We are currently having renovations done in our ‘new’ home. Every time I watch the builders calculate the square meterage of a floor or wall, I’m reminded how many of us, back in those dim-distant school days, complained about studying maths, and claimed that we “would never need it in real life.” If you talk to a mathematician, however, mathematics is life. At least since the time of the early Greeks, and probably earlier, people have been using numbers to describe the patterns found in nature, and have used the resulting formulae to argue for beauty – and even to ‘predict’ divine intentions.
No surprise, then, that when you google “Golden Triangle”, one of the entries that pops up relates to Euclidean geometry and the golden ratio that forms the hypotenuse of the golden (or sublime) triangle: that magical isosceles triangle that is in “Divine Proportion” and is the basis for perfect pentagrams and logarithmic spirals…
More maths, right?
The Golden Triangle I was looking for is that 950,000 square kilometres of mountains that, until the early 21st century, was responsible for most of the world’s heroin production. The somewhat contradictory “divine” heart of this region is a golden Buddha, sitting at the at confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers and at the intersection of three countries: Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
The first time I visited this giant Buddha, I remarked on how the imposing image sits serenely, looking over the Thai lands below, apparently oblivious to the gambling casinos across the waters behind it. (Gambling, of course, is one of the least of the issues challenging the wild, border regions of the Triangle.)
On our recent visit, it was the seeming-contradictions within the shrine area itself that struck us. For while there is ample opportunity to pray and/or pay respects, there is also noise and glitz; an almost carnival atmosphere entreating you to spend money.
I actually think this Buddha is more impressive from a distance, where it commands attention from the surrounding hills and all along this section of river.
It was our point of reference as we explored the temples and markets of today’s Golden Triangle.
More about that some other time. In the meantime, happy travels!