The Golden Triangle

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The Three Countries

Heading North, the Golden Triangle, we reached the edge of Thailand. Looking out across the narrow straight of water the two neighbouring countries of Myanmar and Laos could be seen. Off far away in the distant centre was also China. Laying on the waters edge of the other two were several very large Casinos. I’m told they are very popular, and people in China take a long all day boat trip to visit them. Boats raced up and down the straight. I wondered how they really police it from an immigration perspective.

Map of 4

Looking from a highpoint above, we saw a small centre island between the countries. Im sure it belongs to someone, but we were told how it was, long ago, a popular trading point for poppy’s (opium).

We then headed over to the road boarder to Myanmar (I think it was that way). The line to get across was massive. Stocks of mostly water came trundling in via bike – some quite comical the load and size. The one in the below image getting the shakes as it rode past. A popular market area for Thai I’m told. I did notice a markedly lower number of tourists.

At the Boarder

On the Road Chiang Rai

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Chiang Rai Transport

Compare to New Zealand, the one biggest difference on the road is the motorbikes/scooters. At home, I’m lucky to see 2-3 other bikes on my commute to work. In Thailand, scooters are absolutely everywhere. Helmets, as far as I understand, are strongly recommended, but not compulsory (Actually, I’m not sure about licences for bikes either as I was told I can hire one even without a car licence…). As we headed north on the main highway, I watched out the window as we passed scooter after scooter, sometimes transporting a family of 4 and 5 to work. The speeds for no helmets and multiple passengers, sometimes side saddling was astonishing and on reflection a bit of an eye opener of how safe I am (when at times I feel like I am fighting against our local health and safety ‘rules’).

Hot Springs 2

Entering the Chiang Rai district, we stopped for a local coffee at the highest hot spring in Thailand. Local ladies were boiling and selling hot spring eggs. Turning off the main road was a tall spring (behind the above image). “its just a fake one” our guide announced. Sure enough, I get out of the van and can hear the petrol driven pump shooting the spring up into the air. Amusing if nothing else. I wandered towards the boiling egg part. I think this was a real spring. No pump to be heard anyway.

Hot Springs 3

Walking behind the sign of the above image was a set of stairs. It looked like it went into further spring pools, but was either abandoned, or turned off? – I was the only one looking that far anyway.

As we left we passed this amazing looking building, almost complete

Hot Springs1

Now, to the untrained tourist eye (me), it looked like a new temple. I asked the guide what it was? “Oh, it was going to be a luxury sauna for the tourists. The locals protested it would take all the water and they were not allowed to continue”. I guess its just going to sit abandoned, almost finished. You’d be kicking yourself for not getting the tick from the local community before sinking money into that!

Off down the road we headed for the boarder. Thats tomorrow.

Chiang Rai

Wat Rong Khun – The White Temple Thailand

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White Temple

A bit of a large photo post for one place I visited for today – Wat Rong Khun – the White Temple of Thailand found in the Chiang Rai provence. Designed by famous artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, Wat Rong Khun is a piece of architectural beauty. Building starting in 1997, the wider temple grounds are still being worked on to this day, although the temple itself is all finished aside from ongoing maintenance to keep it shining in the surrounding landscape.

White temple entry 4

Approaching the entryway we are welcomed by some ‘tree spirits’ reminding us that no whisky (drinking) is allowed within the temple grounds, and also no smoking. The whisky tree shows images of people with ugly distorted faces, acting like monsters (basically really drunk people), and the smoking one shows people with poor, early aged complexion. There is also the Predator. I don’t expect his type are welcomed either.

White temple entry 2White temple entryWhite temple entry 5

 

Here is the cardboard version of Chalermchai Kositpipat

White temple entry 3

Ringing a big bell, we enter onto the temple grounds and towards the temple. It really is an amazing piece of work (and functioning temple). Im reminded that no photos can be taken inside (Im sure you will find someone who’s been disrespectful if you google for it), but up to the door is fine. Carp swim in the small moat surrounding.

