Floating Down the Mekong River
THIS CURRENT COOL SEASON IS an ideal time to push back the frontiers and take a fly-cruise trip to China's Yunnan province exploring some of the recently opened border points in China. The GMS Cluster Travel group has organized a series of such tours for November December until January 31 2005.
On arrival at Jinhong we were greeted by a group of dancers and musicians in Tai (Thai) Leu costumes who performed a traditional drum dance to make us feel at home. Our tour guide Mr Tee was an easygoing young man who spoke fluent central and northern Thai and proudly informed us that he was a tourism graduate of Kunming University. He ushered us aboard our bus for the short ride to the Kwang Kwang Hotel "The Sightseeing Hotel" one of the only two four-star establishments in Jinhong. En route Mr Tee taught us some useful phrases in Thai Leu including one we were to hear throughout our trip 6-7-8; six to rise seven to breakfast and eight to board the bus for the tour. I wondered whether we were headed for the Kwang Kwang Hotel or Bang Kwang prison! But our ever-smiling guide soon made it clear that he had no intention of keeping to any such regimented schedule and we exhaled in relief.
We sampled about eight dishes very similar in taste to northern Thai fare and washed down our meal with glasses of cool delicious beer. Suitably fed and watered we returned to the shopping district for some serious bargaining. I spotted some beautiful batik paintings which the salesgirl said cost 50 Yuan each (5.2 Baht to 1 Yuan) I bought three for 20 Yuan apiece after some good natured bargaining. My smug smile disappeared later in the trip when we spotted the same paintings for sale at 15 Yuan; so much for the well-travelled shopper. Some of the girls bought a dozen pairs of anklet nylons for the equivalent of 25 Baht (the price for just one pair in Chiang Mai).
We then browsed around the city's largest department store about the size of the fruit and vegetable section at Carrefour in Chiang Mai. The store boasted an escalator in the same condition as the one at Gaad Luang; a case of see you later escalator. We soon tired of shopping and headed back to the hotel via the Indi-500 race track. Yes use extreme caution when crossing the pristine streets of Jinhong!
At the next stop a typical Dai village we had computer photos taken with a peacock who looked about as welcoming as the weather. We were very thankful umbrellas were for sale at the Village. When it rains in Yunnan province even Gene Kelly fans stay home. Then it was off for lunch and more lovely beer. We visited the Zhou En Lai Monument and Museum. Back to the hotel where we dried out.
Walking back to the Green River Hotel we saw a large group of young men sporting dyed red hair and sitting astride large motorcycles Hell's Angels-Dan Guan Lei chapter no doubt. After a fitful night's sleep we set off before sunrise for the only food outlet open in town where we breakfasted on congee. On the way back to the hotel we bought some pla tong goh from a street vendor. It was not the best we had tasted and it was cooked in oil resembling that drained from the sump of an aged Chiang Mai tuk tuk. Down at heart? Not a bit of it. We Chiang Mai pioneers are made of steel.
After the quickest checkout in the history of the tourism trade we were once more aboard our trusty riverboat and it was off to the upper triangle on the China Laos Myanmar border. Once again we were enchanted by both the serenity of river travel and the untouched beauty of the countryside. We cruised past Tang Luang the longest gorge then the Myanmar port of Soiei and the Lao port of Xiangkok. We enjoyed a lunchbox on board and continued on our way to Chiangsaen in time to take part in the official opening ceremony of the GMS Cluster group.
For booking and rates call GMS Cluster representative ERAWAN P.U.C TOUR 211/14-15 Changklan Rd. opposite Lanna Palace Hotel Tel. 274212-3 Fax. 276548.
Copyright © 1995-2014 Welcome to Chiangmai and Chiangrai magazine All rights reserved.