Monday, November 25, 2013

27. Chiang Saen

Bangkok seems, and indeed is, so far, far away. Of course none of the turmoil there is felt in any way here in the beautiful North.

Instead, it is fabulous here.

There are literally no tourists, thank you very much, also no Chinese tourists, which is even more appreciated!

Chiang Saen is an ancient city, dating back to the 500s, built behind huge brick walls in an area called Yonok. The strategic position on the banks of the Mekong river, overlooking Laos and Myanmar make it a clear selection for the city planners and warlords of the past. Today there are not many jobs to be found, and tourists don't come here despite the "Golden Triangle" lure. If they come, they arrive after an 6 hour bone-breaking mini-bus ride from Chiang Mai, and head back after they have seen the confluence of the two rivers and the overview over three countries. I don't envy them for there ride back the same day. 

The morning I spend playing with motorcycles and examining, and fixing, a slight oil overfill in the BMW, a too common phenomenon which I can only blame one person: Myself! I tend to protect the engine on these tough rides from having too much oil in the crankcase, not a good thing to have.

Ian's fabulous motorcycle shop in the first floor of their house was a great place to do it. He owns several vintage British bikes, among them a 1940s BSA, which stands for the gun manufacturer "Birmingham Small Arms", which started building motorcycles before WW II. Ian was born in Birmingham, that might explain his love for those pieces of machinery. Jim (not a boy's name, it translates into "Beautiful"), his Thai wife has spend twice some time in Berlin, and speaks good German.

The afternoon I explored the historical part of the town and the surrounding countryside. Time is a little at it's standstill here, but some action can be found on the shore of the river Mehkong.

Floor in my bathroom: Loose pebbles, very nice.

Herding the hungry water buffaloes.

Tuk Tuk, the local taxis.

A Chinese ship gets loaded with bags of rice, an image which hasn't change much in the last 1000 years.

The Golden Triangle between Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, former hub of the opium trade.

The green peninsular in the center of the image is the so-called Golden Triangle.

480 steps up to historic Wat Phra That Chom Kitti.

The offerings for Buddha, replaced daily.

Close to the Chedi (Stupa) women are not admitted.

Beautiful view into Laos.

Watchful Fu Dog, sleepy Jack dog.

The other river bank, Laos.

I visited the Opium Museum here in town which depicts the former trafficking in this important crop. It also explains the active involvement of the British who, for political reasons and to undermine the power of China, actively supported and protected the opium agriculture, today an often overlooked fact. The British administration ruled in Burma from the Anglo-Burmese wars in 1924 to Burma's independence in 1948.

Today it is rumored that opium crosses the border into Thailand under Thai military escort, since the former Taksin government killed all competing opium lords in the region, in order for the Taksin family to run the enterprise without competition. I sure don't know whether this is true. I lean towards declining the story since opium in general is replaced by crystal meth from Burma, which certainly doesn't cross the border here, but where I was ten days ago, in Mae Hong Son, and further to the south, in Mae Sot..

The House of Opium, a museum, one cannot buy opium here, sorry.

Evening view from my cabin.

A rural opium smoker.

Porcelain opium smoker's pillows. Please don't miss to read the text above.

No comments:

Post a Comment