Day 5: Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai – Golden Triangle – Mae Sai – Akha

This morning, Pati and BeeBee left their hotel in Chiang Mai at 7:15 am for a very long day of sightseeing.. Their first stop was at a hot spring, where they soaked their feet in one non-boiling part of the springs. This stop is very popular with tourists, and many shops and food stalls surround the main attraction. Then they continued their drive through the countryside, passing rice paddy fields and mountains.

White Temple

Next they visited Wat Rong Khun, known as the White Temple, a unique Buddist temple designed and built by a local artist, Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat,  with his own money. It is no exaggeration to say that he is a modern-day Gaudi. The most emotionally-charged parts of the temple are the murals in the monastery, where cameras are prohibited. Most of the murals illustrate the peace of Buddha, but the most striking wall of murals depicts the demon and the evil in the world. The artist decided what to paint on that wall only after 9/11, and the depiction of two planes flying into the Twin Towers is prominent, along with a hose and nozzle dripping oil. The eyes of the demon have George Bush and Bin Laden inside them, in order to caution them both. The mouth of the demon encircles the door, so that people leave the demon behind when they walk out. BeeBee regrets that they could not take pictures to capture the stunning murals. Readers of this blog may want to Google the White Temple. (BeeBee has not had sufficient internet access to do so.)

While walking around the temple grounds, they saw a young couple carrying a very realistic doll. The guide described the odd behavior. The doll is a haunted doll that brings its owners good luck if they treat it well. They feed it well, buy it airline seats when they travel, and do everything for it that they would do for a real child. They claim that it is their religious belief. This has become a very real problem for restaurants, because the “parents” of the doll take advantage of children-eat-free policies to raid the buffet for piles of food for the doll; this food is, of course, not eaten, but wasted. Restaurants have begun to implement policies that require people to pay for what they have not eaten.

As they were about to leave the temple, their guide spotted the owner/artist of the temple and asked for his picture with Pati and BeeBee. He graciously agreed (other people were doing the same) and said “Have a nice day” in perfect English as he walked away.

Leaving the temple, they drove to visit Mae Sai Border, an international border with Myanmar (Burma). Pati, BeeBee, and their guide crossed the bridge into Burma and shopped at the market there..  Current movies, such as The Martian, were selling for around 100 Baht for 4 movies ($3 USD).

Returning to Thailand, they stopped at the Golden Triangle in Chiang Sean, where the three borders of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand meet, separated by the Mekong river. A casino was visible on the Laotian side of the river; this casino is popular with Thai people and also the Chinese. China is only a few hundred kilometers to the north.


Beautiful Yao Villager

Finally, they visited the Akha and Yao hilltribe villages. The Akha villagers came from Burma originally, while the Yao came from China.  The Yao lady pictured above is 80 years young, about 4 1/2 feet tall, and deaf but spry. The other ladies of the village are trying to teach her not to beg for money while they are trying to sell their hand-made products to visitors, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Pati and BeeBee were enchanted by her.

After that, they drove to their next hotel in Chiang Rai, which they checked into at about 7:45 pm.



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