border crossing: chiang rai, mae sai, and the golden triangle
this weekend brought my first taste of expeditions in thailand without the presence of 15 + others. an acutely needed change for the soundness of my being. leaving after classes friday and boarding my first bus here four friends and i embarked on a 3 hour winding trip to chiang rai, the northern most province. arriving at about 10:30 to the chian guesthouse our first night was christened with a quick swim in the pool, that we were so happy to find outside our room. saturday began early and ended late in the back of a run-down pickup whose driver sped us along roads that fell in and out of civilization and back again. stopping first at the very justly titled "monkey" temple we got a taste of our nearest species brilliance as they inhabit the temple to flee the butchers block. monkey a thai delicacy. the visit also led us up steps into the clouds to reach a cave where a buddha statue inhabits about 50 meters under rock formations. after an hour spent marveling we piled in again to allow the driver to take us to mae sai, the border crossing town into burma. while i acquired a new stamp in my passport and the right to further inhabit the world here the crossing was bittersweet. everything i know and have learned about the realities to the north was solidified with each step across the bridge and made me simply want to turn back around. while perusing the market on the burmese side the world seemed unreasonably familiar with a marked increase in animal hides, faux designer everything, and children begging. while i can check it off in my conquest to step foot in all the countries of our world it left an unpleasant taste i can't seem to shake. our last stop of the day brought us to the golden triangle where the borders of laos, thailand, and burma meet along the mekong river. the area is also widely known for it's central participation in the opium trade that has long influenced southeast asia. while mostly a thing of the past, remnants are on display in a museum that pays homage to many of the hill tribes and history of the drug ring. the ride home twisted past many hillside towns and rice paddies and while serving to knot my hair into a small mass of dreadlocks the day was one of the best i've had on this side of the world.