We were straight back onto the boat again today for another long cruise up the river, this time with even more stunning scenery. We had meal on the boat prepared by the captain’s wife for lunch- we paid a significant price as we wanted to pay them a ‘tip’ for taking us on the boat without other passengers- a meal which we paid for allowed them to make a little money without the awkwardness of tipping, so it worked out well.
We arrived in Haoui Xai at about 4pm. We quickly freshened up before ascending the stairs to a temple, a good spot for watching the sun set. I made some monk friends at ‘monk chat’ before watching the sun go to bed.
We crossed border into Thailand following some slightly sketchy situations with border staff hoping for bribes. Once we had made it through we headed to a small town called Chiangrai. Chiangrai was traditionally known as being the heart of the opium trade, and until fairly recently there was no way anyone could enter the area unless you were invited by one of the ‘drug fathers’ else you would absolutely be murdered within minutes. However, these days it’s a very different story and thousands of tourists head to Chiangrai to see The Golden Triangle, an area where you can stand in Thailand, see Bhurma to your left and Laos to your right. On a clear day you can even see some mountains in the distance belonging to China which I thought was pretty cool considering a month of my life was spent there.
Once we had taken adequately touristy pictures and paid a dollar to use the toilet (yes, a dollar- what happened to ‘spending a penny’?!) we headed to the opium museum which was just at the steps below the Golden Triangle viewing point. I’d say the museum was fully underwhelming and largely just housed pictures of people killed for dealing opium or wooden opium pipes. We boarded the bus fifteen minutes early with little disappointment.
We travelled a little further to reach the infamous ‘white temple’ which was absolutely anything but underwhelming, in fact it was absolutely incredible.
The concept came from an artist who had lived a very unhealthy life involving drugs, alcohol and women. Eventually the lifestyle took toll on him and he became ill, the turning point where he decided to change his ways and do something positive. He came up with the concept of the white temple as a symbol of contemporary Buddhism, and interwoven with the delicate and intricate architecture are icons of our generation. Superhero masks are littered in the trees, and paintings of modern structures such as the original New York World Trade Centre are to be found within the murals. Pictures don’t do this place justice- it’s amazing.
We went for dinner at Chiangmai market after our two hour bus transfer and I was delighted to be able to get broccoli, tea life, green, crunchy, delicious, healthy broccoli. It may or may not be apparent that broccoli is my favourite food, so I was so happy to scoff a whole plate of the stuff!