Travel Journal

From Laos To Chiang Mai northern Thailand

(Sunday 11 December 2011) by Karen O'Shea
Leaving Laos

Well it took us two days to sail out of Laos. We got a “slow boat” and sailed on the Mekong. It was absolutely beautiful. The slow boat was so much better as we got to see more and have time to take photos. The fast boat was a speed boat and only took six hours but judging by all the ones that passed us, they were stuck to their seats wearing life jackets and helmets. Can’t imagine they got a chance to take even one photo. :-D

The scenery was amazing. Completely green landscape with amazing blue skies. Again the weather was great. There was only our group on the boat, which is now 9 of us, so we had plenty of room to pan out. One mosquito had a field day with my right leg, ended up with around 40 small bites………no joke!! It’s a pity they didn’t join up, it would have made a great tan….:-)

Along the way we stopped off at Tham Ting Cave. Now this was amazing. It was a basically a shrine devoted to Buddha built into a cave. There was thousands of Buddha statues left there by folks. I didn’t realize this but there are hundreds of Buddha statues in all different poses, each meaning something different. I enquired about the one to pray for sun…as I know we need it at home. He is sitting with his legs crossed and his hands up…..to pray for the rain to stop and the sun come out. So if you catch me around the village next summer in that pose……….you know what I’m up too……..:-):-)

Welcome back to Thailand

We arrived back into the north of Thailand into Chiang Mai. I spent the evening at a thai cookery class. It was good fun. Got to cook some dishes….i can’t pronounce them but they were tasty. God guys ye better be ready for a whole new menu when I get home….”Come dine with me……asian style”. ;-)
Simple ingredients but they add spices and sugar and salt and you just have to get the right balance….

The golden triangle is where Thailand meets Laos and Myanmar (Burma). It used to be a big opium route, bringing opium into the countries. But now the area seems just to be a tourist spot…hence the opium museum. This was actually quite interesting. The poppy flower is quite beautiful and they show in photos all the stages until it gets to be dry opium seeds. At the end of this town they have a giant golden Buddha keeping an eye over the place, it really is striking. I just find their temples and statues so very interesting.

The best temple I have seen was Wat Rong Khun temple near chiang rai. My word will this take your breath away. Its completely white with white glass also. The suns reflection on the glass is amazing, it completely shines. It was designed by a Thai artist called Chalermchai Kositpipat at his own expense. He started it in 1998 and just keeps adding to it. It truly is some work of art. I even met him and got my photo taken with him;-). Boy is he talented.

There are many other buildings which are works of art around the temple. He had a sculpture of hands coming up from the ground, some holding skulls. Even the sign for the ladies and gents toilet was pure art. (will post photos when I get them edited). Apparently the king even got this guy to do his portrait, that’s how good he is. In the art museum he had other more modern stuff, like George bush and Osama bin laden on a rocket in out of space. Superman even popped up. ;-)

Our next visit was to a tribal village. They were called……..the “Karen” tribe. Yes I was at home with my people here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;-)
There was maybe 50 folk living in this village. The kids did go to school in a nearby village. There are lots of villages scattered around the place. I’ve never seen so many chickens and pigs in one place. The Karen tribe originally come from Myanmar but settled in the north of Thailand over 400 years ago. Got a picture of one of the ladies in traditional dress.
What really amused me about this place, and I have seen it in other remote places too, you see these houses made from bamboo and thatch and than you see the biggest satellite dishes ever. They are so big they can’t be put on the roof but only on ground level……(eoin I’d say the installation would be so so easy….no ladder s involved).;-);-)

We than trekked up a mountain to get to our overnight stay in a local tribal village. Oh my I thought the trek up the hill was bad until I got to the top and started to come down the other side…..this was a work up, trying not to fall, my legs were like jelly trying so hard to keep my balance. But I did against the odds. I was concentrating on so much to stay upright I hadn’t time to consider the snakes or the big spiders hanging from the tree…..god only knows what fell on me….ah well over and done with now.;-)

The home stay with the family was different to say the least. We stayed in a hut made from bamboo…who would have thought lying on bamboo would be kind of cozy. There was no electricity apart from an outside dodgy light running from an even dodgier extension lead. Washing facilities were a big black dustbin with a small pan. (Sorry hot water doesn’t even come into it). But it was thoroughly enjoyable because it was so back to basics……..

Later than evening some local kids came and sang around the camp fire for us…it was entertaining. Us westerns than had to entertain them, which we attempted to do with the hokey pokey……………..ah yes they were entertained alright!!!!!;-)

Woke up around 4 am the following morning bursting to go to the loo. Which I held off until it got bright, no way was I heading out into a hut in the pitch black…. The amount of wild animals around, it was like a chorus of animals. The frogs were so loud I honestly thought I’d meet there whole family outside the door…and then the roosters, god once one starts the whole lot in the village join in……;-)

Well it did get bright and I eventually got to visit the lo0:-):-). Took an elephant ride that morning. This was fun too. The elephants were over 40 years old. They are some work animals. All they wanted to do along the trek was stop and eat. They were noshing away on whatever vegetation they found on the side of the road. Beautiful animals.

They we took a bamboo raft along the river. Again the scenery was something else. Very relaxing (until we hit a few small rapids…………….and white water rafting sprang to mind..) But yeah it was thoroughly enjoyable. Our last port of call was ‘Tiger Kingdom’ outside Chiang Mai. Its an enclosure for big and baby tigers. I had planned to go into the enclosure and get my picture taken with them but when I saw them I decided against it. Not the fact that they were scary but more the fact they didn’t belong in their. Their run was very small…..for the size of them. The brochure said they were not drugged and that they are nocturnal and get very lively at night…………………………H E L L O. What big cat would let you poke him with a stick all day and not get annoyed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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