Chiang Rai (Mae Hong Son Loop, Northern Thailand)
Русская версия After fixing the hole in the bike wheel in Ban Tha Ton we made it to Chiang Rai without any other adventures or stops. We found the backpackers’ hostel Akha River House we had booked easily (it was really bad though) and faced a new problem: where to change the money? A tourist in Thailand should remember that you are charged 200 bahts every time when you use an ATM and you might want to avoid it. Yet, it was the 1st of January, the holiday. The hostel administrator recommended to try Plaza Mall for the currency exchange; by the way, the guide books seriously recommend this mall as one of the attractions in Thailand.
We did not find anything special about it though and most of the banks were closed. Finally, we gave up and used the ATM. The Mall was indeed huge, and it took us a while to find the place where we had parked our bike; in the meantime, we found the lady only parking there.
Now we could turn to seeing the real attractions. During our visit, Chiang Rai hosted a huge flower exhibition and we fully enjoyed it.
Tribes in Thailand.
Next we went to the tribal museumwhich turned out very learning experience with a free wi-fi as a bonus.
The museum tells about the lifestyle and traditions of major Thai hill tribes and the visit includes watching a comprehensive movie on them. The exhibition has a lot of comments in English and gives the examples of tribal houses, costumes, and tools.
For us, the most interesting part was that on the tribal traditions. For instance, Akha people believe that any family which has ever had “human rejects” (tsaw caw) must build their house on a lower slope below all other houses. “Human rejects” are twins or any baby the Akha consider to be abnormal. Such families must be at the lowest elevation to ensure that debris from their house will not wash down and contaminate the other houses. Also, before Akha villagers build a new house, they must first ask approval from the spirits by dropping a raw egg from shoulder at the place for potential house. If the egg breaks, it means the site is approved.
The Yao (also known as Mien) adopt children from other tribes, as well as within their own tribe. When Yao adopt from outside the tribe, they feel that either money or goods must be given in exchange. Payment may be made in opium, especially if one of the natural parents is an addict. Sometimes a child is received in payment of a debt. Yao will never adopt out or sell their children to non-Yao – something as bad as allowing young Yao girls to become prostitutes.
Undoubtedly, most of the tourists are interested in Karen long-neck tribe due to the rings they wear on their necks and joints. The truth is that long neck Karen villages in Thailand is nothing more than make-believe villages and that Karen themselves are really from Myanmar (Burma). The only reason long neck Karen are in Thailand is because businessmen have imported them for tourists. The Karen women who live in the human zoo villages are seldom even allowed to leave the premises. The museum calls for responsible tourism and not visiting such villages. Yet, we visited one of them later (sinfully) and will certainly tell about it, although our impressions were as bad as promised in the museum.
Also most of the representatives of hill tribes are not Thailand citizens which deprives them of such benefits as healthcare and education. Children born from tribal non-citizens also do not get their citizenship.
Another problem of the tribes described in the museum is that of raising, selling and consuming opium.
We really recommend the museum for the visit, especially in case you plan to visit the “traditional”, yet, commercial tribal villages in Thailand later.
Then, we took a walk around the city following the map of major attractions (it takes about one hour).
The Chiang Rai day culminated at the night market. The Chiang Rai night market is little different from any other Thai night market, but may hardly compete with the best night market we had visited in Pai.
Yet, the Chiang Rai market offers a lot of good food.
We had hot pot soup with seafood, some fried food, and excellent coconut ice-cream for which people choose to queue for about half an hour.
The next day we explored the surroundings of Chiang Rai: the white and the black temples and one of the commercial tribal villages.
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