From Jamie's Philippines Pics

We have also had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bali. We have archived all of our travels and living experiences abroad; and if you wish, you can read about our adventures by finding the archives on the right of this page and by checking our Photo Album.

We appreciate all of our family and friends who have stayed in touch and emailed us with encouraging words throughout the year. We hope you will continue to keep us in your thoughts as we continue our adventure of living abroad teaching at an international school. For those who have stumbled upon our site, check out the "About Eric and Jamie" section on the right for more information.

Thanks for checking us out!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
- Mark Twain

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
- Maya Angelou






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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thailand - Day 8 - Chiang Mai

Jamie and I had another full day today as we were picked up from our guesthouse at 7:30 am. Our destination was Northern Thailand to a multitude of different places. Here is a run down of what we did today, and all of the pictures can be found in the Thailand - Day 8 - Chiang Mai album.

Our first stop was at the Hot Springs on the way from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. Confusing huh? These were typical hot springs like you'd find in Hot Springs, Arkansas or Yellowstone National Park in the US. It was quite touristy and we only stayed for about 20 minutes. Interesting nonetheless.

Next we visited a rather odd ultra modern temple just outside of Chiang Rai. When you see the pictures of it, you'll understand. The entire structure and surrounding area was just so strange. Although you weren't supposed to take pictures inside the temple, Jamie snuck a few because, as she said, "Everyone else was blatently disobeying the clearly posted signs, and they weren't enforcing it." The temple inside had the typical Buddha statues, but it was the paintings on the back walls of the temple which struck me as so weird. The mural wall painting had modern references to such things as 911 and the World Trade Center attack represented by a large creature wrapping its tenticals around the buildings while they are on fire, some figures in what appeared to be Star Wars space ships, and even a picture of The Matrix's Neo (Keanu Reeves) only holding some sort of laser gun. Like I said, very weird. The entire temple was very pretty and sparkled quite elegantly on a sunny day. You can look up more information just by googling "The White Temple Chiang Rai." Our pictures will give you a good idea.

Our next stop was the Golden Triangle which is the border of Laos, Thailand, and Burma (now known as Myanmar). We took a boat out on the Mekong River, a river which spans across 6 countries and is the lifeline form 1000s of people depending on it. Our little guide showed us the Myanmar side, and we actually were able to cross into in the Laos side for some quick shopping. The most interesting part of this was when we tried Snake Whiskey. We thought it was a brand of whiskey, but it was literally a large jar which had snakes in it and somehow ferment it or something. There was also gecko, a scorpion, and a root whiskey. Amazing! We were also able to get some fake passport stamps, although I think Jamie and I will find our way back to Laos for the real thing sooner or later.

Lunch consisted of a buffet at a restaurant which literally said "Buffet for Tourist Groups." They aren't hiding anything. Food was decent, but nothing to write home about, although I guess that is what I'm doing now.

After lunch, we went to the northern most point in Thailand along the Myanmar border. I'll pause here to explain that there are dozens of tour vans which carry tourists like us to these locations, so at each stop, there are numerous shopping opportunities of basically the same stuff. We casually look but rarely purchase anything. Jamie did find some earrings and a small pendant, and we were able to buy some soveniers for some family members.

Jamie and I were looking forward the going to some of the Hill Tribes in Northern Thailand. It is also one of the stops mentioned in 1000 Places book. We arrived at one of the tribes next which consisted of a small little village in a U shape on a hill. They have bamboo homes and straw roofs but also satellite TV. Go figure. They were brightly colored clothing and sell handmade silk scarfs, dolls, and other trinkets. The Hill Tribes came down from Burma about 200 years ago and have stayed in the area living in the mountains.

Our last stop for the day took us to 3 of the more interesting tribes one can see. The Karin Longneck tribe lives next to what our guide called the Big Ear tribe, and one other. You can clearly see some of the pictures in our album of these intesting people. The unnamed tribe had women who wore brightly colored outfits and chewed on a tobacco that was colored black and red which stained teeth. They constantly spit on the ground which turned it red. For them, the black and red teeth are a sign of beauty. They were lively and very welcoming to tourist especially those who spent money.

The Karin Longneck tribe were the most interesting. Beginning at the age of 5, girls begin wearing brass ring coils around their necks. They used to actually use gold but it became too expensive. While it appears as though their necks are actually longer, it is all an illusion as the rings are actually just pressing the ribs down. Nonetheless, the elder women who are considered the most beautiful have up to 5 kilograms of weigh in brass. Pictures we have show the uncoiled brass that was taken off of the women shown above. 5 kilos is 11 pounds of weight resting on their shoulders, YIKES! We were able to take pictures of smaller girls wearing the neck rings too.

The final tribe were similar except they expanded their ear lobes to crazy sizes. I remember having some students in class who would do this to their ears back in Georgia. The girls seen in these pictures have some pretty large holes in their ear lobes. Once again, it is a sign of beauty of obviously hard for us to understand these customs. The longnecks do take the rings off occasionally for clearning but wear them to bed at night. Interestingly about these cultures, the men usually stay at home with the kids while the women go work in the fields. We will be moving there soon!

Afterwards, we had a 3.5 hour drive back to our guesthouse. It was a long day but full of culture and something I'm sure we will never see again. Tomorrow is our last day in Chiang Mai unfortunately. We will be going to Doi Sathep, the highest peak around and perhaps the Zoo. We leave on an overnight train at 4:30. I'm not sure I will be able to blog until we reach Koh Chang Island on Monday afternoon (Monday morning for US). We'll post some pictures and fill you in on the details of those days. Blogging should slow considerablly once we reach Koh Chang. We will have Internet, but there won't be much to talk about. Our plan is to completely relax, read the 15 books we brought between us, and have some R&R.

Email me with questions or comment, post them here, or start a post on the message board (which by the way, only a few people have done).
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