Check!

Sometimes I get to do something that is truly amazing and afterwards I think – wow, I can’t believe this is my life. Sometimes I do things and afterwards I think – well I guess I can check that off the list now. Wow, I cannot believe this is my life. The latter applies to my trip to the Golden Triangle and Chiang Rai.

One of the hard parts about traveling alone is the financial learning curve. It is always easier to take a leap of faith when you are splitting the costs. If I had it to do over again I would have rented a car the day I hit Chiang Mai and let the wind carry me up into the hill country where there are plenty of really amazing looking little resorts alongside rivers, on mountain sides and in small towns. But I didn’t know that before yesterday and sadly now it is time for me to head back south and soon to venture on westward.

I booked a full-day tour to Chiang Rai, The Golden Triangle and to a Karen Long-Neck village. Firstly this is way too much to try and pack into one day and should you find yourself up here looking for a day’s worth of activities, I’d say pick one or two of the three, but not all at once. Because we had so much ground to cover, we never stopped in one place for more than half an hour.
The van picked me up at 7:10am, twenty minutes early – always a stellar way to start one’s day. Our first pit stop was at a natural hot spring. Since it is pretty much always hot here, the springs aren’t popular for bathing, seems their main function is as an elaborate egg poacher. Many women carrying dipping baskets with all kinds of eggs, duck, chicken, quail, approach you the moment you get out of the van and offer to cook you up an egg or two, or ten in the case of the quail eggs. The spring is surrounded by stalls hawking all the normal Thai souvenirs – scarves, bags, T-shirts, silver jewelry and questionably authentic gold bejeweled rings.

Thai Hot spring – Check!

From here we did a drive-by of Chiang Rai, never leaving the van. Around 1pm we arrived at the launching ground for a boat trip to the Golden Triangle. For many years I lived in Durango, Colorado, a relative stone’s throw from Four Corners, the point where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona touch. The Golden Triangle is Asia’s equivalent on a bigger scale since we are talking countries here not states.

Chiang Rai – Check!
For 900 baht ($10) we were piled into yet another questionably buoyant long-tail boat and motored out to a seemingly arbitrary point in the Mekong River where the countries of Burma/Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet.
We stopped off in Laos at another tourist market where I sent a few postcards and meandered through stalls hawking all the normal Laos souvenirs – scarves, bags, T-shirts, silver jewelry and questionably authentic gold bejeweled rings. (Seems Laos gets their souvenirs from the same Chinese supplier.)

Laos market and life risking boat trip at the intersection of three countries– Check!
A quick stop for a buffet lunch of unidentifiable pork products and gelatinous sugared deserts, then we were off for the Myanmar border. We stopped for, I think, ten minutes at the border, which was a tourist market filled with stalls hawking all the normal Burmese souvenirs – scarves, bags, T-shirts, silver jewelry and questionably authentic gold bejeweled rings. (I am just copying and pasting now.)

Two trips to Burmese border in the space of one month – Check!
Then it was off for the main attraction. In Northern Thailand there are lots of different hill tribes, one is the famed Longneck group. The women of this tribe wear copper bands wrapped around their necks beginning at age three and throughout their lives. At differing intervals more coils are added, determined by kilo weight more so than the number of wraps or length of one’s neck. At three you start with two kilos, or so our guide told us.

I tried on one of the coils cut in half and fashioned for easy photo ops, it was less than half what the adult women were wearing and it was VERY heavy. I can’t imagine what an Xray of these women would look like, extra space between each vertebrae in the neck, but the remaining spine crunched under years of added weight.

Posing with a copper coil around my neck – Check!

The tribe has been relegated to a specific spit of land located conveniently near the highway for tour vans to visit and alongside some other novel tribesmen, notably, the ones who stretch their ears and chew a kind of herb that turns their teeth black. The tribal women are easy to find as they all have booths set up hawking the normal obscure hill tribe souvenirs – scarves, bags, T-shirts, silver jewelry and questionably authentic gold bejeweled rings.

Buying a bracelet from a woman with really long earlobes – Check!

That concluded the tour, from here we drove three hours back to Chiang Mai where I poured myself into bed and slept solidly for the first time in a week. No roosters, no pigs, no fighting dogs, mosquitoes or slingshot armed children to stir me awake.

A decent night’s sleep in Northern Thailand – Check!

Tonight I board a super VIP bus back to Bangkok where I have three days to complete various administrative tasks, embassies, gift buying/shipping, doctor’s appointment etc. and then it is time to be cold, fat and happy in Italy! Additionally, I got a wild hair a few days back, thanks to a fare sale email United kindly sent me, and booked a ticket to Colorado for a couple of weeks after Italy and Croatia. The lure of friends, a soft bed and Taqueria el Nopal were just too great for me to resist.

Since we are now more than six months into this trip I should probably update you on the amended 2009 itinerary*:

January 14-23
Cortina, Italy – ski trip with Roberto and Beth

January 23-27
Zagreb, Croatia – yoga with my teachers Marco and Sandra

January 28- February 8
Aspen, Colorado

February 15-March 15ish
Southern India

Mid-March – early-April
Vietnam I think

April, Bali
This End Up! Yoga Retreat

May – June
Australia, New Zealand and Fiji

July-ish
Aspen, Colorado

July 20-26
Tour de France

Beyond - suggestions now being taken.

*All dates and locations are subject to change on a whim and without notice.

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