Thursday, January 29, 2009

Human Zoo

Day 322
Dezzi and I were picked up at 7 am. It really hurt and there wasn’t any time for breakfast. The first stop was rather boring and this kinda set the tone for the day. It was a hot spring, but it was more like a truck stop. I could had boiled an egg in the water, but I declined.

The next stop was a really pretty white temple. There was a big sign that tourists could only enter with their guides because someone had damaged the place previously. No one seemed to notice me as I slipped in though. The place shown white with millions of tiny mirrors. Some of the statues looked more like demons than anything else. The temple is still under construction and I went to check out the people making the white statues.

Next up was the Golden Triangle. This is where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet at the Mekong River. This used to be an opium producing area. I could have taken a boat tour to look at Laos, but I’m going there next so I didn’t go. Instead I checked out a large Buddha and wrote in my journal until it was time to leave.

After the Golden Triangle it was thankfully time for lunch. We had a buffet and I ate a lot. It was good. When lunch was done we stopped at the Burmese border. I have no idea why this was a tourist stop. There was a market, but it was all just really bad.

The last stop was the one I had signed up for. I wanted to see some of the hill tribe people. I knew that it would be a bit weird, but I didn’t think I would feel so awkward and down right guilty taking pictures of people who I had paid to take pictures of.

I’ve seen loads of women in every market in Thailand from the Akha tribe. They walk around carrying everything they have to sell. You can always hear them coming because they often hold wooden frogs that make a croaking noise when a stick is rubbed over its back. They can be really aggressive, and the Akha women here were the same.

The other tribes have more agricultural lifestyles so the women I took pictures of didn’t really push their goods; these were the ones who made money from the pictures. The most interesting were the long neck karens. At the age of five a bronze coil is fitted around their necks. Every five years a few more coils are added. This doesn’t elongate the neck mussels, but rather smooches down the shoulders. Not many people do this any longer, it’s mostly for the tourists.

Some of the women were older, but most couldn’t have been over 15. There were even some girls, maybe as young as 7, who were running stalls. Many of them were watching dirty toddlers as they played. There were a couple of women from the long ear karen tribe, regular karens and some Hamong women with teeth blackened by beetle nuts.

I felt just awful taking pictures. Some of the girls smiled, but most just looked really sad. My guide said that they are happy, and that they have a lot more opportunities in Thailand than they did in Burma where they faced prosecution. I’m not so sure about this.

At this point it was growing dark and it was time to head the four hours back. I fell asleep for most of the way.

Back at the hotel I changed and went to meet Nicole. I had met her when I came back the night before. Nicole was traveling with her grandmother and was from southern England. She has the same going out problem that I have and we decided to grab a few drinks together.

Our first stop was a rock bar with live music. There were a bunch of kids selling flowers again and climbing over the tourists. Some of them looked like they might have been enjoying themselves. They were still there when the bar closed at 2 am. Nicole and I both refuse to buy the flowers; we both think that if no one bought them the kids would be home in bed. However, we each collected a few as gifts from other farang.

A group of people dressed as punks, mohawks and all, came in and started a mosh pit. It was a lot of fun. When we left later we ran into them again and hung out in front of a 7-11. The last stop was a club called Spicy, but I was way too tired to be out any longer and called it a night.

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