Travel to Thailand: Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai is the much smaller neighbor of Chiang Mai, which is roughly 100 miles to its southwest. Chiang Rai is close to the Mekong, to Laos, and to Burma, and a runway handles daily jet flights from Bangkok.
Once again you can document the Thais working hard to retain Thai culture.
The guide books, firmly in the death-grip of Baedeker, send you without fail to the works of high culture, like this meticulously maintained stupa.
It's odd seeing a brand new old building.
Chiang Rai does have an old warren of a market, but it's in a transitional state, not yet upgraded for the tourist market. Give it a few years, and these cheap fabrics will be gone--available only in malls outside town.
One more picture of the old market.
Modern cities need lots of mobility--and here that means motorscooters. Chiang Rai is motor-scooter heaven, partly because public transportation is poor and partly because people have enough money to buy these machines.
A fresh shipment.
The big boys are here, too: Adidas, Fuji, and (sharp eyes!) Pizza Hut.
The piece de resistance, Chiang Rai's enclosed mall.
Haagen-Dazs, Del Monte--all the standard brands are on the shelf, along with plenty of rice and tropical produce. Such hypermarkets are estimated to handle about a tenth of Thailand's total retail sales. There are several international players involved, including the U.K.'s Tesco, France's Carrefour, and Germany's Makro. Market analysts say that 100,000 people are needed to support such a store in France; in Thailand, where incomes are lower, the number is probably a million.
"What flavor of yogurt did you say?"
Chiang Rai's top hotel, viewed from a respectful distance.
Chiang Rai has its sex district, known (as in Bangkok) as Patpong. A quiet place by day.
No holds barred.
The sign reads that the food here doesn't lead to pregnancy. But the context of the joke is no joke at all; neither are the condoms on every table, offered as a very serious suggestion.
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