November 18, 2001

Tha Ton

Well here I am in the middle of nowhere, Thailand. Well not really,
I'm in Tha Ton, a small town just (4km) down the Kok river from
Myanmar. The town seems to have a fair number of tourist
accommodations, including very nice places like the Garden Home
where I'm staying and a few fancy places. And the most overdone
temple I've seen yet. Wat Tha Ton spreads out over 3 mountain tops
in a row. Starting at the river you walk up through a concrete
stairway complete with caves (with concrete stalactites) and various
(guardian?) statues, ending at a big guardian statue which to my
eyes is very chinese. Then you go up to a big white Buddha, further
up to a large gold Buddha, and further up to various residences and
an unfinished pagoda until you finally, 2 km later, reach the final
standing Buddha. From here you can see the town and large fertile
valley below and presumably the mountains of Burma behind. With
binoculars you can see lots of hill tribe villages and army posts,
watching the border.

This is the smallest town I've been to yet. In a way you're exposed
to the other related people more here. Aside from the insistent Akha
silver sellers, the hill tribe villages are close enough to town
that they are constantly moving through--one village appears to be
reached from about half way up the temple road.

How did I get here? By bus of course. After a week or so in Chiang
Mai, taking the obligatory cooking class and trek, it was time to
move on, and the route to Chiang Rai via the Kok river sounds
pleasant. The bus ride up was at normal capacity for passengers, but
overbooked for packages, so those of us in the back got to sit with
them under our legs for three hours. The way onward sounds more
pleasant. There are some nice sounding raft trips, but I'm going to
go for speed and go with a small group via long tail, stopping off
along the way to visit a hot springs or maybe a village. The 'tour'
operator is very insistent on finding people to take her tours, but
they sound good, so off it is via boat.

Update: Now in Chiang Rai. The trip was pretty good, we didn't understand
what the boat driver was asking so we went practically straight through,
stopping only at the hot springs (developed and only vaguely intersting) and
a karen elephant villiage to look at and feed the tourist elephants.

Happy travels,
Matthew

Posted by MBlain at November 18, 2001 12:00 AM
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