Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sydney Day One

We had a few stops planned in Chiang Rai, but we wound up staying at the hotel until time to go to the airport because of a problem with a ceramic shipment earlier in the week. We had a number of phone calls and emails and had to leave Thailand with the issue not really resolved.

Sign in Chiang Rai airport.  Did I mention that Thailand is around 95% Buddhist?

Our flight from Bangkok to Sydney is overnight. So no sleep last night. I feel not really up to anything.  Even on an upscale airline like Emirates, pronounced Emritz, that gives you good food and cute little packs that contain sleep sox, mask and toothbrush, you cannot sleep in economy. There is no room and various parts of your body fall asleep, but not you.

We take the rip-off airline train to near our hotel. $15 apiece for 4 stops when you get on at the airport.  $3.20, if you were going to get on one stop before the airport.

We are at the edge of Chinatown, which is where we will go for dinner.  We are getting serious sticker shock in Sydney. And we haven't seen any kangaroos roaming the street yet.

This is a modest hotel, but it has a small private outdoor patio here on the third floor.  It is meant to be a smoking area, but maybe we can think of a better use for it.
William took some shots on the roof.

The hotel pool

looking down on central station
Hopefully I feel more lively this evening.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Back to Chiang Rai

The sun casts a golden path across the Mekhong River.

We begin the day with a trip to the border of Thailand and Myanmar.  Many people come here to shop on the assumption that prices are cheaper here. Our guide says not really. We walk through a warren of shops and buy a few things. Good thing we have a guide. Just like Walmart in its hugeness and the fact that most of the products are made in China.  Just add in motorcycles driving on the narrowest of lanes and cars, trucks and handcarts where ever they will fit. All of these shops will be packed up when the river that divides the two countries rises in the rainy season.

The river and bridge that divides the two countries

On the far side of the bridge. Welcome to Myanmar

Then on to the monkey cave temple.  Monkeys wonder around. There is a Buddha image out front that has him in a different aspect than I have ever seen. He is setting out for a journey with his bag, staff and umbrella.

Cave part

traveling Buddha

Our last stop on this Thai journey is to a home that was built high in the mountains for the King Mother. She had expressed a desire to live in Switzerland, so they built her a home that looks a little Swiss. She lived here, gardened, did ceramics and needlework until she died at the age of 95 in 1995.  She was well loved by the Thai people and the house and grounds have become a shrine to her. They have even named the airport in Chiang Rai after her.
The King Mother
Her vaguely Swiss house

She loved flowers

Some walkways were of split bamboo that gives when you walk over it. 

William in the lady slippers

Tomorrow we will tour around Chiang Rai on our own a bit and then head to the airport. Next stop Sydney.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle

Sunday Feb 24:  We stop at the Mae Khachan Hot Springs where we are supposed to be able to soak our feet. But this area is closed for cleaning.

 One unique hot springs vendor has an area of boiling hot water where she plys her trade of boiling eggs, chicken eggs or bird eggs. Of course I opt for bird eggs.
Putting the eggs in the water in a tiny bamboo basket

It doesn't take long to cook them.

Done and put in a bag with a tiny packet of soy sauce if you like

Our guide peels one. Very tasty.
We stop at the Fishes Palace.  Fun place to feed the fish in a big mountain lagoon.

The big koi come first

Then the catfish start to show up.

Then it is a pile on of catfish. Some huge ones. I read that the giant catfish are good eating and sell for 300 bahts/pound.

We were supposed to eat lunch here, but we opt to go to the White Temple first and then go into Chiang Rai.
Cabbages and Condoms. I snapped this photo while riding in a  cycle cab or trishaw.
The White Temple or Wat Rong Khun was designed by an artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat. Since Thai kings usually choose one temple to be the final resting place for their ashes and since this king, who is quite old and has had quite a few illnesses, has not yet chosen a temple, the artist has been lobbying him to choose this temple.
The artist designed the traffic cones

William and the artist

The White Temple is glittering

Hell or earthly desires

Hands grasp up

No pictures inside

The grounds are lovely and we spend time in the gallery of paintings and the gift shop.
Into Chiang Rai and a tour around town in a trishaw. Fun riding through the streets.
One to a trishaw is better. In India we two were stuffed in one and the rider had a hard time pedaling.

lovely decorated center dividers

decorations in a park

Order a pizza and a guy on a motorcycle delivers it.
Chang means elephant in Thai. Our guide jokes that elephant beer is made of elephant pee.

Nicely landscaped parks

7 elevens are everywhere.

Decorating a park for a Buddhism Day celebration on Monday.
We are taking a hop on hop off tour of the city and we hop off at a food market.
The North of Thailand makes pretty good sausage


Half a chicken complete with goodies.

Innards anyone?

William races ahead past an ornate clock tower. Thais do love gold.
Off to the hotel to rest.

Monday Feb. 25:  We first visit the Black Houses of Dr. Thawan Duchanee. Our guide says Thai's find this art sad. I am not sure why. It is unusual and mostly installation art rather than sculpture or paintings. I like it.

In the jaws of the whale

 Then we are off to the hill tribe village of the Long Neck Karen and the Big Ears Kayor.  The long neck people began wearing the brass rings around their necks to ward off tiger attacks.  Now it is just a cultural thing. The long ear people wear large plugs in their ears as a form of suffering, we were told. The tribes are Christian and in addition to small scale farming and handicrafts have benefactors.

Puppies play at my feet in the Karen village
Handicraft shops

Our guide holds up a set of half rings to my neck to see how I would look.

A big ear woman with very large ear plugs.

The first rings go on at age 5

 When we leave we pass workers planting rice in the old labor intensive fashion. The rice is begun in a starter area then transplanted plant by plant into the small paddy.  This is still common in rural areas. In more populated areas more mechanization is used.

 Next to Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Saen an ancient city.

The restored and gilded Buddha
The restored chedi

We look out over the Mekong River. Myanmar is down the river and to our left and Laos is across the river.
 Time for a ride in a Thai version of a cigarette boat. Long, narrow and fast. We head upriver a bit. Then down to a shopping area in Laos. They must have a knock off purse factory near here. Tons of purses.  We keep walking until we get to the area with faux antiquities. Much more interesting.
Hang on and off we go

When the water is high the big Buddha appears to be floating on the water

speeding across a big river

Boatman takes off

Snake Whiskey. Ugh!

faux antiquities
 Our last stop is the House of Opium Museum. We meet a couple from San Diego who have relatives who live in the Nevada City area. Small world.
Our last stop is the Mekhong Riverside Hotel.  You can see the Mekhong from our window and the moon is full tonight.
Moon over the Mekhong