Up about 6:00 and off to the hotel breakfast – not as nice as the previous hotels but it was adequate. Getting picky about the free breakfasts!
Pile into the hotel vans and head off to visit the Doi Tung Villa of the Queen Mother who died back in the 1990s. She had the villa designed to look like the ones she stayed in while in Switzerland – so lots of wood paneling. The grounds are quite high in Thailand so many flowers that could only grow in cooler climates can grow here – and the place was a riot of color.
Entry into the villa was like a temple as you had to be dressed modestly and take off your shoes. Instead of a guide we had recordings that explained each part of the villa and the life of the queen mother. She was well known for working with the hill tribes to get them to give up slash and burn agriculture and growing poppies and moving into more modern jobs and villages – both endeavors which were largely successful. She also served as an inspiration to all of Thailand with her book “Busy Hands” which put forth that everyone should always be doing something. When she died, according to the recording, there was not a dry eye in Thailand.
The building was compact but well done with lots of carvings and details. The grounds were by far the most spectacular. We ventured down into the formal garden and here were reproductions of the villages that the hill people would live in – with sleeping mats and bamboo walls. Also a nice exhibit of carnivorous plants! We took a wrong turn and headed back on a service road and ran into a pink elephant – which was odd to say the least! We also passed by local vendors with their foods and other things Thai. Back at the group and everyone showed up on time!
We took the hotel vans to visit a hill tribe – now in a small village with all the modern conveniences. Still a couple of pushy women in traditional dress selling stuff, but mostly it looked like most everywhere else. One thing that stood out was there was a Catholic Church in the village.
Then off to a roadside stop for lunch of a great variety of Thai foods – mostly pork but some salad and chicken as well. About three tour busses were there being served at the same time.
Then off to the Golden Triangle – center of opium trade in the 1960s and 70s. Quite the bus ride along the through some very nice farm land until we came to the Mekong River at Sob Rauk. We gave the guide our passports and trooped off the bus, then down a ramp to a river boat. We sailed up the river for a while looking at the construction in Myanmar and Laos where the Chinese have leased the land and are building a very large tourist complex with Casino and hotels.
We turned around and headed down river for a ways passing fishing villages and other places – one mall that was built and closed in three months! Then we landed at the “Free Trade” zone in Laos – a selection of cheap tourist shops. We wandered around for an hour or so being offered cigarettes, alcohol with dead animals in it, knock off merchandise of many varieties, plus who knows what else. First time we ran into bagger children on the whole trip.
Back to Thailand we wandered along the shore line and took a picture with the three countries in the photo. Also had some drinks and I got some durian ice cream – quite good! Kitty and Alice bought a bunch of carved soaps for gifts. Then into the bus for the trek back to the hotel.
At the hotel we immediately went to dinner and fed the hotel kittens and watched the geckos chase bugs and each other. Then back to the room to pack for the next day. We did find out that Kitty passed her medical boards!