The Golden Triangle

In the upper reaches of the Mekong River, the borders between Laos, Thailand, and Burma converge, and you can go on the river and motor from Thailand to Laos, Burma, and further north to China.  Going NW: Bhutan, overland only.

In Chiang Saen, after grilled chicken and a subsequent stop in a restaurant for steamed rice topped with sautéed vegetables, I saw ruined 14th century temples roadside, which were reminiscent of Angkor Wat, but without the grandeur.  Merely a suggestion of Buddhist hegemony rather than evidence of imperial power rooted in religious authority as was clear in the odd mix of Buddhist-Hindu temples at AW (Angkor Wat).  Robed monks, in orange and purple, were everywhere.  One man had a long tat on his right arm of a string ending in a mandala.  I had a cold Chang beer in a can; no higher power for me as yet, I’m not that far gone, and don’t need a god to give me the ROW (right of way).

We took a small flatbed motorboat just west of the city and on the Mekong passed by a casino in Burma and then got off on a Laotian island where peasants hawked cigarettes, branded whisky, and local hooch in bottles holding serpents.  The stand was owned by an Israeli, and how he got there is anyone’s guess, but if he was looking for the ends of the earth, he found it.  The only others in Laos that day, other than ourselves and the locals, were two Israeli families.  Maybe it’s in their guidebooks: “You won’t believe it, but even in Laos you can find us!”  Or not.

Later, in Mae Sai, a Thai town on the border of Burma, we saw the border crossing only 10 feet away, and many market vendors had Burmese faces: Rounder, paler, and wider.  Soldiers with machine guns and rifles were on both sides, but no one gave the orders.

I put in an order for delicious, spicy noodles topped with vegetables from a vegetarian cart of the street and for 15 Baht (I can see you’re not going to Currency Converter, but I won’t do all the work for you.  Here’s a hint: 30 Baht is about $1.).  See?  Buddhist tradition regarding not eating meat has CB (culinary benefits)!

In the market in Chiang Saen I bought a large bag of dried, crushed, red chili and that night mixed it with vinegar and honey to make a HDDS (halfway decent dipping sauce) for the wings I fried up.  Talk about golden triangles.

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