Day trip to the Golden Triangle - hill tribes, monkey caves, motorboats to Laos etc!
Chiang Rai Travel Blog› entry 6 of 46 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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!