I visit the point where Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand meet. Photos, stories, and bucket list successes.
Temple Touring Near The Golden Triangle
After a long ride on a big tour bus, we came to a Thai temple near the border of Laos.
At this point, the temple fatigue was starting to kick in. The temple didn’t seem to be anything particularly spectacular. We could see Laos from the temple, though, which was very exciting.
I also got a chance to ring a massive bronze bell in the bellower.
There were thousands upon thousands of dragonflies flitting about the temple. They lazily shimmered in the sun and added a chaotic serenity to the temple grounds. Our professor gathered us as we sat on the steps to escape the Thai heat. He began to tell us that we had come at exactly the right hour; the monks would release the dragonflies out of their boxes as part of a ceremony. An hour later, the dragonflies had been trained to fly back to their boxes. We were all in awe, one girl let out a quiet “wow!” and that’s when the professor lost it and started to laugh at us. I can’t believe that we all believed him, but it was hilarious.
We stepped in and out of our nicely air conditioned tour bus, visiting multiple temples along the way. One was accessed by hiking up a delapitated stone staircase, and we spotted a very skinny bright green snake.
One temple was surrounded by a well-kept water feature. Fountains and statues jutted up around the building, and the water was well stocked with carp and catfish, which were fun to watch peek up out of the shimmering water.
Across the Mekong
After temple touring, we made our way to The Golden Triangle.
The Golden Triangle is the place where the Ruak river runs into the mighty Mekong, creating a natural boarder between Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. The area is infamous for its long Opium-growing history, but now is a massive tourism hub.
Our bus pulled up alongside all the other tourist busses. There wasn’t much to do initially, just a couple of overpriced souvineer stalls and some ice cream kiosks. The Mekong, however, was breathtaking. I have always wanted to be up close to this gorgeous river. It ran brown, with tropical trees dipping their green branches into its cool water.
Every boat that grumbled past us was fascinating. The barges were colorful, with shirtless Thai men working on the decks.
We impatiently waited for our turn on a boat that would take us across to Laos.
A giant Buddha (There seems to be at least one in every major Asian city) sitting on a lavish pirateship-esk vessel gleamed brightly in the sun. Tourists shuffled on and off long boats.
I was a little nervous at this point, because even though I made sure to be the FIRST person to photocopy my passport and have it prepared, I still managed to mess up and leave it on my bed back in Chiang Mai. So, technically, I was crossing the boarder Illegally. Our tourguide said that it was no big deal, even though I had offered to stay behind to save everyone the legal trouble.
Eventually, it was our turn, and we filled up every seat on one of the skinny boats, sporting ever-so-fashionable life jackets.
The rumbling boat, the mists from the Mekong, and the breeze in my hair… it was all exhilarating. The person behind me had to kindly ask me to stop dipping my hand in the water, as I was creating quite a bit of backsplash on her.
Our professor pointed out which land was what. We could see storm clouds dumping rain onto Myanmar, while Laos remained sunny only a few miles away.
We made it to the other side, which was just as touristy as you would expect. The Laotion women selling rice wine laughed at us trying to speak Thai to them, even though the linguistic differences seemed very minute to our untrained ears.
The strip of land we were allowed to explore was, we assumed, in no way representative of Laotian life.
However, we tucked that knowledge in the back of our minds and enjoyed ourselves. The small area was very fun to explore. Some girls bought BeerLaos to sip on, but I wanted to wait until our Laos leg of the trip to try one myself.
The stalls sold fascinating wares. Ornate Opium pipes in all shapes and designs were for sale, and I was honestly very tempted to buy one (for decorative reasons of course).
Here is where I also got to knock another item off of my bucket list: snake wine!!
Yes, you read that corectly, folks. This is a thrilling beverage that I absolutely had to try at some point in Asia.
Vendors sold snake wine in glass bottles of various sizes and shapes. One stall had free samples for tourists to try, and the vendor used metal tongs to take out various dead reptiles and scorpions to scare and intrigue the customers.
From a food science perspective, this beverage is fascinating. The venom from a cobra IS poisonous if injested. However, cobra venom is protein-based. Meaning that the ethenol (alcohol) denatures (breaks apart) the venom and renders it inactive. However, from what I have heard, it still leaves behind a dizzying sensation. Also from a Southeast Asian pharmaceutical point of view, the snake wine is a male aphrodisiac. I am obsessed with trying weird foods, so answering “yes” to a free sample was a no-brainer.
And yes, it did just taste like alcohol mixed with dead reptile.
After trying the snake wine, We continued to explore the marketplace.
Knock-off bags and luggage seemed to be a specialty here.
We also stumbled accross an elephant-ride company, and saw some elephants that were held in less-than-ideal conditions.
A Night Spent at the Edge of the River
Our accomadations that night were by far the best. We stayed at a hotel right up alongside the Mekong, with a pool and a beautiful sun flower field.