I am happily reporting that we finally had a good meal in Thailand!
In a small cafe near the White Temple, I had a superb bowl of tom yum soup loaded with lemongrass, galangal, and fresh kefir leaves, and I mean, loaded! That huge amount of aromatic herbs gave the soup the most exquisite flavor, and the wild mushrooms completed the picture. We also had the local Northern Thai speciality, khao soi, which is noodles in rich broth reminiscent of the broth in roti kanai, which was also flavorful and delicious.
But I’m going to backtrack to the beginning of the day, which started with a visit to the point where the Mekong river meets the Ruak river at the intersection of three countries: Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. That’s the eponymous triangle. “Golden” stands for the black gold, aka opium, as said area once was the center of the opium trade.
We took a boat to the Laotian island, to which no visas a required to enter. So I officially added another country to my “have been” list.
The island had nothing but shops mostly stocked with cheap chinese goods, but they also sold one local speciality: whisky infused with various things beneficial to your wellbeing, such as ginseng, cobra, scorpio, or tiger penis. Take your pick. I chose a small bottle with a little cobra holding a huge scorpio in its mouth. I hope i can bring into the States. If not, I’m out $5.
After that, we went for the last visit with the tribal people, in another united village similar to the one in Chiang Mai. Still have mixed feelings about the whole thing, but went anyway – gotta feed my addiction! We took photos, admired their clothes, told them they were beautiful, and asked them how old they were.
Here, in addition to the long necked Karen Padang and the Akha, we met a very friendly group of Mien people. Had a long talk with them, and found out that one of them was now a Christian. When we said our good byes, she ran after us and gave me a hand-embroidered phone case as a gift to a fellow Christian. And said “God bless you”. So I thanked her profusely and wished her that God blesses her too. Didn’t have the heart to reveal my true identity. They just presume here that if you are white, you are a christian. Just like when we stayed at the resort filled with chinese and russian tourists, Kenny was addressed in Russian several times. Well, he wasn’t Chinese, so he had to be Russian!
Our next stop was the White Temple. Just like I had said, I’m not a fan of Buddhist temples, but this one was different. It was designed by a famous Thai artist who initially financed the whole thing himself, but in the recent years started taking small donations; only small, so no big donor could demand an impact on his artistic decisions. The temple is blindingly white, decorated with mirror shards, and looks a bit phantasmagoric. The artist wanted to get away from the traditional gold (couldn’t agree with him more) as gold represents greed; and did his temple in white as the color of purity, while the mirrors represented the Buddha’s reflections. Before you enter the temple, you see trees decorated with repulsive plaster heads of corrupt politicians. Farther up, you climb a small arched bridge over scenes of hell out of Dante: more ugly plaster heads with bulging eyes and gaping mouths, hands stretching up to the sky from the abyss.
The bridge leads you to the entrance of the temple itself (“don’t stop, keep moving”) and you see the lord Buddha sitting in front of you. The other three walls are decorated with murals. Now those murals needed intense examining, as they weren’t depicting your grandfather’s religious figures. Among them, were the superheros (such as SUperman, Batman, etc.), Michael Jackson, Harry Potter, and modern cartoon characters. If you stand with your back to the Buddha, and face the door you have just entered, you see that on this wall, the artist painted a monster with the door as its mouth. If you stare into the monster’s eyes, you see that each one of them hides a portrait of a man. As it turned out, one of these men is George W. Bush, and the other – Osama Bin Laden (joined forever in life and death). The artist equated them as two sides of the same evil: people with too much power who caused death of a lot of people.
A very atypical painting in a religious institution, I’d say!
The last stop was at a hot water spring, where you could dip your tired feet into the steaming stinky water. I was in my own personal Nirvana for about 10 min. until a bus of Chinese arrived. They broke the serenity of the place with their harsh voices. They took over the spring. One woman plopped next to me and said “You are beautiful”. Then I saw that the Chinese men started snapping photos of me. They said something to her. She translated “They said you are beautiful.
How old are you?”