Children of Laos, Burma & Thailand

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Thailand and Laos (and Myanmar if I can manage it)

Hello, Sawatdee kaa and Sabai dee,

My next trip will be Thailand and Laos, and this is all about the before, the trip and the after - similar to my Malaysia/Cambodia blog. I am putting together from start to finish - tickets, do's and don'ts, tours, where to stay, places to see, things to do, as well as useful extras like transport, good places to eat, what to wear, climate, tourist traps, tricks and tips and whatever else I can think of that will be useful.

If you have any tips or advice, please, feel free to leave a comment and add your bit - whatever you think may be helpful or interesting.

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Playlist - My Travel Videos

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

72. Warorot Market

Sunday 13th Feb, 2011.
Had breakfast at Tee's place (my usual). Pang and I set off to the Chinese markets and Chinatown. Pang said the building was partly destroyed by fire but was rebuilt. We went up to the car park but didn't have to pay - he "knew" the people there. Pang seemed to know a great many people. He also said he worked there sometimes, sort of like security. A bit of the old 'it's not what you know, it's who you know.'

Above: Warorot Market of the past
These photos were hanging from the ceiling in the upstairs area showing what the market looked like in days of old.

Above: Flowers
We walked through the flowers - there were rows and rows of them, especially as the next day was the 14th - Valentine's Day which is celebrated in fashion here.

Above: Hand crafts
There were many displays with many items for sale. This is one of the hand craft stalls - I bought a lovely fan with black lace for 12 baht. I'd forgotten to bring my Malaysian fan with me. Actually, I bought three fans, one for myself and two as gifts.
Pang was teaching me "Chiang Mai dialect" so instead of saying "Sawatdee kar", I said "Sawatdee choow" - the Chiang Mai ladies laughed. Pang said it was because they were surprised and happy because I knew "Chiang Mai dialect".

Above: This little piggy went to market

Above: Food glorious food!
At the stalls on the left is hot foods - sausages, green things and round things (don't know what they are), across the aisle to the right we have cooked foods then gradually an assortment of packaged foods. During our travails, Pang took me to a stall and showed me this funny looking dark brown stuff - it was dry and shrivelled. He said try some of this, it's roast beef. It was the strangest stuff I'd ever seen but it did indeed taste lie roast beef. It will keep he said for a long time. I bought a piece and had it with bread and tomatoes for lunch and finished the last of it in Laos.

Above: All in the family
When I asked these children if I could take their photo, they posed thus. I found people everywhere in Thailand were only too please to pose for a photo and children were no exception.

Above: At the chemist's
Hawking the wares and trying to get people to buy is the same wherever you are, but here it is done with a little more style. Instead of a fat, grumpy old man, we have a lovely young lady with a pretty face and nice smile. The dress-up clothes add to the ambience. Love the fluffy thing on her head.

Above: Pang's friend
After walking for what seemed like several hours, my legs were aching, my feet were tired, I so badly wanted to sit down an d rest, but I didn't quite know how to ask.
Then Pang said to me, "We sit down for a while and rest. Sorry, but I need to sit I am tired." I told him no problem, I'd be very glad to sit. So .. we sat on stools. I ordered coffee, he had a beer. I think he liked the lady serving us because he became quite animated and laughed a lot. They knew each other from way back. After another coffee, we were in the fruit section where I bought a 1kg packet of dried fruit, a smaller one of dried tomatoes. I had previously bought two little cakes, one for each of us.

Next stop - Wat Ket Keram and the temple dogs

Friday, December 7, 2012

71. Golden Triangle Tour - Loo Laughs and The Pink Bus

The Outdoor Dunny
Walking back to the bus from the village I desperately needed the loo as did another lady. The dunny was a tin shack, no electricity, a dirt floor and you could barely see inside as night was falling. The other lady went in (while I was hopping from foot to foot), came out with look of disdain on her face, her nose in the air and said she wasn't going to go there it was disgraceful and she would wait until we made our next stop.

