We are on the bus driving north, north toward Chiang Saen located on the Mekong River in the northernmost area of Thailand.
So far the countryside we have passed through has been very flat and very green - often consisting of wet rice fields. Now it is beginning to get hilly, even mountainous.
At one point our guide stops the bus and we get out to watch local workers transplanting glutinous rice (also known as sticky or sweet rice). This rice sprouts best in one kind of environment and matures best in a different environment which is why it is being transplanted.
We drive on and stop at a small town whose name I am unable to conjure up. This town like many we have passed through has received significant funds from the Thai government under a program called OTOP - one town, one product. Each OTOP town has a kind of cottage industry that creates a specific type of product. Apparently this program was advanced by the recently ousted Prime Minister Taksin which accounts for his popularity in small countryside towns but not in large cities.
Our guide tells us that the town in which we are stopping makes very low-priced ceramics. Our group wanders through some of the ceramic "factories" in town and we end up purchasing a souvenir wind chime that is supposed to bring financial fortune to the home in which it hangs.
Here is the chime and the woman whose family made it.
The chime costs us very little - incredibly little. I believe the man in the photo below is a member of the chime making family. In any case, he certainly is precious looking.
We drive on and reach the town of Chiang Saen. There we board a small boat for a cruise down the Mekong river to the Golden Triangle where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet in the middle of the river. Our guide tells us to swim to Laos if the boat capsizes. Our country does not have very good relations with Myanmar.
When we return from our cruise we visit a shrine on the banks of the Mekong:
The image of Buddha in the "boat" above is a huge statue. People walking on the deck of the "boat" are not as tall as the length of Buddha's finger.
In town we walk up a long staircase and then a short hill trail to come to a spot the overlooks the Golden Triangle.
Next time we visit a hill tribe.
Jeff February 4, 2007
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