We managed a few days in the northern town of Chiang Rai just before Christmas, which was very pleasant. The town was founded by the legendary (but real) King Mengrai at the end of the thirteenth century as part of the Lanna state.
Lanna was, with the Sukothai of King Ramkhamhaeng, among the first independent Tai polities. Together with the Prince of Phayao, the two kings formed a triple alliance which resisted the onslaught of the Mongols (in fact, the Yuan Dynasty Chinese), although mosquitoes and disease probably also had parts to play.
Chiang Rai has a number of wats to visit (of course) and one of the more interesting is the so-called White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), which has been created by the famous artist Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat as a form of dedication to the Buddhist philosophy and to house his own artwork. Here is one of the main buildings:
It is well-worth visiting: a lot of Ajarn Chalermchai’s work focuses on the suffering that people face before they can reach Nirvana (enlightenment) and that makes for some startling and enjoyable scenes.
We also popped up to the border town of Mae Sai, which is part of the Golden Triangle region and an important border post for trade and labour migration (mostly temporary). Here are some people crossing between the two posts, with Myanmar (Burma) in the background.
All throughout Mae Sai are markets, some for general items and some for the gems, particularly jade, for which Burma has been known throughout history. These days, many of the items are imported from China, including the packet of Chinese ‘chocolate’ sitting on my desk in front of me, from the Tianjin Dagang Chunrong Food Factory.
Here are the women looking at some stuff and a picture of Chinese and domestic wine-selling vendors from the other side of the road (if you know the place, I mean).
It was cold, for Thailand at least, with temperatures dipping below the 20 degree mark during daytimes – I note that 18 provinces have already been declared ‘cold weather disaster zones,’ which is a little premature. Here in Bangkok, it is struggling to get over 25 degrees some days and that is also considered cold winter weather, although extremely pleasant for foreigners such as self. It is unfortunate that people in this office think it is too cold to turn on the air conditioning in a building designed for its use, making the place somewhat stuffy and airless. Never mind.