Chiang Rai, Thailand

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I stayed at Fun-D guesthouse, which was recommended to me by my guesthouse worker in Pai. It’s the nicest place I’ve stayed so far. I’m staying in a 8-bed girls dorm. The rooms and are spacious, and the whole place is clean and modern. It’s a 5 minute walk from the night market and pretty much anywhere else I’d want to go. The hostel also has free high-speed computers and a common TV, first place I’ve had either of those things. And breakfast is included. I thought it was a bit pricey ($9 a day) but now I know why and it is definitely worth it for a few nights.

The first day I had lunch at Ti Amo Cafe on Jetyad road. It was the worst meal I’ve had since I started my trip. Definitely made me even more excited for the night market food later that night. The rest of the day I just relaxed at the hostel, mostly on the internet catching up on errands. I definitely wanted to take full advantage of the hostel amenities while I’m paying for them.

The night market was better than I expected. A huge area designated to food- stalls lined the 2 long sides and tables and chairs filled the interior. On one end was a stage that had performers non-stop- everything from lady boys doing cabaret to regular musicians to Thai female dancers. On the opposite end was the start of the shopping bazaar which continued for a while but wasn’t overwhelming. In the center of the shopping bazaar is another stage with performers. Christmas lights line the streets and for the most part everything is clean and well maintained.

I had a spicy hot pot soup with beef. Think fondue Thai style. I was served raw beef with a basket of cabbage, greens, rice noodles, mint and an egg. The hot pot comes (a clay pot over hot coal filled with broth) and first you crack the egg into the pot. Mix up the egg for about a minute and then add a bit of the meat. Let that sit for a few minutes then add the veggies and noodles, but in parts. The egg mixture will remain in the broth but the rest of the ingredients will last at least 4 rounds. Once a batch is cooked you add it to your little bowl and add mint and hot sauce, then cook again. The meal was delicious! Local Thai’s were indulging on hot pots all around me so I know I made the right decision. The majority of the other expats (and there aren’t many) were eating the fried foods and pad Thai.

After the bazaar I got a Thai massage, and it was the best one I’ve had so far. Then I just went home to watch TV. First time in a month and wanted to take full advantage of paying for the expensive guest house.

The next day I did a full-day all intensive sight-seeing tour. First stop was the White Temple. I had read online that the white represented the Buddha’s purity so I was completely shocked when I saw nothing but skeletons and death all around. The temple is spectacular made of only white materials including glass. There’s nothing in the backdrop so the temple looks surreal against the white clouds. The trees leading up to the temple have deformed eaten heads hanging from them. The facade of the temple is incredibly intricate but it’s the entrance that really stood out. Hundreds of hands are reaching from the ground upwards and lining the pathway are skeleton heads from both humans and animals. But because it’s white it’s less scary and sort of reminds me of A Nightmare Before Christmas.

Next we went to The Black House, which holds dark art. Also not what I expected as I was picturing there to be painted artwork inside. Instead there were alligator skins and skeletons, massive chairs (throne like) with horns, and long wooden tables. Seemed like it was once used for meetings but I doubt that. The grounds to the house are quite large and there are other smaller houses and building around with similar art. In the middle are 3 cages- one with an owl, one with 2 massive snakes, and one with some birds.

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Next we went to Long Neck Karen, the village of long neck women. The women have coils around there neck which doesn’t actually lengthen their neck but rather pushes down their clavicle bone to make the neck appear longer. They do this for looks, to appear more beautiful. They start to get the coils around age 5 and randomly get new ones as they get older. The coils are incredibly heavy (I tried one on) and the women never remove them, unless they must for a medical exam. A few modern girls are starting to take theirs off because they want to attend university and because they want to end the culture of doing it in general.

I didn’t want to see the village at all but since it was part of the tour I did. The whole thing was sad. We saw two different tribes in the same area. The area of the villages we saw was just for tourists, a shopping area. We are forced to walk along a pathway of non-stop stands all selling the exact same thing- scarves, metal bracelets and bells. Each stand has a local woman in traditional garb. As we walked into the first village all the women began placing their traditional hats on (beaded with bells.) These women did not have long necks. They were forced to perform for us in the middle of their square once all the tourists arrived. The woman banged bamboo pipes on the ground while frowning, and an old man played a flute type instrument and hoped from foot to foot. The second it was over they all left with their heads down.

We then continued the path and ended up in Long Neck village. Again just women in their stands in traditional garb, but these women had long necks. They were wearing bright colored leg warmers, shorts, shirts, shoes and head pieces. They too looked sad. I tried to take more candid photos of them but they’re literally there to be taken photos of. Tourism is how they make money. I could see the bruises from the coils on some women- blackness below the neck. I also saw a group of young kids playing, with the younger girls having their first few coils.
I didn’t stay long. I waited for the group outside.

Then we went to Monkey Cave, which was definitely the highlight of my trip. The cave itself isn’t much of a cave, or at least we can’t get in. But all over the ground next to the entrance of the cave are monkeys crawling around. There were a few mama’s and babies. One tiny one wrapped around his moms stomach, and a few older ones following their moms around. One mom was picking something out of her baby’s hair and he was trying to escape but couldn’t. Then there was a monkey with huge balls and another with huge breasts, those two liked to just sit. But the little humans are aggressive. They are running around grabbing purses, skirts, and one tried to grab my camera right out of my hand. I bought a bowl of peanuts to feed them and the second I walked over to buy the peanuts about 10 monkeys followed me. They were all reaching for me and fighting each other to be fed. One of the larger monkeys actually came over and smacked the bowl right out of my hands, the bastard. But nonetheless the monkeys were amazing and adorable. I probably fed all of them. I tried to get a little one to jump on my should but the big guys scared him away.

Under the Monkey Cave is Fish Cave, a body of water under the cave full of large fish. The type you see in tropical resort ponds but much larger.

Last we went to the Golden Triangle. This is where the Mekong River and Ruak River meet, a center point for Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Laos. We drove up a cliff to be able to see the view, and to see the old decaying temple that resides there.

The Opium fields, and heroin fields, are in this area. I didn’t pay for the Opium museum but saw most of it when they let me go to the bathroom inside. An old sad museum. I wanted to see the real fields but that’s not possibly. Some people say they no longer exist but that’s not true, they’re just too many cops regulating the area that it’s not safe to go nearby. Too bad.

Back to the night bazaar. Mushroom spicy hot pot this time. There was a drunk homeless Thai man sitting next to me. He fell backwards in his seat once, begged another Thai guy for money, and raided a vacated table for leftover beer. A security guard came over and dragged him out of the area, whipping him on the neck while walking. Seemed brutal but I don’t actually think it was.

It’s been a good month Thailand, now off to Laos.

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