I am leaping ahead a little, but as it’s my blog I make the rules. Fast forward from Ko Samui to a couple of hours north of Chiang Rai. We are staying in a community owned lodge called Lanjia. It is well off the beaten track, and utterly beautiful. There are four bamboo lodges each with two double beds.
These are no ordinary double beds. For those of you who have read Heidi, cast your mind back to the moment when Heidi’s grandfather makes up her bed for the first time. For the rest of you, imagine a down mattress, a light down duvet and down pillows. Sorry geese, but your feather sacrifice was worth it I promise you.
We are about an hour from the Golden Triangle where Laos, Thailand and Burma meet, and where opium grows like nobody knows …
We have a car. We always hire a car when we travel, it’s the only way to get around and see what you want to see when you want to. You can hire a guide but we have found that with good books, good internet research and a map (or good old google maps – see my earlier post!) you can find pretty much anything you want (well apart from the Mae Chan Winery – but that is a whole other story).
The Golden Triangle is a tourist centre, but beguiling nonetheless. I can only assume that until Laos became communist free and Burma became more democratic it must have been a no go area. It would be easy even for me to swim across the borders.
Thailand on the left, Burma the spit in the middle, Laos on the left.
Even young novice monks go on tourist trips, these three must have been about 13 years old at most.
There were Buddhas
And Hindu Gods
We left the Golden Triangle and went to visit the Opium Hall. Not what you are thinking, it is the most amazing museum set up by the Princess Mother to educate people about the perils of Opium. It is a striking building and excellent museum, with interactive displays, videos and well produced information and videos. It begins with the history of opium, the development of the East India Company and the opium trade cycles the opium wars that resulted the free use of opium and cocaine during the nineteenth century (where do you think Coca Cola gets its name?) and concludes with the herion trade and problems of addiction today. It is one of the best museums I have ever been too and if you make it up here you must visit it. There are no pictures because none are allowed, but here is a link to the tripadvisor page for more information.
We finally headed up to the Burma border at Mae Sai.
We didn’t cross over as the Volunteer has only a single exit visa and is off to Cambodia and Vietnam after we leave, but we went for a fascinating walk through the huge market that lines the street towards the border.
Grapes the size of plums.
Squid kebabs. And gemstones, lots and lots of gemstones, particularly rubies, pearls, silver, gold you name it you could buy it. Not sure of the provenance mind you! Meanwhile the main road was packed with cars, songtaks and scooters heading across the border in both directions.
Love Gillie x