Notes on the Geography of 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, however, as well as Laos and Burma, and a runway handles daily jet flights from Bangkok.
Once again, as in Bangkok, the Thais are working hard to retain Thai culture.
The guide books, firmly in the death-grip of Karl Baedeker, send you without fail to the works of Thai high culture, like this meticulously maintained stupa.
It's odd seeing a brand new old building.
Chiang Rai's old market has not yet been upgraded for tourists. When it is, these cheap fabrics will be gone--available only in malls outside town.
Eventually this old-market shop will be indoors.
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.
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. Tesco is here, along with 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.
The city's sex district is known as Patpong, same as in Bangkok. It's a quiet place by day.
No holds barred.
The sign says that the food here doesn't lead to pregnancy. But the context of the joke is no joke; neither are the condoms on every table, offered as a very serious suggestion.
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