Me? I'm realistic/. I went right in, peered in the murky gloom, found where the "hole" was. What do people expect when they go to a village in the hills in the middle of nowhere - all the mod cons of the 20th century? As a child dad used to take us for a picnic (we went all over Victoria) on many Sundays, usually there were no loos where we stopped, it was out bush, so it was go behind a bush in the tall grass and hope you don't get anything on your shoes. The thing that stands out most is the grass tickling your nether regions!
Anyway, I had a comfortable ride on the bus. And when we did eventually make our next (and last) stop, that other lady was the first off the bus!

NOTE: "Dunny" is Australian slang for toilet - mostly used in reference to an outdoor toilet.

The Last Stop
Finally after a couple of hours we came to the last stop of the day. It must have been around 7.00pm or thereabouts. We would have been travelling for around two hours I think. And as we pulled in, I saw this most glorious pink bus pull up along side us on the right hand side. I just knew I had to get a photo of it.

Above: The Pink Bus
I've never seen a pink bus before in all my born days. Such a very "manly" bus - complete with pink curtains, pink swags and pink tassels, pink swirls along the side, in four shades of pink and even pink writing (in two shades of pink). I had expected a bus load of females to get off this bus. Instead, there were men and women of both sexes, but more men that women. It was a Japanese tourist bus.
I thought it hilarious.

Above: So much pink
Front view. There's even pink rosebuds on white dingle-dangles! And one of the identification papers is in a pink cover! Here I was in the north of Thailand somewhere in the middle of the night grinning away at the sight of this bus. It gave me quite a laugh I can tell you. I couldn't have organised it better myself. What a glorious end to a day's outing!

Above: The Stop-Shop
This is our last stop. Remember the fastidious one? With her nose stuck in the air? Well she sped off the bus just as fast as her legs could carry her. I declare, she was so fast she'd have beaten Michael Schumacher in a race!

Above: Lollies, drinks and coffee
Inside was a pleasant surprise. Considering the lateness of the hour it was good to find just about anything you could want. This place is obviously used as a stopping place by buses and tour groups so they'd do a pretty good business and stock most things. You can get a half-decent cup of coffee here too. I bought a coffee and strolled around in the darkness of the night.

Above: The Palm
Outside, I wandered around the little car park and was quite taken with this palm. I'm sure it was real and it's been decorated with Christmas decorations.

Above: A Mexican Sombrero?
Now this, this was intriguing. A Mexican sombrero in the north of Thailand? It definitely looks to me like a person wearing a sombrero. Perhaps there was an artist from South America staying here?

We were all herded back on the bus, our guide telling us it was a three hour drive to Chiang Mai and we could all go to sleep. We arrived in Chiang Mai around 10.30pm, tired but happy. It was a long day but worth it. I had a wonderful time and really enjoyed it. I understand now why some companies do this as an overnight trip - there is such a distance to cover and so many things to see that doing it as a day trip means you don't really get enough time to spend at some places. However, the overnight trips are very, very expensive and out of reach of those on a budget!

Next: Chinese Market

Thursday, December 6, 2012

70. Golden Triangle Tour - Karen Long Neck Village

This is our last stop - the Karen Long Neck Village. I didn't think to ask what the name of the village was, nor did I take photos of the sculpture at the entrance. I didn't know we were visiting two villages. The first was an Akha village - they have wooden sculptures of male and female figures at the entrance to the village. Judging by the surroundings, it's my guess it was in some remote location of a national park.

Above: Akha Hilltribe
The Akha people wear bright costumes with lots of silver beading and dangly bits on their hats and are noted for their hand crafts.

Above: Running free
This little cherub was running around - in his hand is a feather duster.

Above: Innocence
He suddenly stopped and looked right at me - I was fortunate to capture this beautiful little face as he did. Such beautiful eyes and the innocent face pulled at my heart strings.

Above: Babies
Two littlies - their mother sits nearby.

Above: Akha village
For all the costumes are bright and cheerful, the village homes are in desperate need of repair.

