Thailand 2012: Golden Triangle tour – White Temple, Mekong River, Mae Sai, and entering Laos

Date: 23rd November 2012

Today, Ramesh and I were going on the Golden Triangle tour — one of the most popular and common full-day tours tourists do while in Chiang Mai. I had been to Chiang Rai and the point where Thailand’s border meets Laos and Myanmar in 2010. But I didn’t get the chance to hop across the river and set foot in Laos, because it’s much easier to do that when you go as part of a tour group.

Sam Kamphaeng hot springs Chiang Mai Thailand
The first stop on this tour was Sam Kamphaeng, famous for its hot spring fountain
Hot spring fountain rainbow Chiang Mai Thailand
The water really was quite warm
Putting finger in hot spring
Felt quite hot when I just poked my finger in the water
Boiling eggs San Kamphaeng hot springs Thailand
You can even buy eggs to boil in the water
Hot spring fountain Chiang Mai Thailand
It shoots pretty high
Chiang Mai highway hills
That’s it really. This was more of a rest stop.

One and half hours later, we reached Chiang Rai province. The van dropped us off at the famous White Temple.

Thai tour guide Golden Triangle
This was our English-speaking guide. He gave us a brief introduction and the told us we could roam about freely for around 30 minutes.
Alcohol sin tree White Temple Chiang Rai
“Alcohol is a sin” — A piece of advice ignored by practically everybody.
Golden structure Thai traditional design
When I first came to the White Temple in 2010, I was thoroughly impressed with the work done
Predator sculpture White Temple ground Thailand
Although I was still impressed by the main structure, some opinions about this place were starting to change
White temple Chiang Rai panorama
A panorama from Ramesh’s phone
White temple Chiang Rai Thailand
It was time to go in

Tourists White Temple Chiang Rai
You have a guy here speaking in to a mic asking/requesting/ordering visitors not to block the path, and to keep moving.

Crystal ball reflection White Temple

White temple main hall Chiang Rai Thailand
Pretty stunning if you ask me
Horn White Temple Chiang Rai Thailand
Last time, I took a lot of photos, so this time around I only sought ‘interesting’ frames.
Horse sculpture White Temple Thailand
Horses and humans tangled in the demons of hell
Snake biting hand hell sculpture Thailand
Pretty impressive work
Hands red nail underworld scultpure Thailand
β™« One of these fingernails is not like the other… β™«

Path to main hall White temple

Dragon Thai design Chiang Mai

Thai goddess White temple Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai White temple hall
Photography is prohibited inside the main prayer hall
White temple facade Chiang Rai
I would see why

Inside the main prayer, our guide told us we would find a Buddhist monk who has beenΒ  praying/in meditation for years and is not be disturbed. Of course our guide told us this with a smile on his face. We could see why. The “monk” was just a wax figure, made to look like the real person. But when I saw what was painted on the walls inside the hall, I lost all religious consideration for this “temple”. In a galaxy painting was Neo from The Matrix, Optimus Prime, Alien and Predator, among other popular sci-fi characters. Seriously, don’t take Wat Rong Khun seriously — it’s just a massive art project, disguised as a temple.

Chiang Mai White Temple fountaina
We went back out
Coin well White temple Chiang Mai
Ah, the coin well, a.k.a, a good way to get change from people

Flower baskets Chiang Rai

Golden toilet White temple Chiang Rai
This was the toilet. Posh! πŸ™‚
Anklet figure White temple Chiang Rai panorama
This was a ‘tree’ of messages and well-wishes

Written charms Chiang Rai Thailand

Exhibition hall White temple Chiang Rai
This was an art gallery, where photography inside was prohibited
White temple tourists Chiang Rai
It was time for us to re-group and leave the White Temple
White temple Thailand panorama
Another panorama from Ramesh
Mekong river Thailand border
An hour later, we were in the border town of Chiang Saen
Mekong river map Thai guide
Our guide gave us the lowdown on Mekong river and its importance to every nation the river passes through

In 2010, I came to Chiang Saen by bus, toured the surrounding sights but fell short of doing the boat ride on Mekong river as I had arrived too early in the morning and there were no other visitors to share the boat with.

