adventurous with some sweet and sour chicken for my main, but then I branched out and tried some honey-soaked bugs!  They weren't bad, just tasted crunchy and like honey :) 

Chatted away with Jaan and Sonja (actually from Czech Republich and Slovenia respectively) Learnt that Slovenia has about 2 million people and they live in the second largest city in Slovenia (starts with an M.

The Thailand-Burma border at Mai Sei, Thais have to change from left hand side of road to the right here
...  Maribor maybe?)  which has about 100,000 people and they highly recommend a visit to, I'll add it to the list :)

A few beers later (tried beer Singha and standard beer Chang) we were ready to split a tuk-tuk home. It's normally 40 Baht from the market but was 50 Baht for the 3 of us, seemed reasonable, that's a bit over a dollar.

Back at the guesthouse I drifted off listiening to the sounds of a Tokay lizard, if you hear 7 croaks then it is good luck (and I did!) What a day!


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The Lahu people (rings in ears)
The Lahu people (rings in ears)
Karen longneck people, originally …
Karen longneck people, originally…
Cute little kid
Cute little kid
Longneck kids pushing a baby aroun…
Longneck kids pushing a baby arou…
Feeding a monkey at the monkey cav…
Feeding a monkey at the monkey ca…
More monkey work
More monkey work
Climbing steps to monkey cave
Climbing steps to monkey cave
The Thailand-Burma border at Mai S…
The Thailand-Burma border at Mai …
Me at the golden triangle (where L…
Me at the golden triangle (where …
The Slovenians (Jan and Sonya) and…
The Slovenians (Jan and Sonya) an…
Statues near the big buddha
Statues near the big buddha
The big sitting buddha in Mai Sai,…
The big sitting buddha in Mai Sai…
Speed boat to small Lao village fr…
Speed boat to small Lao village f…
Drinking snake whiskey in Lao
Drinking snake whiskey in Lao
Snake and scorpion whiskey
Snake and scorpion whiskey
Chiang Rai
photo by: Pearl510