Today I decided to spend a few moments on reflection. Such as did I make the right choice to come on an Intrepid? How does one translate the experiences I am having into a meaningful context for readers?
I certainly feel that I am actually a real tourist who has had the opportunities presented by the Intrepid people that one would never have had an opportunity to experience otherwise. The places we have visited would have been fairly well vetted to make them a meaningful experience and they are not in a city or town but in the out of the way places. Maybe a veteran traveller would be able to find these places but I am really happy that I made the choice to travel so that I got to experience these places also. As well as this you cannot guarantee your travelling companions but all in all the mix for this Intrepid is quite balanced and mature. The group ranges in age from 22 – me at 60 with an average age of about 35 which in actual fact puts all put Harold and I below this. We cover five countries with two of us
having Swiss German as their first language.
Now to the second reflection. As we left the hillside homestay in Maiasalon we headed out onto more hillside roads and into an intensive tea making area where the hills were covered with the tea trees necessary to provide work for the locals and to make the plantation owners a reasonable income. Because the land is vast and not that dissimilar to the Northern side of New Caledonia, it is hard to stop and just react to one blink of a scene without loosing the whole moving landscape. So I suppose that unless I was taking a movie and then replaying it, I am choosing to share the blinks and maybe the reader will be able to put the blinks together or not!
Today we left our accommodation heading to the markets of Mae Sai which is the border town between Thailand and Myanmar and only able for us to enter Myanmar through the border crossing at a cost of 500baht. We walked through the market and passed the border crossing but this just took us to the river that acted as the border.
The street was alive with the
hustle and bustle of the market place and a more unique picture of the goods available that reflect the dual cultures of Myanmar and Thailand. At this point we are at the Northern Most Place in Thailand. I didn’t want to spend any money, and so chose to just look. I had noticed steps leading to a temple and decided I would make my way to the steps and get in some practice. Harold caught up with me and so we counted the steps together. We were able to impart to Stuart who was already at the top of the steps when we saw him, that we had counted 206 this time. On display at the top near the temple was a ginormous scorpion. Not far from this was a statue of a baby elephant and I managed to climb up there with a bit of help and Harold took my photo. By this time it was well over 30 degrees and the exercise had resulted in the sweat pouring off of me. I hope that there is some physical benefit going on with that happening.
Eventually we were picked up again in the mini trucks and we headed
to the Golden Triangle. This is the pieces of land that encompass Myanmar, Thailand and Laos and it is also named for the opium industry that took place there not so many years ago. Initially, we had lunch at a lovely restaurant and then headed up the hill in the vans and got the big view of the three lands that meet. From here we went to the Opium Museum and learned about its history and that of the people of the area.
It is also fascinating that the hilltribe women of Chiang Rai have a tradition of placing rings that were once made of gold and now of brass, around their necks with this practise starting from a young age and continuing until they were married or 25. The rings were a reaction to the tigers attacking the villagers by biting the neck and the medicine woman decided that the rings would protect the women. It seems that is a misnomer that the rings stretch the neck and to remove the rings would be dangerous. Actually partly this is correct as the neck muscles are so weak there is a danger to the woman if they are removed
until she has strengthened them if she can. Actually the neck looks long as there is a downward pressure on the scapular and ribs and chest bones and therefore, the impression is that the neck is being stretched.
After this visit five of us hired a long boat to take us to Laos. The three countries are separated by the Mekong River which is the 10th
longest river in the world and in this area it was wide, fast flowing and very brown. We firstly, travelled up the Mekong to Myanmar and got an opportunity to see the casino called Paradise. Thailand does not have any casinos as gambling is banned there, but just on the other side the Laos and Myanmar borders are casinos. After turning around we headed off to Laos and parked the boat at the bottom of a market. Here we had a quick look around before heading back. The children showed their skills of inveigling money out of us by doing a small task and then expecting us to pay for it. In the market place were two little girls no older than 4 who were both carrying babies 6-9 months old in cloth
carriers on their hips. One little girl had money in her hand so I expect that she was making money selling the opportunity to have tourists take photos of her. Interesting that much as I would have liked a photo I was morally, not willing to, but Emma snuck a photo and maybe she will share it with me.
Well we have finally seen the rain, thunder and lightning. Just before we arrived at our new homestay it came down buckets and continued for about half an hour. Now we are showered and ready for the evening and are being entertained by some local students who are accompanied by their music teacher. The accommodation is in two separate rooms and I have in my room, Stuart, Harold and Tracey. Hmm Have I ever had two men sleeping either side of me? Oh yes! A sleeping pill tonight as I have on good advice that Stuart snores.
As part of this experience there is entertainment so I am also predicting that I might have to perform. That will be hilarious as I am not slow in coming forward eh Deb and James.
Yes! The entertainment happened
and an elder included us in a local ceremony where he finished up with the tying of a piece of string around each of our wrists in a ritual and it seems that this was to ensure a successful trek.
After this a group from the local college played music and did traditional dances for us and we joined in of course. I got up and made a speech. Did you think they were going to stop me? LOL. And as is expected in New Zealand I led my team with E Toru Nga Mea. So you all know how good my singing voice is but I can assure you I am not vain and it was heaps of fun and the team did a good job of repeating what I said. The tune had its own personality. Following on from my act, Casper, who is a Youth Worker part time, did a Rap for them on our travels so far and one of the Thai girls shyly accompanied him on her drum. We finished off the evening with yet another ceremony and that was to write a message on a paper balloon which was then lit and with
all our help and a fireworks attached, and we let it go into the black night sky. Hmm I wrote: “Live life with no regrets”.
Breakfast the following morning was sticky rice. Yum. Just like rice pudding.
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