Before dawn we peek out the window of our Chaing Rai hotel and see two monks in orange robes. They pass under the streetlight on the deserted avenue carrying bowls. When you give monks food, you need to thank them for providing an opportunity to earn merit. Mrs. Phred and I wander the streets and find a temple to visit before breakfast.
The Akha tribe are ethnic Chinese hill people. Bennett says they are very poor.
Ken keeps the village children entertained with his IPAD2. He has good Internet service almost everywhere in the northern mountains.
The Akha tend to wear their wealth on their heads in the form of silver.
It's Sunday so we go to the little village church and listen to the songs and watch the dances.
Next we drive to the Temple of the Caves. It's quiet. No one is there and the caves are gated off.
We stop in a tea shop and meet a couple from Bangkok. The tea shop is in extremely heavy and cold fog on a hilltop at 4,000 feet. The man says his home was flooded up to his neck and that a 45 foot crocodile came in the front door after escaping from the crocodile farm.
We visit the Museum of Chinese Martyrs. This is dedicated to the Chinese Nationalist troops who wandered
into these mountains after the Communist takeover of China in 1949. The museum displays recount a number of very small scale battles (called annihilations) fought against both Thai and Burmese armies. The accounts stain credibilty. They annihillate the Burmese attacking force and then withdraw to save Burmese face? Ultimately many of these troops were marched to Chiang Mai and flown to Taiwan.
Doi Mae Salong is a very remote Chinese village about 80 Km NE of Chiang Rai. We have duck and other very spicy things for lunch and then drive to General Duan's grave. The General was a Kuiomintang Chinese soldier who retreated to Burma in 1949 and was driven into these Thailand mountains in 1961. He adopted a 13 year old boy who lives at the monument behind a plastic sheet. The boy is now 63 and he vigilantly guards the General's grave. The Poinsettas around the monument are very pretty in the fog.
We checked into the Garden Home guest house for the evening. It's a small town that is mostly a retreat for Buddhists. We hear horns and loudspeakers in the morning. Bennett and Carol buy some fruits to give the monks for breakfast and earn merit. Four monks accept the food and Carol and Bennett kneel to accept a blessing in union from all four monks.
The Wat Thaton is high on a hill and strangely lighted at night. Bennett questions a monk about this and learns that it is kept lighted so that the repressed Buddhists in Burma can see the light. The temple also seems to be call Chedi Kaew which Bennett says means roughly Chrystal Relic Holder/ Energy Accumulator.
The trees around Wat Thaton are also lighted.
The temple has an amazing collection of Buddist artifacts.
It's a lovely building with a spiralling walkway which leads up to an amazing psychedelic climax.
The architecture is also very beautiful and they pipe in Buddist chants that zone me out. I think this is my favorite temple.