Igorot Backpacker in Thailand – Mae Sot and Chiang Mai

Okay, time to share these photos from Thailand which I took when I visited Gina (that’s her standing near the temple). As I mentioned in an earlier post, Gina was working in the town of Mae Sot. The town is not a touristy place but it is interesting nonetheless because it shares a border with Burma|Myanmar and is home to thousands of refugees and migrants.

En route to Mae Sot, I was surprised when a man in uniform boarded our bus and asked for identification documents. Passengers without anything to show were made to disembark. Gina explained that Thai authorities were cracking down on migrants from across the border.

Naturally, this made me wonder about the passengers who were asked to leave our bus. What happened to them? Pessimist me sees them currently detained in some Mae Sot jail. Cynical me believes that they were able to bribe officials to let them out. While optimistic me is hoping that they somehow got immigration papers that would allow them to work and travel, without any hassle, across the Kingdom of Thailand.

After a few days in Mae Sot, I took a bus to the northern city of Chiang Mai which some Filipinos equate with Baguio. Except for the fact that they have significant indigenous/hilltribe populations, I’m not sure if we can really say that these two cities are similar. My impression is that Chiang Mai is miles ahead of Baguio in all economic and social development indicators. It is a pleasant walkable clean city that has managed to develop and yet maintain its ties to the past. Baguio, on the other hand, is the perfect example of mindless urban sprawl with over-population issues.

Although I kind of like Chiang Mai,ย  I was shocked at the blatant use of hill tribes as tourist attractions. In fact, I thought ofย  joining an eco-trekking group but decided against it mainly because of the offensive and ubiquitous promo materials that shout “SEE THE KAREN LONGNECKS”.ย  Damn, they’re not animals in a zoo! Effin, exploitative tourism agencies!

Rather than hill-trekking, I spent the day at the Chiang Mai zoo where they have this zoo-born baby panda named Lin Ping…

… and a rare white tiger and its cousins, the more common lion and leopard.

I also walked around Old Chang Mai (or the walled inner part of the city before it expanded) where you can see lots of Buddhist temples like these ones.

Some of the Buddha images you can see inside the temples.

After five days in northern Thailand, I decided to go to Luang Prabang in Laos to see the Buddhist monks and their morning ritual of going around the city to receive alms.

Of course, to go to Laos, I have to pass through Thai immigration where the officer, while scrutinizing my passport, said, “Oh, from Philippines. You know Manny?”

“Manny who,” I asked.

“Manny, Manny Pacquiao. He beat big man yesterday,” he said.

“Ah, Pacquaio. No, I don’t personally know him but I see a lot of him on TV back home,” I replied.

Apparently, Manny Pacquiao is pretty famous in Thailand where combat sports is very popular. I was soon to learn that he’s also famous in Laos and Cambodia.

Next stop… Luang Prabang, Laos.

6 Comments
  1. good evening sir/ma’am,

    i am Athaliah, a senior student of Development Communication here in Benguet State University. as a part of our course, we are required to conduct a research or a thesis, and my thesis title is COMMUNITY BLOGGING AS AN EDUCATIONAL MEDIUM FOR IGOROT CULTURE. with this regard, sir/ma’am, may i ask for your approval for me to use your blog as one of my sources and considering you as one of my key informants..

    sir/ma’am, rest assured that the information i will be getting from you will be taken with confidentiality..thank you ma’am and God bless

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  2. Hello!

    Thank you for including me in your blogroll! I am honored with your gesture.

    Anyway, you mentioned about similarity of your culture with Thailand. Hmmm…maybe. I chanced upon this TV feature (could not remember). But one thing for sure, yours is more similar to the IPs of Taiwan. Their clothes, dance, and culture and religion (animism). It was delightful to watch! It was like seeing people from Cordi. It is possible you share similar cultures, and perhaps your ancestors have migrated there or vice versa. It was interesting.

  3. Nice to see you crisscrossing the Orient. Make sure you comply with “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” creed. A very good friend went to Cambodia years ago, and were served a “live” monkey for dinner in a resto. Horrible as it is; you literally murder the pitiful monkey on your table, it’s your supper.

  4. Hayy, buti naman bumalik ka na! Hehe, sabay ganun noh?

    WELCOME BACK!!!

    I was in Chiang Mai for three weeks but all I saw was an elephant that was toilet trained, and another that can paint. Good for you, you really went to see the sights.

    Napa-wow naman ako dun sa di mo pagpunta to see the long-necks. Daphne and I were going to see them too but we didn’t in the end. I can’t remember why, but I’m sure our reason was not as noble as yours for not going. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Inkblots,
    I think I saw the TV show you’re referring to. I was also struck by our similarity with the Taiwan IPs. There chants and dances sounded/looked familiar.

    Visited your Explorer blog. Enjoyed reading your Chico and Lang-ay entries.

    Trublue,
    Thanks. It’s nice indeed to visit other places.

    I know about restaurants who offer live fishes which are cooked right before they’re served to customers but can’t imagine killing a monkey right on the table and then serving it. But, then again, iyon siguro ang version nila ng lutong bahay. Hehe.

    Ganda,
    Oo nga eh, hehe. We’re back. Hopefully for good.

    I thought we will see elephants that paint during the animal show in the Changmai zoo but there was nothing like that. I actually felt cheated. Hehe. But they have parrots racing against each other and pigs jumping on hoops which was a hit for kids.

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