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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Chiang Rai: A Thai Town with Some Tourists

A belated post about Chiang Rai. I was there from the 25th to the 27th of December, but between posting about Myanmar, and a need to spend a couple of days by the pool to restore my tan, I never got around to writing about it.

I liked Chiang Rai. Unlike Chiang Mai, which is a tourist town where Thais live, Chiang Rai is a Thai town that gets some tourists. There are wats, but not so many, and guesthouses, but not so many. There are no restaurants that seem to cater mostly to westerners, at least that I saw.

People obey traffic laws there. They don't cruise through red lights as if they weren't there. They don't go the wrong way down one-way streets, or, as my taxi driver did on the way back to the Top North, drive down the wrong side of the street to save time, nevermind that there was a curve ahead and he had no clue what was coming around it. Motorcycle and motorbike and motorscooter riders know that they are riding vehicles and are not exempt from red lights. There are a few wats, not a few wats every block.

I visited the wat where the Emerald Buddha had been hidden inside a chedi, only to be found when lightning struck it. Unlike most of the wats I have visited in Chiang Mai, the couple I went to in Chiang Rai were in good repair. I think with hundreds of temples in Chiang Mai, there is a lot of competition for funds.

It was noticeably colder up in the hills, but everyone has assured me that this lasts for only a few weeks, and that this year has been exceptionally cold. The days are beautiful for walking around, although I get chilled if I sit in the shade. But then, I've adapted, I guess.

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