Tuesday, 26 March 2013

... Indochina: It's A Small World After All

Seeing as today was a 5 hour travel day to the river town of Chiang Khong, I decided a lazy morning was in order. I would have loved to lie in bed snoozing for a few hours but those Jet Lag Gods are playing havoc with me and I was awake before 5am. So I read for a bit, did some Pilates/Yoga on the patio in the sun and made sure I was packed properly - I discovered I've left my shampoo likely in Bangkok last night. One of those "you'd forget your head if it wasn't screwed on" moments I suspect.


Just before 10 I left the guesthouse with the plan to hit ye olde faithful, Starbucks. However, last night next to the fish spa I had seen a café and this morning I successfully managed to navigate myself back to it. Café de Siam had a good looking breakfast menu and as quickly as I ordered I had a healthy looking bowl of plain yoghurt with granola and fresh fruit, freshly squeezed OJ and a very good cup of coffee.... And for not much more than what a Starbucks would've cost me. I sat on the patio watching the world slowly go by and figured I'd hang around until the fish spa opened and get another "fish-icure". The store was supposed to open at 11 but didn't. I was just about to give up and leave when an older gentleman stopped on his moped. He too had wanted to come to the fish spa. We both lamented our disappointment then he said "I know of another, hop on and I'll take you there". And with that, I was racing through the streets of Chiang Mai with Ron, a 66 year old retiree from Edmonton, Canada on the back of his moped to  Dr. Fish! I can't quite say the wind was blowing through my long tresses, this was a moped people! However it was still kind of a rush weaving in and out of the Chiang Mai traffic especially when Ron decided to tell me "they don't even care if you can ride one of these things and didn't even ask to see my license!"  Perhaps not the best time to tell me that, although it was pretty obvious he could.


Chiang Mai apparently has numerous fish pedicure spas. To further elaborate on yesterday's post, the tank contains many tiny carp of a type known as doctor fish (Garra rufa). The fish nibble the dead skin off your feet. The idea is that they remove only the dead skin right down to new, living skin, which will eventually produce exceptionally smooth feet. I would need at least a month of treatment! I should note: whilst I've been  looking up information on “fishicures” to write about them, I learned that it’s not as benign a business as I initially thought. The practice is banned in several of the United States and Canadian provinces as cosmetology regulators believe the practice is unsanitary. I have to say the two places I have visited seemed very clean, they clearly stated how their tanks worked in terms of them being kept clean, when they were cleaned and further blurb to put your mind at ease. I also had my legs and feet washed before and after treatment. I still think it was very very cool to try and my feet really do feel awesome as a result.


Ron dropped me off at the entrance to the maze that consisted of small streets, somewhere inside of which was the guest house. Running for most of it in the insane heat I managed to get back in time for my minivan ride which was to consist mostly of driving through the Thai countryside to Chiang Khong but also a stop at Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai.

After a long and hot 3 hour journey from Chiang Mai, I arrived at what looked, at first glance, like something at Disneyland. This temple is very different to anything I have seen previously. Lets make that "ever". The white and mirror detail on the outside sparkled in the sun - it looked truly magnificent.


Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), a contemporary unconventional Buddhist temple, was designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat. Construction began in 1996 and is expected to be completed 60 - 90 years after the death of the artist and designer (Thanks Wiki!). Although it is still unfinished, the mural paintings on the walls inside represent a mix of traditional Thai Buddhist art and contemporary scenes. This is because the designer, who oddly enough looked a lot like Psy, refused to be confined within the framework of traditional beliefs and Art.  You see a plane crashing into the twin towers, the war for Oil, many movie/comics characters like Neo, Batman, Superman, Harry Potter and the Star Wars droids, to name but a few. Too bad photography inside the temple was not allowed (I was being carefully watched with my big camera) because it really was amazing.


Kositpipat has strong opinions that are put into his art. What the modern age has done to Society: drug and alcohol addiction, greed, fame... the whole lot. If you look closely you even see George Bush and Bin Laden within the eyes of the demon, those who changed the future of the world plus other depictions within the work. All of which you can stand and look at for ages. Then you turn your back on this and see good, the 3 images of Buddha.


The inside murals are a work in progress and I am sure in years to come it will be amazing to see it finished. But along with the negative, his love and devotion for his King, the 3 jewels and the beauty of nature are present for all to see.


After another 2 hours of driving I arrived in Chiang Khong, north east of Chiang Mai. Chiang Khong/Huay Xai is one of the most popular overland border crossings to/from Laos. At 730am tomorrow I'll be leaving Thailand via the Mekong River. In the interim however I'm going to drown myself in Deet then go grab some local fair for $1.75 at the Rimnam Guesthouse and Restaurant. It promises a view of the Mekong River and Laos as well as some very tasty food! Whether that be for me or me as food for the Mosquitos remains to be seen.

If all else fails I can apparently settle down to the "Gang Cartoon" TV station in my room at the Namkhong Resort guest house. Sounds like Gangsters need their Looney Tunes fix too!.....


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