Above: Bridge between the two villages
I was told to hurry up and cross the bridge. Over the bridge is the Karen village. The man standing on the other side of the bridge was considerably grumpy. One of those "in charge" maybe? He certainly wasn't very welcoming.

Above: Young girl
The ladies here make beautiful coloured scarves woven on a hand loom. I asked if I could take a photo, the girls said yes. She is ten and her name is Martine (spelling?) When I would take a photo, they always said, "You buy, you buy", but Martine did not so I bought a pretty green necklace with small black beads and silver coloured bits.

Above: Long Neck Karen Girl
A group of four men were very rude and each one sat down beside this lass to have his photo taken, then would hop up and the next one sat down. They did not ask her if they could take a photo and were bullying and hectoring in their attitude. I approached her and said hello and asked may I take your photo please? She nodded. The tour guide was walking past and said give me your camera, have your photo with her. I told him no, it's alright I would rather not. He insisted and took my camera. I felt uncomfortable and I thanked the young girl.

She was gracious and showed far better manners than the tour guide or the four men.

Above: Young Long Neck Karen Lady
I was struck by this lady's beauty and she kindly agreed to let me take her photo.

Above: Long Neck Karen Lady weaving
Further along, I saw an older lass sitting with a long narrow loom, sort of like an "A" frame and she was weaving the most beautiful piece of fabric - it was a scarf. The colours were so unusual I wanted to buy it. Asked if she had another one the same. She called and asked a woman on the other side. Anyway, she kind of ignored me. I asked did she have one like this, I liked it and wanted to buy one. She asked did I want to buy this one? I said yes. She cut the threads and it turned out there were two scarves on the frame.

She was finishing and threading through the threads when the tour guide told me it was time to leave and hurry up. I told him I had bought a scarf and she was finishing it. I asked could I take her photo to which she agreed. She is twenty and her name is Martaan.(Spelling?) I realised much later on the reason she did not stop weaving was because she probably had a quota to fill.

Above: The "Village"
A shot of the so called "village".

Above: Chickens
One sign of normality, about the only sign really - chickens running around doing what chickens do.

My opinion of Long Neck village visits
Although in a way, I am glad I went to the Long Neck village, while I don't actually regret doing so, I would not do so again. It is a sad place, there is no laughter, no sense of joy or happiness. I felt very uncomfortable, like I was looking at a zoo, that is it was like the ladies were on display. I don't think I'd go to another village again. It is very touristy and they expect you to spend money. Are they happy living like this? I find out later that these "villages" are owned and set up as a tourist attraction - the greedy blood suckers who own them, own the people too. They are not free to leave, they do not have their freedom and are not allowed to take the rings off their necks.

They wear brass rings around their necks which distorts the growth of their collarbones and make them look as if they have long necks - which they don't. These rows of brass rings don't actually stretch their necks - they squash the vertebrae and collar bones. A lady usually has about twenty or more rings around her neck. This neck ring adornment is started when the girls are only five or six years old.

Some of the younger ones don't wish to wear the golden coils of slavery around their necks, and want an education but are not allowed to do this because if they don't wear the neck coils, tourists won't want to visit them and it's all about money. Greed gone mad. Why doesn't the government step in and help? Huh, the government doesn't give a damn about them and sees them as a way of bringing in the tourist dollars. They too a a bunch of greedy blood sucking parasites just like the men who "own" the village and its people.

Two Faces
After crossing the bridge, one of the people in our group was in tears and very upset. The young woman said the tour guide yelled at her and was very mean. Evidently, she hadn't paid the same amount of money for the tour and she wasn't visiting the Karen Long Necks. (It was 500 baht to do this). The guide had a list with our names and next to each name was a list of things each had paid for.

She said she was told (by the tour guide) you haven't paid so you can't come and to stay here and wait for the group. She said she waited and it was starting to get dark and she didn't know where anybody was so she started to try to look for us. She had crossed over the bridge and she saw me walking and then the tour guide saw her and started yelling at her. She said he told her she hadn't paid and she was stealing - she wanted to see the village for free and he had a reputation to keep up. There was a lot more he had said in the vein.

