Tour 1: Changmai
and the North

My visits to Thailand

Thin Red Line tour. I found the north a welcome relief from Bangkok with a slower, less aggressive pace. I would, particularly, recommend Chaing Mai as a nicer alternative to Bangkok.

Thai History Begins in the North

As related on other tours, the history of Southeast Asia typically ends up referring back to either China or India. In the case of Thailand, it refers to both.

As in the case of Vietnam and Burma waves of peoples gradually came to Thailand, overwhelming older and more primitive peoples and pushing them to the uplands. For a time, the Indianized state of Funan ruled the whole area of Southeast Asia. For Funan, however, Thailand lay somewhat on the fringes.

As Funan declined by the 6th century, the related Mons, Khmers, and Burmese took over the areas of Cambodia, Thailand, and Burma. The Mons converted to Thervada Buddhism, the more austere forms that emphasizes mediation and monasteries. For a time, Mon states dominated most of Burma and Thailand, only to lose Thailand to the rise of the Khmer Empire.

Meanwhile, the present day Thais lived in a Chinacized state in southern China, on the Yunnan plateau. Gradually, as time went on, individual bands of Tai wandered southward becoming today's Lao, Shans, and Thais.

The arrival of the Mongols dramatically changed the balance of power. They destroyed Nanchao sending Tais southward. The Tai, meanwhile overthrew Sukhotai, the Khmer's outpost in Thailand. The Mongols, further, sacked Pagan, the Burmese capital. This meant that by 1240, the Thais ruled at least the northern and central parts of today's Thailand. To the south the Khmer, temporarily allied with the Mongols, held them back. To the west, the Burmese would slowly rebuilt their power, but for the time being, various independent Mon kingdom (with inevitable allies in Thailand) ruled petty states in Myanmar. Their division worked for the benefit of Thais.

To continue on to later periods in Thai history, go to Tour 2: Central Thailand.

Northern Thailand and Chiang Mai

In 1296, Tai war parties conquered the northern Mon state of Haripunjaya and founded a kingdom based at Chiang Mai. For a time, this kingdom existed independently of Sukhotai and the south.

However, the South held the more fertile land, particularly for rice farming and, with time out for a Burmese invasion or two, the South generally ruled the North.

This remains the case today, with Chiang Mai a distant second in importance and influence to Bangkok or even to such lesser southern cities as Pattaya. The government continued, when I visited, to send almost 80% of its money to the south, and most foreign aid and investment seldom got beyong Bangkok and its suburbs.

The North did, however, have one claim to fame: opium. More mountaineous than the South, the North claims a number of hill tribes. As in Laos efforts to persuade the hill tribes to grow other crops typically fail.


Changmai Area

Early chgapore
This shows Chiang Mai in the distance.

Wat Phrathat doi Suthe (AD 1384) dates from the period when Chiang Mai ruled an independent kingdom.

Supposedly this contains a Buddhist relic (a hair or bone). However, if you put all of these
relics together, you get a village of Buddhas (and a Boddhisatva).

Their majesties live in this Summer Palace.

This shows real opium plants.

This shows part of a hill tribe village of the Meo.

The tour took us to several factories where Thais tried to sell us things, so I felt
no qualms about taking a picture of this girl in traditional dress.

This shows some of Thailand's famous teak art.

The woman here fries silk worm and takes their skein.

This shows the infamous "Golden Triangle" which produces more opium than anywhere else in the world.

This shows hot springs and another hill tribe village.

Thailand produces a lot of rice which takes work just like this.

Rice requires "five stoops" and entails backbreaking hand labor.

Note the similarities between this stupa and the one venerated by the Lao at Vietiane.

These boats may well serve to go get the opium from the Burmese side and cart it back to this side of the Mekong.

The Golden Triangle stretches between Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand and borders the northern Mekong.

The mother of this Meo (Hill Tribe) girl dressed her up in her tribal best. I had to pay her 50 cents to take this shot!

This shows the Mekong again.

At Mae Sai, Myanmar borders Thailand. At times the border opens, depending on the mood of the Burmese.

The sign says it best.

The government built this wooden, almost treetop school for the Anka tribe. Like many hill tribes, the Anka formerly practiced slash-and-burn agriculture, which results in deforestation. The government now employs them as conservationists to try to stop this.

This villager rebuilds his house.

This shows an "orchid factory."

Gibbons actually live in Borneo, but this one seems quite at home.

Traditionally, the teak industry used elephants. The elephants would walk into the forest, grab only the teak trees, and uproot them. Unfortunately, these days many companies find it cheaper to cut the whole strand, again, causing rapid deforestation.

Here, the elephants unstack the wood.

This shwos the falls at Mae-Sa.

In 1350, Here, three Tai "kings" (probably more like tribal
leaders) joined together to form a common kingdom.

The sun sets on this tour, but you can go on...


Related tours:
Back to Thai Tour # 3: Bangkok
Forward to Tour # 2: Central Thailand
Onward to Laos
Read The Thin Red Line.

Other places:
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