Black and White
Trip Start Nov 20, 2013
170Trip End Ongoing
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Yesterday we went to the Hill Tribe Village Museum. This museum houses artifacts and information about each of the ten tribes that live in the hills around Thailand. Some of these tribes are native to Thailand, but most have come as refugees over many decades from China, Burma, and Laos. These tribes used to live very nomadic lives and have a long history of growing opium, but the Thai government has put an end to opium crops and has also encouraged the tribes to find more permanent residences
The most famous tribe here came from Myanmar (Burma) and they are called the Karen people. It is customary for the women of this tribe to elongate their necks with rings. The heavy rings push down their collar bones making their necks longer. The people of this tribe came to Thailand as refugees from a civil war taking place in Myanmar between the government and the hill tribe people who want independence. Unfortunately, life isn't necessarily any better for them in Thailand as they are exploited in large numbers for tourists. In fact, many faux villages have been created for the Karen to live in simply for the business of tourism. The people in these "villages" are given just enough money for basic food and the women are given more than the men since they wear the rings, making them the "main attraction". Sometimes the people living here are allowed to leave and go into towns during the day, but they must come back and night and are not allowed to leave.
To make matters more complicated the hill tribe people of all ten tribes are not considered Thai residents or citizens
After visiting the museum, we took the public bus to visit the White Temple. This is one of the most famous buildings in Chiang Rai, designed by local artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. The artist began creating the temple complex in 1997 and it is expected to be completed in 2070
Where there is heaven, there is also hell. Another famous Thai artist, also local to Chiang Rai, Thawan Duchanee, designed the Black House complex. We read before we visited that this is not a place animal lovers should visit and after walking through just the first of many dark buildings here, we quickly understood why. The Black House is full of animal bones, skulls, and skins as both functional pieces and decor. There are numerous alligator skins, bear furs, snakes skins, and so many more. I didn't quite understand the artists' vision, other than the darkness the structures here show, but it was interesting to walk around and see the designs. Many tour companies say they prefer the Black House, but I definitely enjoyed looking at the beauty of the White Temple more than the darkness of the Black House.
That's it for Thailand for us after 27 days in the country. Tomorrow morning we hop on a bus and head to Laos, which we're excited about as it is not near as popular for tourists as Thailand. We enjoyed Thailand a lot and think it's quite liveable. It was also easy to travel here and we're ready for a new challenge!