The poor girl was terribly upset, and was shaking. I didn't hear this but I did see the young lass and the state she was in. I, and others were quite shocked that a tour guide could behave in such a manner. The phrase two-faced comes to mind.

Next: Loo Laughs and the Pink Bus

69. Golden Triangle Tour - Tachilek, Burma

This was for me, the most exciting part of the tour. I longed to go to Burma and this would afford me the opportunity, even if it was only for an hour or so. We stopped at Mae Sai - I was the only person on the tour who wanted to do this. I had only 30 minutes, it was supposed to be longer but too much time had been spent earlier. I remember feeling disappointed because I would have liked longer there but it was not to be.

I knew you had to have your passport as you get stamped out of Thailand, stamped into Burma. Then stamped out of Burma and stamped back in to Thailand. What I did not know was you also had to have your departure card with you - this is the card given to you on the plane just before you arrive into Thailand. The "entry" section is kept on entry and the "departure" section is handed over to immigration on leaving Thailand. It just didn't occur to me to bring it. The tour guide asked me at the very beginning of the tour if I had my passport, but he didn't mention the departure card.

I was terribly, terribly disappointed, I had so wanted to visit Burma. The immigration officer said get two photo copies of my passport. I did. Our tour guide was very good, he came with me and helped me. He (immigration officer) wanted 100 baht for his trouble. He got it - I'd have given 200 if he'd asked for it! Anyway, he stamped one (photocopy) but he kept my passport. The Burma side stamped the second one.

Above: Burma (Myanmar)
The border gate.

Above: Through the arch - No Guns!
I just had to get my photo taken here - it was the "no guns" sign that did it. One of the immigration officials wanted to be in the photo and posed and smiled.

Above: Tachilek
This circular garden bed is in the middle of the road bearing the sign "City of the Golden Triangle".

Above: Local Load transport
Now that is quite a load for a thing on three wheels! I looked at it and asked myself what could be in those boxes? Where have they come from? Where are they going to? Is the man driving the owner or a worker? Does he have a shop? Is it local, is it out of town?
The lower boxes are obviously different from the ones above. The upper ones have pictures of tomatoes while others show a green capsicum.

Above: Public transport
The Burma tuk-tuk. There are eight or nine passengers here. They run as a taxi or a bus and I thought it would be a real thrill to ride in one - that is until I read how dangerous they can be. There's only three wheels, and they're often over-loaded and the weight isn't distributed evenly. There have been a number of accidents.

Above: Transport - Mae Sai
More transport modes, this time in Mae Sai. Note the blue plastic bucket hanging over the side. The stalls along this part of the road are food stalls.

Above: Architecture
Pagoda spire in Burma. There are seven "tiers". During my time here, I was on the (constant) lookout for a souvenir. I ended up I bought a lovely scarf - this was my souvenir from Burma. Whenever I wear it, the memories return.

Above: Children
I took a snapshot of these children playing - they wanted money! Because I took a photo. They didn't get any.

Above: Government Official
The fellow was happy to pose for a photo.

Above: Passport Control
The immigration chaps were happy to have their photo taken too.

Above: Family

Above: Mae Sai - Busy Throng
Back in Thailand = the road was packed with people everywhere. I think it was market day. Hundreds of food stalls.

Above: Main Street
Walking down the main street in Mae Sai.

Crossing over the border and back into Thailand, I was unaware that I would not get to keep the "copy" of passport. Had I known, I would have photographed it. Handed it over to Thai official for stamping, asked could I photograph it, he said no. But he gave me a "souvenir" stamp in the back of my passport, which was rather nice of him. I really was disappointed that my visa stamps weren't there - oh well, at least I got to go to Burma.

The it was time to get back on the bus for our last stop.

Next: Long Neck Karen Village.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

68. Golden Triangle Tour - The Golden Triangle

Our next stop is Chiang Saen - where you cruise over to the Laos island of Don Xao. I had been told the boat was a small canoe, being a non-swimmer I didn't fancy my chances in a little canoe so decided against joining in this part of the trip. Because of this I hadn't brought extra cash with me.