Inside the white temple 1

Looking from the side, you can see a bridge one ascends to the temple. on the right, at the bottom the gleaming white is a dirty brown. Thats not lack of maintenance, its the spirits/beings whom are not pure enough to make it up.

Inside the white temple 2

We were instructed not to hang around the entry to the bridge posing for photos. One, it blocks traffic flow. Two, its not particularly good to hang around all these arms trying to pull you into the sludge/mud as you try to ascend to the temple. I grabbed a shot as we walked over.

Inside the white temple 3

Inside the temple (no cameras) was a mix of traditional and artwork. The artwork was interesting as it showed all manner of things that were ‘bad’ – wars, guns, superheroes, someone that looked like Michael Jackson from thriller etc. etc. that was all looking back in the direction of the bridge. Looking forward it was more colourful and peaceful.

I then visited the good luck well and walked through some of the walkways with hanging offering tab things (their correct name escapes me for now)

outside white temple 2 outside white temple1

And came across a tree with some more recognisable characters. I was told they were not all bad, but their spirits were corrupted or troubled and would never be pure. Bat Man, Hell Boy – makes sense. A few more nasty heads there too.

Outside white temple 3

Behind that tree was what must be one of the most impressive looking toilets in the country

white temple toilet

An that concludes my visit to the White Temple. Tomorrow we will continue with a look around some more of the Northern edge of Thailand.

white temple cones

(wish all road cones looked like this!)

 

Chiang Mai Street Market

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Chiang Mai Markets

Whether day or night, one would never have a problem buying ‘things’ at Chiang Mai. However, the night markets are a must do for any tourists dropping into the area. Whether you want to sample the huge variety of tasty food, look for goods, trinkets and gifts, or dip your feet in a vessel of fish to remove dead skin (I missed doing this – maybe next time) – the evening street markets have it all!

I mentioned yesterday that business really gets moving once sundown comes. The temperature, still fairly hot, becomes a lot more comfortable in the evening, and even in the crowds of people (in the central market areas) you don’t find yourself craving a  drink of water every 5 minutes.

Wandering through you do see a lot of double ups of products on sale, but there is a lot of variety still also (as I found out when buying a gift and had to walk the entire market twice looking for the one and only stall that sold it).

Chiang Mai Markets 1 Chiang Mai Markets 2 Chiang Mai Markets 3

Im not sure what stall owners did a decade or so ago, but one thing I noticed around stalls was the volume of smartphones being used to play games and watch tv shows whilst the vendors waited for customers. Some so engrossed in their shows, one could sift through all their merchandise and not even be given a single sales line. I certainly don’t blame them. Long hours – electronic devices help kill them. Perhaps (to me) it just felt like a odd combination for some reason. Actually, I do have an idea what some did 10+ years ago – a number of stalls brought along their 14″ TV’s plugged into power sockets on the power poles and sat watching them.

Chiang Mai markets 5 Chiang Mai markets 6

Bargaining and bartering of course is common place – many tourists aiming for perhaps too low prices, many stall holders obviously trying to take as much home as they can. The New Zealand Dollar converts pretty well in Thailand. Even with economies of scale, I really don’t see how some Thai survive. On some occasions their asking prices for goods just feels too low!

Being Northern, we also looked to do a bit of a tour out of the city. Some of that tomorrow probably!

Chiang Mai Markets End

Walking Chiang Mai

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CM walk

Ive sort of thrown together a handful of images from my walking around Chiang Mai today. Not much flow between each of them sorry.

One thing I noticed more in Chiang Mai more than other areas of Thailand was the uneven pathways (if there was a pathway). It appears that each shop has ownership, or is responsible for their bit of pathway to the road. So many areas on my walk had uneven sections, stepping up and down between businesses. Some concrete, some tiled…a few rubbly dirt. Its more of a interesting (or uninteresting) observation than a criticism – unless your in a country where the business might get in trouble if you fell!

CM walk 1 CM walk 2

I often head out fairly early morning when out on walking treks. In Thailand I learnt that means many shops are still closed. With the night markets, and general heat in the day, so many people do their business in the evening. Heading out early morning, things are not yet open and going. That being said – there is still plenty happening.

