Saturday, February 07, 2009

Chiang Dao Cave & Thaton Temple

We've been to the Golden Triangle and popped over to Myanmar and Laos, as you do when the opportunity presents itself. It was a round trip of well over 600kms and took a couple of days from Chiang Mai.

The Golden Triangle is where most of the world's opium used to be grown. At one point this was such a valuable crop transactions only took place using gold, which became the currency of a sort of no-mans land on the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos. Hence the Golden triangle. There is still an opium problem in Myanmar but cross border trafficking is now more likely to involve amphetamines and refugees.

However, our tour started further south and below ground at the Chiang Dao Cave. This floods regularly in the rainy season and the floor was like rippled sand, we could clearly see the tide mark in the various caverns and were very glad the rains aren't due for a couple of months or so. We had the place to ourselves until on our way out when coach loads of Thai tourists arrived. We could hear them before we saw them. There was much excited chatter as offerings for the various Buddhas throughout the caves were organised, the tour leader had a megaphone, even so she must have felt she was herding cats at times. They were wearing shirts with big pink flowers on them for recognition, which beats a little label for sure. Nana, our guide, said that they were from Southern Thailand where they talk much much faster than the laid back north.

We leave them to it and drive though stately teak forests still regal in spite of the drooping browning leaves because of the dry season, to our next stop Thaton Temple.

Thaton Temple is set high on a hill overlooking the Kok river valley. This is a relatively new temple built in honour of Rama IX, statues of his birth symbol, the rabbit, are either side of the door.

We look over the winding River Kok which flows through Chiang Rai on its way to join the Meekong River, it's a fertile area we see oranges ready for picking, maize, soybeans, garlic, and the ubiquitous rice fields.

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