Thursday, 30 July 2009

Chiang Mai, Mae Sai, Thailand

After bus burnout we flew 1 hour from Luang Prabang in Laos to Chiang Mai, Thailand. We arrived on a Sunday which is the biggest market day and her indoors was overwhelmed with the choice of bargains while I escaped the shopping mayhem in an internet cafe with a large beer. It's a bit too touristy here for my liking but it's not too hard to escape the minibus tours if you try.

We rented a scooter and visited the nearby attractions including an elephant sanctuary where the talented trunked ones have been trained to paint. Yes you heard right, they actually paint, play football and various other impressive tasks.

Elephant Painter!

There's also a somewhat touristy tribal village where the infamous 'long neck' women live. They never take off the metal bindings around their neck from a young age. Over time the neck elongates and if they were to take off the bindings they risk breaking the spine as the neck muscles would not be able to support weight of the head unassisted. It's all a bit bizarre as you roam around the village and you can't help thinking that at this point it's no longer about preserving the culture but more about fleecing tourists in a kind of carnival freak show.

Long Neck Women

Seven hours north of Chiang Mai is the most northerly town in Thailand called Mae Sai where we had to spend the night as we waited for the border to open and get our visas for Myanmar (Burma). Our original plan was just to hop across the border into Talichek, Myanmar for the day but after chatting with a French woman who had just spent a week in Burma we decided to head to a small town called Kengtung. It was a decision we would not regret as it is a world removed from tourists but more on that next post. More photos of Chiang Mai in the slideshow below.
Click on map to enlarge

Tags: ..Chiang Mai, Mae Sai, Thailand..

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Stevo July 31, 2009 3:55 am  

Chiang Mai is one of my fave places. I'm interested in your thoughts about Burma.

Baino July 31, 2009 6:04 am  

Actually I loved Chiang Mai. It's touristy but in a very genuine kind of way. Nobody offering you 'good times' or silly T shirts. Not sure how I feel about elephants who paint. Great photos as usual.

nick July 31, 2009 7:36 am  

I'm not keen on painting elephants either. Do they enjoy it or do they find it demeaning, I wonder? I'm even less keen on those neck rings that as you say damage the body. Very much a freak show for the tourists, I fear.

Quickroute July 31, 2009 1:07 pm  

@ Stevo: I liked CM but I'm just getting tourist weary I guess. Loved Burma because it wasn't touristy at all

@ Baino: The missus loved the markets too - I had seconds thoughts about the elephants tricks too but they are treated way better than a lot of zoo or worker elephants

@ Nick: The long neck village is open until 4pm only and I couldn't help imagining they hop on a minibus at 4:30pm and head back to the city to the pub and spend their ill gotten gains - very false atmosphere about the whole thing

EspaƱol en Tailandia June 07, 2012 8:45 am  

I found Mae Sai to be a pretty shitty place that I don´t enjoy at all when I have to do my visa runs, but next time I´ll check Kengtung as you recommend.

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