We crossed over into Myanmar/Burma from neighboring Thailand, nervously excited by being in The Golden Triangle, fabled location of all things illicit, but especially drugs. Elephant tusks, gorilla paws, rhinoceros horn- anything you want to buy- if you know the right people and have the money. We watched with fascination as this monk examined gongs of different sizes and configurations.
The marketplace was teeming with people. The stalls offered all manner of goods to purchase, especially American branded cigarettes, and pirated DVD's going for $0.25 cents per disk. You could also buy old pots and pans, electrical parts, 45 records, and native artifacts.
The most unusual thing in the market that day seemed to be us. We caused "traffic jams" wherever we went, as the sight of someone in a wheelchair was totally unknown to most of the people there.
My eye was caught by one vendor who was openly selling tiger skins. Though they commanded what would have been a fortune in local currency, paying with American dollars would buy you a pelt for not that much money.
Although the sale of endangered animal parts and skins violates world conventions, Myanmar does its own thing, helped by an elaborate system of bribes and kickbacks that seem to be so interwoven into its economy that it will never be eliminated.
While it is sanctioned by the authorities to sell tiger skins in Burma, it is not sanctioned to take photographs of such items being sold! If caught, one risks certain confiscation of camera and equipment, a heavy fine, and perhaps even a term in a local jail.
The hair on the back of my neck was standing up, and my skin was tingling as I put my finger on the shutter release of my camera. I had the camera somewhat under my left arm and was looking in the opposite direction when I snapped this photo.
We did not stay long in this area- the tension, perceived threat, and feeling of vulnerability is everywhere. When we crossed back over the border into Thailand, it was like being released from prison. I did not look back until we were well away from the border.
This is one of the places in the World where you are so enormously aware of the freedom we enjoy.
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