The number one reason I come to Thailand is to eat food. Even if I am able to stop in for a day or two, I’ll do it. The flights to Thailand are cheap, the beaten paths are super accommodating, the people are nice, and it’s always a great time.
Chiang Mai is a very livable place for foreigners and the vibe is pretty chill. I would live here if there was a beach nearby.
My To Do List:
Find Burmese food
Take a cooking class
White Temple in Chiang Rai
Eat Thai food
Things NOT to do:
Support elephant slavery
Take a selfie with a drugged tiger
Find Burmese food.. without having to go to Burma
In NYC, I have zero options for great Burmese food. I dream of the Tea Leaf Salad sometimes…
Cooking Class @ Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School
This particular school had high reviews and for good reason. We made many dishes and were able to share our creations, including some of my favorites. Our instructor was super cute and funny, and we left with a nice little cookbook.
White Temple Tourist Trap and the Kayan Long Neck Slavery Village
After seeing many pictures of the Beautiful White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) in Chiang Rai, I made sure to find a tour that stopped there instead of hiring my own transportation or trying to get there myself. I was quickly upsold with the “Karen Long Neck Village” option. I was in a rush so I just said yes and paid the small extra fee without even thinking. If I knew what it was, I probably would have backed out of the tour entirely and found a different route.
The White Temple itself is a beautiful contemporary art Buddhist temple. Unfortunately the visit time is very limited as hordes of tourists are shuffled in and out of the art installation with guards in person and on a loudspeaker barking at you. Well… barking at misbehaving tourists doing things they’re not supposed to be doing.
This tour included a stop at the Golden Triangle which was an opium-growing region of northern Thailand, eastern Burma and western Laos. This stop was a total tourist trap as they asked for more money for a boat ride that crossed to one of the other countries to collect a passport stamp. I’ve been to both Burma and Laos so I didn’t feel the need to pay to be shuffled around in a boat to get a stamp to prove I crossed a border. I stuck around the Thailand side and took this ridiculous picture instead.
So…. had I taken the time to do a little research about this Karen Long Neck Village (Karenni, Kayan) tourist stop, I would have tried to find a way to avoid this awful visit. The tourism industry basically brings in masses of tourists to shove cameras in the faces of the women of this tribe as if they were zoo animals. Ninety six percent of the tourists don’t even bother to acknowledge the women as fellow humans. We arrived at the village and the tour guide asked for more money to enter the village. I asked if I could stay behind, but they offered to keep me in the hot tour van, so I didn’t really have much choice.
Long story short… People from this tribe from Myanmar fled to the Thai border during the period of military conflict. They remained in Thailand and became a tourist attraction. The women are not allowed to leave the Thai owned village unless they are sick enough to go to the hospital. They are not allowed to have Thai citizenship so they could leave and lead a normal life. Basically, they are not allowed to leave the village (ahem, prison) and they must wear the traditional rings and garments and exist as a tourist attraction (ahem, slavery, human exploitation). It’s possible that they receive a “stipend” for existing in this human zoo, but it is nowhere near what the higher ups make from each and every tourist that is brought to the village every single day. I can’t remember what they charged me for the entrance fee, but it was pretty pricey for Thai standards. Aside from this “stipend” the women make money off the trinkets they sell such as the scarves they weave all day for show. I bought a magnet. I tried to sit and talk with the woman below but she was pretty uninterested and carried on wrapping yarn and pacing back and forth, occasionally sitting still for the camera when a new busload of tourists poured in.