Above: Chiang Saen
Yep, here's the notice board which "proves" I was at the Golden Triangle! It seems a bit childish now taking a photo for proof, but hey! people do funny things and I'm pretty sure people have done funnier! All in the name of tourism.☺

Above: Boat to Don Xao Island
I found out the boat is not a little canoe, but this "normal" size boat so then there was a rush of letting the tour guide know that yes, I did want to go on the cruise. That meant I had to hand over 300 baht - don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, had I not been told the boat was a little canoe, I'd have paid the extra when I booked the tour and would have taken extra cash with me for spending.

Above: Thai side
It was lovely sitting in the boat - I love messing about on boats and sitting back watching the water and the river scenery, it is such a peaceful thing to do. Here is the Thai side of the river. Hmm - looks like a work in progress.

Above: Golden Buddha, Wat Sop Ruak
A little further up is the big buddha - Wat Sop Ruak, which I believe is the border point of Laos, Thailand and Burma (Myanmar). The huge golden Buddha rises 40-feet from the stern of an elaborately designed metal pirate boat.

Above: Laos Golden Triangle
On the Laos side. Here we see one of the casinos being built by China. It disappoints me that monstrosities like this are built along a quiet, lovely place all in the name of greed, money and big business.

Above: The Golden Triangle
Where three countries "meet".

Above: Don Xao Island
Here I am - the island where you get mostly black market stuff - grog, tobacco, you name it, they got it. I bought a white handbag for 300 baht. Asking price was 600 baht. Mostly the bags weren't really what I wanted - there were so many, and we had so little time. Anyway, I fell in love with a fuschia pink bag with a grey flower and black plastic beaded handles. Fellow wanted 800 baht. I offered 400, went up to 500 baht, Had left the bulk of cash at the hotel safe and couldn't go higher. He wouldn't budge. He did speak to someone and I caught the words "special delivery" or something like that. I was very disappointed.

If I were to be lucky enough to come back here, I'd be looking at the locally made silk scarves and trinkets and knick-knacks rather than handbags. You don't need your passport, even though this island belongs to Laos.

Above: Ferry
Soon it was time to leave - here we are on the boat heading back. Eating the ice cream I bought on the island. It was a goooood ice cream.

Above: Back to Chiang Saen
Soon we were back on dry land and it's okay everybody, back on the bus - it's time to head to the restaurant for lunch. We drove for a short while, probably no more than a few minutes.

Above: Chiang Saen restaurant
The restaurant was fairly large and is set up for tourist groups. I didn't know this at the time, but do now. Anyway, whether the food was "authentic" or an "authentic" experience I had a lovely time here. The food was good, plenty of it and I can honestly say I had a good time. The lower left-hand photo shows food dishes which are from L to R - Fried rice, Fried Chinese noodle, Fried potato, Fried chicken, Chicken curry.
There were also desserts, little confections of sweet stuff. And of course - coffee.

Above: Restaurant front entrance
This is the outside of the restaurant - it's just beautiful with all that bougainvillea overhanging, framing the place with a hint of old fashioned mystery. Sitting in one of the chairs under a flowering cover is one of the most enjoyable things you can do. I could have sat there forever. Sipping coffee, sitting in the shade with nothing more to do than pick up the coffee cup, the breeze wafting past your face with a delicate freshness. You close your eyes and live the moment.

Above: Verandah Chairs
These are the chairs on the verandah. As I sat on one of these rattan chairs drinking coffee, it looked and felt like British Colonial times.

Above: View opposite
There was a school or childcare learning centre opposite with drawing/artwork on the wall and small chairs. I couldn't get the whole lot in one photo, so took three and I've put them together in a collage. If you enlarge the photo, you get a better view. Does anyone reading this know what the Thai writing says?

The village, if that is what it was, was a pleasant, sleepy little place, busy but not crowded.
All too soon it was time to head back to the bus.

Next: Mae Sai/Tachilek
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