So yesterday I visited Chiang Rai to see the White Temple – Wat Rong Khun and the golden triangle. I must say Wat Rong Khun was beautiful. I looked at this big pure building in awe and the way it stood out to everything else. It was designed and funded by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a famous Thai visual artist who hasn’t finished yet. Chalermchai plans to build nine further buildings and work is due to continue until as late as 2070.
After the temple I visited the gallery and looked at other samples of his work. I must say I was quite impressed at the range of work he had done and loved the acrylic on canvas paintings.
Before I knew it I had to hurry back to the meeting point and we ventured back to the bus for our onward journey to the Golden Triangle. The Golden Triangle is where Thailand meets Laos and Myanmar (Burma) and where the Ruak and mighty Mekong rivers join.
The Golden Triangle was known as one of the world’s most prolific opium producers, until it was overshadowed by Afghanistan. In 1959, the Thai government made poppy-growing illegal in a bid to stamp out the drug trade and opium production was considerably cut.
We boarded a boat along the Mekong river and were in viewing distance of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. We also saw an island called no-man’s island where drugs used to be left and then collected by various gangs who used to sail by boat in the night.
We made a stop off in Don Sao village which is a Laos island but didn’t need a visa check as it was just an island so in essence I visited two countries in one day.
After walking around the tiny island we made off for our next destination – buffet lunch.
After eating some rice and noodles, I really fancied some soup so scoured the countless food options for bowls of broth. Yes, I found them but none of them were labelled so I was unsure what soup was what and so I went for the safest option as I don’t eat pork. Therefore I opted for the one which was clear with a few noodles in. There was no ladle so I borrowed the ladle from the soup next door and smooched on back over to my table. I sipped on the soup and let my palette work out what it was. Yep, that’s right I’ve got it- its boiled water!
So Mrs silly picked up a bowl of boiled water that is supposed to be used for cooking the noodles to add to your soup. No wonder there was no ladle – what a wally!
Anyway soup fiasco over with and it was time to board the bus to go to the most northern point of Thailand and where Thailand meets Myanmar.
All that separated Thailand and Myanmar was a tiny little bridge. I really wanted to go over and could have done so as I had my passport and 500 baht to pay but apparently there wasn’t enough time. I sat and pondered for a while and my rebel state started kicking in and began the goading. “Nadia, it’s your holiday so if you want to go to Myanmar, go” and “what’s the worst that could happen?” and so on.
I did think about it but then chickened out as it wasn’t just me on this trip and it would spoil it for the others if I got stuck over there or it took a long time to get through customs.
So therefore I left the Myanmar border thinking that one day I will return and with that I boarded the bus.
Next stop was the villages. Once we arrived I had a little look around and was asked if I wanted to pay extra to see the long neck Karen. I opted out. It felt like a bit of a freak show and although it brings money into the community, who would want a bunch of people coming through your home or gawping at you day in day out? I certainly wouldn’t. I think the next village I visit will have to be off the tourist route. I would love to be invited in so I can learn and interact rather than being part of the many dithering tourists sent there every day.
This trip was a long one (started off at 7am and got back about 9pm) and if I could have chosen, I would have dropped the village and the Don Sao Island as this was a bit pointless to me but overall I’m glad I went as I got to see the White Temple and the Golden Triangle. Next time I would like to do a bit more and see Myanmar, visit the rice fields and take in more of the surrounding scenery.
And it is here where my Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai adventure comes to an end. Nearly two weeks of sightseeing, relaxing and experiencing and I have really enjoyed it. I have also just found out that the national park (I went to previously) used to have 17 elephants but unfortunately 15 got taken away out of their natural environment to elephant sanctuaries that people pay money to see.
I am under no illusion that the remaining elephants (sadly 2) in the national park are wild as you wouldn’t be able to touch them but at least they get to roam around for miles on end and eat as much as they want when they want. It’s a shame that their family have been sold to sanctuaries and I would much rather pay my money to do a tour which means they have a lot more freedom like the one I did. By opting for these tours, it also means that they will keep these elephants there rather than also selling to sanctuaries – I hope.
Knowing that they weren’t placed there makes me feel a lot better about the whole tour as I was wondering if they had been re-routed from their natural habitats. It was definitely a remarkable experience and one that I feel a lot better about now after clarifying a few things. So I am really pleased I did it.
I fly out of Chiang Mai tomorrow and then on to Vietnam next where I will be meeting my sister Yasmin ready to embark on the next adventure. Who knows where it may lead!