Monday, March 14, 2011

Pak Beng, Chiang Khong, and Chiang Mai

We boarded a long boat for our two day journey on the Mekong River and only two hours in we made our first stop at the Pak Ou Caves.  Here rests thousands of Buddha statues, and by the dust and cobwebs on them, they lie untouched.

We didn't make it to the upper level of caves and after reading this, I was sorry we didn't.

A long boat similiar to ours, perfect for seeing the scenery while having the mobility to walk around, a table and chairs to dine at, rows of seats to recline on, and the wonderful ease and joy of a restroom!  The alternative to the slow boat is the fast boat.  Our group was comfortably reading and playing cards as one passed us at lightning speed with all passengers in full face helmets holding on for dear life.  It was our turn to have the wisdom that comes with age!
After a full day on the boat we arrived in Pak Beng in time to watch the sun go down beyond the river and behind the mountains.  From everything I read before hand I was not expecting much of this virtually one street little village.  I was pleasantly surprised to find there were several little shops, restaurants, and guesthouses.  The village had a lighthearted, cozy ambiance and we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner.

Early the next morning, with a fog still clinging to the air, we hopped back on our boat for day two of our boat journey.
Our captain must have been the "early bird catches the worm type" as most all the other slowboats were still docked and the passengers most likely still getting shuteye.

Daily life along the river; men bagging rice?

Women and children fishing.  All images by PepperKeyStacie

Chiang Khong is a sleepy little border town often used by travelers going between Loas and Thailand.    We took a long walk by the river and chose this neat restaurant.  A nearly full moon hides behind the palm.

One of the greatest and lasting impressions of Thailand will be due to this magnificent piece of modern art; The White Temple or Wat Rong Khun.  It is the vision of artist Chalermchai Kositpipat who wished it to be an imitation of heaven on earth. 

This gleaming white most unusual temple was started in 1997 and the artist intends for it to be his life's work.  He believes it's construction will take sixty to seventy years to complete and has prepared for it's continuation even after his death.   The cost to see this wonder for yourself, $0.  That's right, it's free.

This golden structure is not a temple, it's actually the toilet.  To read more about this amazing place and this remarkable artist who is succesfully bringing tradional Thai art to a global audience, please read this article.  This post marks the end of my SE Asia travel entries, congratulations if you have made it through every one!

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