CM walk 3 CM walk 4 CM walk 5

There was a bit of working going on in the river/open drain (once was river?). A little amusing to see this weighty digger using a log on the back section to prop it up.

Some more from the Northern region tomorrow!

Destination Chiang Mai

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Off to Chiang Mai

Our next stop had us heading to Chiang Mai – the “New City” (replacing the old one Chiang Rai). Im sure pilots get used to the view from above the clouds, but I always enjoy looking at the whole ‘new’ world that appears when I’m in a plane. The perspective of mountain ranges, valleys and planes all formed in clouds are a view I can stare at for hours (with a window seat anyway).

Arriving in Chiang Mai is a bit of a shift in perspective for one just coming from Bangkok. Its the largest northern provence city, but pales in comparison.

Chiang Mai Sky 1 Chiang Mai Sky 2

But as above, thats simply a perspective thing. I think the whole trip, as future posts will show, was from big city to eventual small township/island sort of thing. Driving from the airport I observed both what looked to be new developments in the works, and old unfinished developments – an indication of previous economic ups and downs. The temperature was warmer and more humid.

Chiang Mai Sky 3

One thing, amongst many, to do in Chiang Mai as a tourist is to visit the night markets (more on that another day). They also offer numerous tours to the boarder, and animal based tours.

To be continued tomorrow.

 

Fo all those who recognise Easter – Good Friday to you!

Farewell Bangkok

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Old Shop

Although I have countless more images from Bangkok, today can be the last, so we can move up north a little next time. Something I love to see in cities I have visited is the contrast between old and new. Todays top image is of just as such – a old rundown building (I think still inhabited) contrasting on the more modern cityscape. It reminds me of those movies where someone holds onto their house whilst the world grows up around it. I think here in Auckland (the central city area) land and building value is too high to see something quite like this (but to be fair, there are some old ones off main roads).

Like many cities, Bangkok offers a host of was to get around for the tourist. Walk (the most traditional), Taxi (sooo cheap on the metered ones when traffic flowing), Tuk Tuk(more expensive than taxi’s – I’ll do a feature on them some time) or the train network. I loved how the train (and walking) overpass spread across the city above the roads:

Overpass1 Overpass2 Overpass3

I was also intrigued by the seemingly hazardous mains power system (Bangkok much better than some other districts).

Wired poles

 

Farewell Bangkok

Memorial Statue

goodnight Bangkok

 

 

 

Buddha of Bangkok

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Skinny Budda

Part of our time in Bangkok was spent touring around some of the local temples. For those who don’t know, Thailand is pretty much a Buddhist country. For me, it was quite interesting to see these temples pepper potted around the city (and other areas of the country – particularly the northern part). The above feature Buddha being the Fasting Buddha (I only saw the one fasting one on my journey).

Budda before and during conflict

We looked at the different styles of Thai Buddha’s – in part different craftsmen, put also specifically Buddha at different stages of social peace or times of war. Some clues had when looking at the arms, bone structure of face and ‘ringlet’ size (for lack of a better term as I write) of the hair. Of the two above, the one on the right shows he is made in tougher times with likely neighbourly wars.

Golden Budda

The Golden Buddha (above) was impressive to see. Story has it, during war times, he was covered in concrete to disguise that it was actually made of gold. Years (I’m guessing many) went by, and people forgot about the golden one. Then one day, then moving to a new temple the concrete cracked (imagine the instant ‘oh my god’ as you the mover crack this massive statue), but rather than a disaster, the gold was again revealed.

Reclining Budda 1 Reclining Budda 2 Reclining Budda 3

One of my favourites was the Reclining Buddha. This is one MASSIVE figure. Too big to move, renovations of the building had to happen around it.

Standing Budda

Once upon a time temples were the schools or universities of the community. People went to further their learning and studies. One such example was the temple area of the Reclining Buddha. Small building (open sided ones) surrounded the main temple areas, all featuring teachings on the body, herbs, yoga, meditation, and general wellbeing. Some pretty cool stuff.

Teachings 2 Temple Teachings

Probably one more day of Bangkok tomorrow I think!

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