Chiang Rai was hilarious. Mainly because of language barriers, also because we constantly found ourselves in ridiculous situations. After a hilariously confusing check in the night before, we decided to ask the desk to book us a songthaew (basically a ute with benches in the back) to take us to the White Temple. We got a tuk tuk – a scooter with a back seat for two! We squeezed all four of us in somehow and off to the White Temple we went, with a few stops on the side of the highway for mechanical work which needless to is filled us with confidence! As did the butcher’s knife tucked on the dashboard and the stone penis key rings in the ignition! (ok, so the have ancient cultural significance, but still!)
The White temple kept with our theme of weird. It’s beautiful, undoubtedly, but just as it is adorned with traditional religious carvings it was also decorated with macabre pop culture references. And alien from Predator can be found coming out of the grass; Batman and Hellboy’s decapitated heads are hanging on a tree, and inside is a mural which features Transformers, Michael Jackson, Hello Kitty, Neo, September 11, Elvis and much much more. Weird.
The next day we hired a driver to take us through the countryside. First up was Mae Salong. This whole area is filled with minority groups who moved in various times due to turmoil surrounding countries – China during the revolution and Burma more recently. Now it is dedicated to tea production, and we sampled heaps of tea here before going on to a delicious mountainside lunch.
Then we were off to the Golden Triangle: the place where Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet, and historically the centre of the illegal opium trade in Southeast Asia. There isn’t heaps to see there really, just some stalls hawking the usual souvenirs and a boat trip that taken you to see all three countries from the river.
Around twilight we arrived at the Monkey Temple, where yes there were many monkeys. Many monkeys. We decided to climb the steep dragon stairs to the tiger cave (Will: Confucius say you must climb dragon stairs to tiger temple. Me: Confucius can go climb a tree!) The descent was more interesting however. We met some monkeys on the way. Nawww, cute monkeys, Rachael took some pictures. Then they started snarling at us. Suddenly they were not so cute, and the stairs were not so steep! One jumped at Rachael who skillfully sidestepped and ran down the stairs leaving Naomi, Will and I to avoid a few swipes and run up the stairs, pursued by angry monkeys. Basically I think we were in the way of their nest because once we got out of the way of the stairs they left us alone, but we couldn’t stop laughing for the rest of the drive home that we were attacked by monkeys! When we got down the stairs some locals who we’re closing up shop said, ‘You shouldn’t go up that way – dangerous – big monkeys!’ No kidding. Now we know why our driver didn’t want to leave the car!
Still, despite evil monkeys, the mountains were beautiful! So glad I got up that far!