Tourists boarding Mekong river boat
This time I was actually going to get to do the boat ride over to Laos
Guide golden triangle tour Thailand
Our guide gave us more trivia as we rode along
Buffalos transported by boat Mekong river
Buffaloes making their way up the river to Laos
Trucks boat Laos Mekong river
It’s not just cattle and small goods being transported
Mekong river boat brown water
Mekong river was/still a line through which a lot of drugs were/are transported
Thailand buddha statue Laos river
That’s Thailand
Myanmar casino Mekong river
That’s Myanmar, we can’t enter there without a visa
Casino Laos Mekong river
That’s a casino over in Laos, funded by the Chinese
Laos factory Mekong river
In fact, the Chinese built this entire Special Economic Zone
Boat Mekong river
We were now going to enter Laos
Laos industrial complex Mekong river
Tourists are allowed in at Done Xao, but not beyond a certain point

Laos boy Done XaoDocked, I excitedly jumped on to Laos soil! πŸ™‚

Laos Done Xao tourists
As expected, it was choc full of small shops catering to tourists
Tiger testicles snake whiskey Laos
Our guide took us to a store selling “special” whisky — with tiger testicles and snakes in them
Tiger testicles snake whisky Laos
They were handing out free taste samples, but I refused to drink the one with tiger testicles. Purely on moral grounds, and knowing how many of India’s tigers are killed for shit like this.
Tiger snake whisky medicinal properties
The usual “this is good for you” bullshit — none of which are scientifically proven
Snake whisky bottle Laos
You can buy small bottles, but I chose not to. I can’t imagine passing this through security at airports.
Mithun drinking snake whisky Laos
But I gave the snake whiskey a try: a) because snakes reproduce in larger numbers than tigers do, b) I hate snakes

I let out an instant cough as soon as I took the first sip. Needless to say, this was no Scotch. It was pure spirit and quite tasteless. Another reason not to buy it.

Scorpion snake whisky bottle Laos
Nothing says “I love you, Mom” better than scorpions and snakes apparently
Laos passport stamp Donsao
After that, I got my passport stamped with an unofficial Laos visa seal
Mithun Divakaran in Laos Donsao
After all, I was officially on Laos soil πŸ™‚
Laos map Done Xao
But I was still far away from the heart of Laos
Road to Laos country
We weren’t allowed to go beyond this point, even though I was tempted to
Hand bags Laos
There was little else to do here. I bought a Laos fridge magnet and a bottle of Beerlao as our guide says it’s not available in Chiang Mai.
Postcards Laos Donsao
You can buy postcards and mail them from Laos soil
Done Xao Laos border panorama
We were given a few minutes to walk about here
Laos kip sign
Kip is Laos currency — but I bought the Beerlao in Thai baht
Done Xao sign Laos border
266 kms from/to… where?
Laos border office golden triangle tour
If you do have a genuine Laos visa stamped, there is an immigration office here
Done Xao SEZ road Laos
The Chinese built all this. It’s amazing how far they are spreading their influence in the region — all for business of course.
Mekong river boat steps Laos
Anyway, it was time for us to take the boat across the river back to Thailand
Chiang Saen church cross Thailand
Ah Christian missionaries, going to the far corners of the land to convert people spread the message of God.
Soap carving Thailand
This guy was carving and selling scented soap
Chiang Rai buffet restaurant
Lunch was at some buffet restaurant
Buffet meal Thailand
The food was bland and just “meh”. Ramesh ate even less.
Chiang Rai highway panorama
From one border town to the next
Mae Sai Thailand border Myanmar
Next stop on the tour was Mae Sai, the town bordering Myanmar
Mae Sai crossing border to Myanmar
From here, you can officially enter Myanmar (if you have the rights to)
Northern most point of Thailand
Our guide gave us the lowdown on the border town and how to enter Myanmar
Thailand bridge to Myanmar Mae Sai
Burmese can enter Thailand freely for 24hours, but if they need to stay beyond that, they need a visa. So a lot of traders sell goods by day and return in the evening.
Thailand to Myanmar bridge panorama
Ramesh’s panorama gives you a better idea
Myanmar border entry
I would have liked to have set foot in Myanmar, but we couldn’t
River bank end of Thailand
I saw a river stream down below

