Monday, June 2, 2008


CHIENGRAI is the gateway to the Golden Triangle. The GT conjures my thought of the notorious drug trade of yesteryears. And drugs continue to be a world's menace. The Golden Triangle got its name from the 3 bordering countries of Thailand, Laos and Burma, seperated by the mighty Mekong River that has its source in the heart of China. It is "golden" because of the lucrative drug trade.

This would be my second trip to the GT. Back in 1997, I made this journey with my brother and 3 friends from KL to the Golden Triangle by road. It took us 5 days, riding an average of 600kms a day. It was on two wheels too, but motorised with powerful engines.

So when our cycling group decided that Day 2 is a touristy day for us, it was a "down memory lane" for me. I recalled visiting the Karen long-neck tribe, which was on our visit list. I recalled too arriving at the Golden Triangle, riding from Chiengmai almost soaking wet from a hail-storm towards the end of our final destination. Then, 5 of us gave each other a high 5, a proud moment for achieving our longest journey ever on a motorbike.

Our itinerary for today would include the famed RAI MAE FAH LUANG which is the art and cultural park. It's a sprawling complex housing the Princess Mother's Palace up in the cool mountain air and offering an expanse of mountain view into Burma and also a valley of flowers below the Palace. This too was our first destination for the day.

The journey took us on a nice winding road uphill. As cyclists, we admired the nice winding road inching upwards to the site. As a cyclist, one tends not to take the slopes for granted too. As we disembarked from the van, we immediately felt the coolness and the freshness of the mountain air. Ah, what a feeling! The peace of the place was also not disturbed by peddlars cajoling you to buy handicrafts as one would expect at tourist spots. A little bit like Cameron Highlands, but certainly with much lesser traffic.

An entrance fee of Baht 120 got us to visit 3 places. The first was the Princess Mother's Palace. Made entirely of timber, it was too small to be called a palace, but certainly big enough for the Princess Mother. The Thai monarch is highly revered, and so was the Princess Mother.

To enter, one had to be decently attired. Short pants were out. The guard provided us with loose blue pants to wear. Very comfortable. I wished I could just wear it unreturned! Notice our cool "pyjama" pants?

The walk was pleasant and the road was heavily landscaped.

The shades from the tall trees offer additional comfort to the already cool and fresh air as we made our way to the palace ground. I can't help but notice a cute watering station, not that I was thirsty.

And there was order everywhere. Everything was neatly arranged. Even fertilizer sprayers were in the correct military precision.

At the palace entrance, a lady politey told us we need to remove our shoes to enter the palace. No photos allowed too inside the palace. So we need to capture everything in our memory. A guide showed us around. The bedroom, the study and several other rooms were off-limit. Hence some of us peeped through the glass doors. The palace was made mainly of timber. I could not however believed what the guide told us that the timber was taken entirely from old wooden ships and that no trees were cut for the Palace.

Exiting from the Palace, I had to pose with these 2 soldiers who I presumed were ceremonial guards of the Palace. Notice my cool "pyjama"?

Next we moved into the Garden. There was an aboritorium where plants were cultivated. There were beautiful landscaped water features .......

and beautiful subject.........

taken by an equally enthusiastic photographer......

I was moving around with Rahim and Alia and we had this same professional photographer to take our Alia and Rahim

There were other picture-perfect gardens, manicured with love and tender care

and finally there was this picture-perfect subject too.......ho....ho....

Our next destination was FOOD. We arrived Mae Sai town which bordered Burma and had our fill of Halal food in a Muslim restaurant. It was just after Friday prayers and there were many Muslims coming out from the mosque. Of course I would be "jamakking" my prayers. Rain came suddenly.

The next destination was the Golden Triangle. The name itself had made this small town famous and Thai Tourist Authority knew how to capitalise on its name. It had grown much more since the last time I visited 11 years ago.

I did not recall seeing any "elephant" then. If there was, I wouldn't have dared being under its belly!

But we did stop for a quick visit of a 100-year old Wat (temple)

and had to make sure we follow the right direction to enter its gate

Our final destination was a visit to a Karen Long Neck village. At the entrance, we were told that the entrance fee would be Baht 500 (RM50), a rather steep price to see people with long neck. The lady in charge knew through our own shrug of our neck that we were not interested to enter for such a steep price. It was quickly reduced down to Baht 200 and several of us decided it was worth it, after having come a long way from Malaysia.

I chose not to as I had seen them before. And I had our own Karen long neck, which was a very willing subject.

On a parting note of our tour, I must give praise to the creativity of the Thais at recycling. Paying 2 bhat for the toilet facilities, I was wondering what the 2 sewing machines were doing in a toilet.

No comments: