Again, words seem to falter, and only the photos remind me of all that I experienced on this day. Traveling through what is called "The Golden Triangle" (a corner of Thailand where the border is shared with Burma and Laos) was long and fascinating and left me with complex images in my mind.
Burma (Myanmar) is very different from Thailand, even just across the border in a small border town, that brought to mind images of Tijauna when I used to visit as a child. Poverty and squalor. We were allowed in the border village only, since the rest of Myanmar is basically off limits to westerners. We saw incredible poverty, truly a third world country here and we were the rich tourists gawking. It felt strange. The market was noisy and incredibly smelly with fish, and the waterways between houses ran with garbage and fresh sewage.
I actually tried to chew betel nut, more adventurous than most of the group, and it somehow reacts in your mouth and creates huge amounts of saliva. Ick. Not a good experience, but I'm glad I did it. There were women in dirt floored hovels, with old sewing machines making things and Ray introduced us to one of his friends. Here the young boys were all monks, but in Burma, they beg constantly, something not encouraged, as it is quite different from the genteel gifting to the monks in Thailand.
It’s amazing how different the people are even so close to each other. It was the same in Laos, a country I barely know anything about at all. My greatest treasure is a heavy dark stone from the Mae Khong River. I carry so many mental images from deep consciousness and stories of Viet Nam, Cambodia, and hearing these names on the news as a young girl. It was rather incredible to be riding on this river as we crossed the border into Laos.
We had lunch in some farm village after a rough ride in a farm truck over dirt roads. I loved it. The lunch was BBq chicken and pad thai and rice in banana leaves, and as usual, was beautifully arranged and presented. The countryside reminded me of movies I have seen of Viet Nam and other places, that were probably filmed right here in Thailand. We drove through mature teak forests and rice fields that were dried up for the season.
The air was not very clean either, since they were burning the rice straw all over this part of Thailand. I am beginning to miss clear air. Somehow this was a full, and somewhat challenging day, with mixed emotional responses to all that was around me. But it was also a day that I hold in my memory in a different way than some of the other parts of this trip, and I'm glad we took the extra time and money to include the Triangle in our tour.
Gliding down the Mae Khong River we saw a huge golden Buddha along the shoreline that dominated the entire skyline. Something about the huge size of the Buddhas adds to the mystery of the landscape. Maybe because a giant statue of Buddha isn't something that you see often along a river in the US.
Home late to rest a bit beore our shared dinner at the Chinese restaurant in the hotel, another break from the local Thai food but certainly not memorable. This time, however, we drank beer.