Monday, July 30, 2012

The Golden Triangle

I was meeting up with the elephant people in Chiang Rai but I spent my first few days in Chiang Mai so I had to get from one to the other.  I could have flown, both towns have airports, but I decided to take the bus instead.  The VIP line ticket cost me a whole $9 and took us through some beautiful countryside and through villages that could be plopped down most anywhere in the world (except the US) and wouldn't look out of place.

While waiting for the bus music started to play over the intercom and everyone stopped what they were doing to sing along.  It was the Thai national anthem (apparently it's played daily in public places).  Even the feral dogs hanging out at the bus station joined in.

From the bus station I took a Tuk-tuk to the Chiang Rai airport to meet up with the group.  Then it was another hour drive to the small town of Sob Ruak at the very center of the Golden Triangle.

The Golden Triangle is an area that used to be known as a center for opium growing.  The Thai government has stepped in and come up with alternative ways for locals to make their living and now they are trying to make this area a tourist area.

At the Golden Triangle Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Thailand all come together, separated by rivers (the Mekong between Thailand and Laos and the Ruak between Thailand and Myanmar).  You can't get there from here, however.  There are no boarder crossings in this area despite the presence of a casino on the Laos side and two top-end resorts on the Thailand side.

I did get to travel up to a land boarder between Thailand and Myanmar.  The Thai side has a military outpost and a fence.  The Myanmar side has a military outpost and a sports court.  When the countries are at peace the military stationed here get together and play sports.

The road along here runs right along the boarder between Thailand and Myanmar so depending on which side of the road you're on you can be in either country.  There is no barrier on the road.  Since Thai people consider lines on the road to be suggestions everyone in our van got to be in both countries at some point along this trip.

Not sure what the sign says - it's supposed to say something like this is the end of Thailand.  The mountains behind me are in Myanmar.

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