Mae Sai bridge to Myanmar

River bank Mae Sai Thailand
This is all that sets Myanmar and Thailand apart
Mithun Mae Sai Thai border
Ramesh took this photo of me while he was still listening to the guide talk
Foot in water Thailand river
I, on the other hand, was trying to take the “last step in Thailand”
Mae Sai bridge river between Myanmar
Not exactly the most secure border crossing πŸ™‚
Mae Sai tourist police Thailand
Above the bridge, there’s enough security

Buddhist monks Mae Sai going to Burma

Mae Sai road Thailand
Left: to Thailand, Right: to Myanmar
Mae Sai border town Thailand
It was time for us to leave Mae Sai

At this point, we were already pretty tired, but the tour was still not over. We drove a bit inland to visit a “tribal village”.

Village houses Chiang Rai
This was a “village” where we could see all the tribes living in this region
Tribal village Mae Sai Thailand
Village is in quotes because this was obviously just set up for tourists
Tribal girl Mae Sai Thailand
But these are people (supposedly) from various tribes from across the region — or some of them could just be locals made to dress up in traditional garb and pose for tourists
Tribal village child Thailand
There were few other tribes here ‘on display’
Karon long neck girl Thailand
The most prominent being the ‘long neck’ tribe
Karon young girl long neck village
Or the Karon people, as they are also called
Karon little girl long neck tribe Thailand
Of which there were a few
Long neck tribe women Thailand
Some of them surely looked like they had homes in the back
Tribal village Chiang rai
I bought some bamboo mugs for the sake giving these people some money. Who knows how much they get from tour operators for every visit to this “village”. Another example of exploitative tourism in Thailand I guess.
Moon Thailand
With that, our Golden Triangle tour was finally done

At ΰΈΏ1400 (Rs. 2500/$40/€30) per person, the Golden Triangle tour is one of the more expensive tours I have done, but it’s really worth it in my opinion. If you are short on time and can’t afford to visit Chiang Rai to go to the Thai border or see the White Temple, just do this tour. It will take up an entire day, and time on spent on road is a couple of hours, but you do get to see and experience a lot.

Toilet clean Thailand
Stopped on the way for a toilet break. This is where we relieved ourselves πŸ™‚
Thapae Gate Loi Krathong lanterns
By the time we were dropped back to our hotel, it was dinner time. Ramesh and I walked to Thapae Gate, where they had big paper lanterns in the shape of famous world landmarks.
Taj Mahal lantern Thailand
The Taj Mahal went pink for this one

We picked up dinner and had it in our room. Good thing there was a mini-fridge to chill the Beerlao I had bought from Laos.

Beerlao bottle
It was really good!

A tiring but befitting end to our day. Tomorrow was the big lantern festival for which I returned to Chiang Mai for. You can view that post here.

Next post in this series:

Loy Krathong 2012: Yeepeng Lanna in Chiang Mai – A second chance to do it right

Previous posts in this series:

Thailand 2012: Flying to Chiang Mai; views from Doi Suthep

Thailand 2012: Phuket beach hopping and bike ride to Promthep Cape

Thailand 2012: James Bond island, Koh Panyee village and Wat Suwan Kuha

Thailand 2012: Terminal 21 mall; Bangkok to Phuket by bus

Thailand 2012: Far end of Jomtien Beach; back to Bangkok

Thailand 2012: The Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya

Thailand 2012: Landing in Pattaya

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2 Comments

  • Ruma

    11/09/2015

    Hi! I know it’s been a while but do you recall which tour you took for the tour? It seems like a good one.

    [Reply]

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Hey Ruma, we just booked it from a local travel agent near our hotel (Rux Thai). The package and itinerary is all the same, the vans belong to different tour operators, that’s all.

    [Reply]

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