A boat trip on the mighty Mekong takes you to the Golden Triangle, the place where the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos meet.
The afternoon is well along by now and I suspect we are far behind schedule, so, instead of heading on to Mae Sai, Chris takes us first to the boat landing at Chiang Saen.
The boat landing is dominated by a huge golden Buddha aboard a colorful ship.
Closer to the water, a variety of brightly colored open boats cluster near the shore or along small wooden docks.
We board long slender covered boats (painted blue) and then we are off.
This is the heart of the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), and Laos come together. In the not so distant past, this was a wild and dangerous place that was also at the heart of the opium trade. Today it is the heart of the rapidly expanding tourist industry in Thailand’s far north.
The Mekong is mud brown in color, although, I believe the water is – technically – clean. It flows through a flat narrow valley and from its chocolate colored surface we can see the hills off in the distance.
We start by heading west, toward Burma and the massive casino built to attract tourists – and much needed income – into that poor country.
But the temple complex in Chiang Saen and the casino are the only substantial development, development we see. As we turn and head back east, toward Laos, the shoreline development is limited to a few individual homes and small fishing villages.
I love being on the water.
We go ashore on a Laotian island. This is strictly a tourist spot – a place to take pictures, buy souvenirs, and get a piece of paper that proclaims that one has indeed been in the country of Laos, but it does allow one to add another country to the “life list.”
Chris encourages us to try fresh coconut treats. I like them, but some of the others are less enthralled.
The market here is quite interesting, with slightly different versions of the handicrafts we have been seeing in Thailand. . .
. . . and a traditional medicine section offering items we have never seen before and would be frightened to try!
Most of the group spends the time here engaged in serious shopping. When we meet up with David and the others, they are thrilled with the quality of the knock-off shirts they have found. (Could they be real?!? They look real – here, compare them with one from home!) Chris has clearly seen this all before. She laughs and warns to them to wash their new shirts carefully when they return home, lest the little alligators swim away in the wash water. Lane nicknames these newly acquired items Laocostes.
It is nearly dusk when we return to Chiang Saen. While the others hit the cash machine and shop, Lane and I hustle over to take a closer look at that huge golden Buddha in the stained glass barge.
I wish we had more time here.