Here I am...
9th Feb 2012 - 11th Feb 2012
Here I am... sticking my neck out
We arrived in Chiang Rai (different to Chiang Mai where we‘d just come from) and as we were a little early to meet our new couch surfing hosts, decided to tick off one of the things we wanted to do here. The white temple in Chiang Rai was on an official list I’d found of the top 10 temples in the world and as it was in the south of the city and everything else including our hosts were in the north we went there first. As always, loads of tuk-tuks trying to take us there for 30$ which we obviously ignored and went on the local bus for 60 cents/40p.
It did not disappoint. It may be the most intricate building design I’ve ever seen. It was so pristine, I’ve got no idea how they kept it so white all the time. You can see people everywhere dusting and sweeping because of how dusty everywhere gets in Thailand but not at this temple and it was so detailed you expect people to be constantly cleaning it. It was free too so it must all be government paid which is always awesome. Definitely deserves to be in the top 10, the entrance had hundreds of arms reaching up out of the ground as if from hell, really powerful. On the other side of the coin, we spotted a statue of predator coming out of the ground, you’ll see it in the pictures, it was so out of place. With all the original design I have no idea what it was doing there, if they wanted to have a demonic figure, they could’ve just designed one in keeping with the rest of the temple, unless they’d run out of creativity doing the rest of it and decided that no one would notice if they stuck predator in the ground.
Our new hosts were a couple. We hadn’t stayed with a young couple before, it’s really interesting to stay with different people and observe the dynamics of how different people live and act around each other and new people. Taylor from Canada and Oh from Thailand showed us a great few days. One big highlight was when they made sticky rice and mango from scratch for us using traditional methods. Sweet sticky rice and mango is definitely the most addictive dessert I’ve ever come across, I haven’t tested my limits for how much I could each of that but we had it everyday in Chiang Rai and it was awesome. Micci says she knows how to make it so hopefully there’ll be more to come.
The first full day we had there we travelled north to Myanmar formerly known as Burma. It’s a tricky border this one because most people go there for a visa run in order to renew their Thai visa. We were told many different things about the border, we were told that they’d keep our passports which was true but we were also told that you had to be back the same day and when we crossed, our stamp said 2 weeks however the sheer fact that they’ve kept your passport means that you should go back that day because it’s not worth staying a few days to test the theory to find out they threw away or confiscated your passport and wish to throw you in gaol because you weren’t back in time.
It’s an interesting place, not much to do (like many border towns) but you can see that it’s a complete mix of it’s neighbours. The food has some definite Indian and Thai influence and you can instantly see the lack of wealth compared to Thailand. Just like in some places in India, whoever has something to sell will pester you for a good 5 minutes regardless of how uninterested or annoyed you come across. There were men with the small cars (tuk-tuks) trying to sell a trip around town. Micci and I always say no to these because exploring, whether you find the things they plan to take you to, will always lead to a more interesting and exciting day. Almost immediately and on one road, we found all the places on the guys’ list. A very impressive temple was the first and a girl offered to take us round for free and explain to us what we had to do. There were 7 statues around the temple each representing a day of the week. I had the lion as I was born on Tuesday, Micci was born on a Wednesday and so had the elephant, those of you born on a Monday get the tiger and I can’t remember the rest. We had to bow to the temple thrice, pour holy water of our respective statue, flower and animal and then bang the gong 9 times. I love stuff like that when someone ‘on the inside’ shows you a local tradition or method that you know you’d never have learnt if it wasn’t for them.
Around this border is the famous long neck tribe, we already knew they were just outside of Chiang Mai but they had been brought there purely for tourism, they’re in Chiang Rai, also mainly for tourism but they are still near the hills and their money comes more from the clothes and jewellery and things they make. We saw that there were some in Myanmar but there were only about 3 of them placed there so it would’ve been weird. I read an article about how sometimes some of the tribes are made to be in a certain tourist spot and it’s like a human zoo, plus our couch surfing hosts hadn’t been yet so we waited until the next day. I think the nail in the coffin also came when we saw a guy come out from seeing them and I asked how long was the longest neck he saw and he separated his hands to the length of my neck.
Passing back through the border, I noticed that contrary to more hear’ say, you do get a Myanmar stamp in your passport and as one of my wishes is to fill my passport before it expires, it made my day. The next day, with Taylor and Oh, we did indeed find the long neck tribe in Chiang Rai. It was so fascinating. I’d heard that the rings around their neck create an optical illusion to make them look longer but nothing more. When I saw them in real life it was amazing to see how long the necks really were and to learn that it was purely for beauty reasons, they believe the rings to be beautiful and therefore the more rings they can fit on, the more beautiful it is. They explained that if their necks were bare, it would not be pretty. They also had rings on their legs but this didn’t extend them, just for decoration. There’s a rumour that they believe that if they took the rings off it would result in certain death so I can quash that right now. You can see that the children’s necks haven’t really grown and the older people are the ones with the impressive length. Also, they are so heavy, the woman said it didn’t hurt but that can only be because she’s learnt to block the pain after all these years, it must be mad when you first start.
The second half of the day was off to the other side of Chiang Rai to an ostrich farm I’d heard about previously in our travels. No local or tour agent seemed to know it existed which was great for us because it meant we could pretty much have the place to ourselves. It was 2 pounds for a day pass on the ostriches which meant we could go on and off them as many times as we liked. That’s insane, especially considering the fact that one you’ve ridden it once, you don’t really have the urge to do it again and their slogan even says ‘once time in your life’. The ostrich has a curved back and so there’s no natural place to sit, they tell you tell sit with your weight falling off the back and then hold onto their wings. There’s a new video blog up on the you tube link below so you can see it’s not a normal looking activity. Admittedly it was loads of fun but only as a novelty and the ostriches definitely don’t want to do it, that’s clear once you see the rangers put a bag over it’s head to stop it moving. Another interesting thing was that they gave me the feisty, mental one which sped off at every given opportunity and did everything it could to get you off its back in the first instance. Micci, Taylor and Oh were all given this dead calm ostrich to ride, which only walked around majestically and calmly, I couldn’t believe it but was quietly happy about getting the mental one.
This was definitely one of the fullest few days we’d had on this trip so far. We had a list of stuff we wanted to get done, and we did it. After spending so long in Chiang Mai, we didn’t want to waste too much time in Chiang Rai especially when we were just about to get to a new country, namely Laos.
NEW VIDEO BLOG TEASER AVAILABLE ON HERE AND FULL VERSION ON WWW.YOUTUBE.COM/HEREIAMBLOGTV, KEEP CHECKING FOR MORE VIDEO BLOGS IN THE FUTURE.
Here I am... at the border
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