Thursday, March 08, 2007

Chang Rai

We kept travelling north until we reached the northernmost point in Thailand, the Golden Triangle. The golden triangle is named both because it is the joining of three countries and because of it is the biggest area in the world for opium growing and trafficking.

The Mekong River (major river running from China through Indochina to Vietnam) splits Thailand, Laos, and Burma. We took a boat ride up the river and were within a few feet of both Burma and Laos, do you think that counts?

In Chang Rai we took a long river boat ride up the Kok river to visit one of the hill tribes. In the Golden Triangle area there are 6 different hill tribes that each have their own religions, languages, and customs which are very unique, including the famous long-neck tribe. Sadly, all of the groups are now frequented by people like us and the government keeps moving them around. In another generation most of the traditions of these tribes will be totally lost. Already the kids are going to normal schools and dressing like westerners. This boat ride was the only time on the trip we were at all chilly. It was about 60 minutes long in 65 degree weather with a stiff wind. I was moderately cold with a short sleeve shirt and shorts on, so it wasn't that bad at all. The rest of the trip it was blissfully HOT.

The hill tribe we visited was a small group of 120 people that had very elaborate clothing. They believed water was bad and made you sick so they built their houses on stilts so that it wouldn't run in. Also interesting about this tribe is that pregnant women have to go into the woods by themselves to have their babies. When the baby is born it has to cry three times within a given time or the baby must be strangled. Also, if the baby is deformed in any way it must be strangled right then and there by the mother (who is alone remember). In this way every child that survives is healthy and strong.

The little children all did a traditional dance for us.


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