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.
One and half hours later, we reached Chiang Rai province. The van dropped us off at the famous White Temple.
Woke up at around 6am today. I re-packed my bags and checked out of my room as by the time I would have come back, it would have been past 12 noon. I left my bags at the hotel reception and walked to the bus station after having tea from stall serving early morning office goers.
I boarded a bus leaving for Chiang Saen at 6:30am. Mae Sai is the northern most town in Thailand. Located in Chiang Saen (which is in Chiang Rai province), it is from here you reach the Golden Triangle.
What’s the Golden Triangle you ask? It’s the point where three countries – Thailand, Myanmar & Laos – all meet, with only a river separating them.
The journey to Chiang Saen town takes one and half hours.
By around 8:15am, I was in the town of Chiang Saen. Now, I was expecting to see the ‘Golden Triangle’ right as soon as I got down.
The awaiting moped taxis offered to take me there… for ฿100. I said ‘No way!’ and instead got into a pick-up taxi going to the Golden Triangle. Cost around ฿30.
And here it was…
Hmm, that’s it. That’s what I came all the way for 🙂
Now, I didn’t come all the way here just to see a river. After all, Myanmar and Laos doesn’t look all that different from here.
There are boat rides that take you along the Mekong river and up to the shores of Myanmar and Laos. I approached one boatman and he told me I’d have to wait a bit for other tourists… or pay ฿1000 for the ride. Needless to say, I told him I will wait.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t waste any time and so, I decided to check out the surroundings.
Once out, I went back to the river banks to see if there were enough tourists in a boat ready to embark on the river tour, but there still wasn’t any.
I waited a little bit.
But the heat was getting to me, and time wasn’t on my side. There was one attraction I just had to see before I left Chiang Rai. My Orient Thai Airlines flight was at 4:25pm, which meant I had to be at the airport at least by 2:30pm. Given that the journey back to Chiang Rai town was going to take one and half hours (now considering traffic), I couldn’t hang around much longer.
I boarded a passing by pickup taxi (which itself aren’t that frequent on this stretch) and made my way back to Chiang Saen town.
My friend Sawmteii (whom I would meet up with in a few days) did the Golden Triangle boat tour from Chiang Mai, which cost them around ฿2000 per person. They told me the boat tour basically takes you to the shores of Myanmar and Laos for a few minutes. Doesn’t sound that exciting I know, but if I had managed to get a spot on a boat from here for a reasonable rate, I would have done it just so I can check off the ‘Golden Triangle tour’ from my list of things-to-do in Thailand.
But I woke up to see the bus stopped and a police officer inspecting the passengers. He approached me and asked me where I was coming from. I quickly realized it was a check for illegal immigration, in case somebody from Myanmar or Laos just waltzed right into Thailand. I had a copy of my passport and showed him my driver’s license. That was it, the officer got down from the bus and we were on our way again.
I got back to town just past 12 noon, so I was good on time. I decided to have lunch from The Pizza Company, which is Thailand largest and most popular pizza chain. They have a lot of value for money meals and their pizza was quite good too (my meal cost ฿179).
Soon after lunch, I decided to quickly head to Wat Rong Khun, also nicknamed the White Temple. I approached a tuk-tuk and told him I needed to quickly visit the White Temple and then be back in town to head to the airport. He offered to drive me to the White Temple, wait for me there, and then drive me to the airport — all for ฿250. Figuring it sounded like a time saver, I considered it a good deal and we first went back to Ruangnakorn Hotel to collect my bags.
Once I reached the White Temple, I left my bags in the tuk tuk and entered the premises. There isn’t an entrance fee for Wat Rong Khun.
I went back to my waiting tuk tuk and we headed back into the city, because the airport was in the other direction.
While in the city, I saw a sign pointing to Chiang Rai beach… which made me wonder how there is a ‘beach’ in a land-locked district. Turns out it’s just on the shores of a river.
Chiang Rai International Airport is enough to serve the district and offers nothing fancy. I got my window seat and sat in the departures lounge.
The ticket was cheap and the time suited me fine. Initially I was reluctant to fly Orient Thai, because they don’t seem to go by One-Two-Go Airlines anymore, because the airline apparently had a poor safety record in the past.
My next stop was Pattaya but in the flight, I was contemplating whether I should stay on Khao San road tonight and leave for Pattaya early morning tomorrow. But after I got out of Don Mueang Airport (the old airport), I decided to try and get to Pattaya tonight itself so that it’ll save me the trouble of waking up early again. I took a taxi and headed to Mo Chit bus terminal. En route the taxi driver asked me where I was headed, and when I said “Pattaya,” he told me “Oh, you won’t get bus now!”. Which I didn’t pay much attention to as I figured it was his way of making me consider taking a taxi ride all the way. Once at Mo Chit, I easily got a bus ticket — though most bus companies were on their final trip for the evening. This was around 6:30-7pm.
I arrived in Pattaya, not knowing where in the city I was. This was my first visit to Pattaya, as I had zero interest in visiting the place last year on my first trip to Thailand. I only had a hotel reservation for tomorrow, so I still needed to find a bed for tonight. I got into a pickup taxi and asked the driver to just take me to a “cheap room” for tonight. It was already past 10pm and I was eager to crash, as I have been up and about since 6am today. The driver took me to a place called Little Court. A single room cost ฿250 and I checked in. After freshening up, I went out to pick up some dinner and to buy some credit for my local SIM. After updating my father, I called it a night. Well, I tried to… but the room, despite being on a higher floor was still open to the bars outside playing loud music. I guess this was to be expected with Pattaya.
After 4 splendid days in Chiang Mai (amid some disappointments), today I left the city to go further up north. I went to the main bus station and only managed to get a ticket for 12 noon as all others were sold out. (Don’t remember exactly how much I paid for the ticket, but it was around ฿100)
The bus first stopped at what looked like a new bus station. I didn’t get down here because a lot of the Thais stayed in their seats. So I assumed this was not the final stop. Unfortunately some western tourists did get down and started hailing for taxis towards their hotels.
For which there was no need for, because the very same bus started again and drove straight into the city in 5 minutes time. This bus station was according my prior research, very close to the night market.
I hired a tuk-tuk and checked into my hotel.
The room cost ฿350 for the night and I was only going to be staying one night. My flight from Chiang Rai to Bangkok was the next day evening. I know one day isn’t much in Chiang Rai, but this was my first time here and as always with first visits, this would be more a surveillance visit than any other.
I dropped by a few travel agents and tour operators along the way and asked them about day trips to the Golden Triangle. But because it was already late in the evening, nobody could assure me a spot as they needed few more tourists to fill up a group as tomorrow’s first group were already full.
A British guy who was behind, overheard me and told me he was in the same situation as I. So we chatted for a bit and exchanged numbers in case either of us managed to get into a group tour that was going tomorrow morning.
I rested for some time after applying some Vicks. I just didn’t want to fall sick. It’s the worst thing that can happen on one’s vacation. Well, one of the worst things.
I got up at around 8pm and craved to have some hot Thai soup for dinner.
Post dinner, I scanned the shops a bit. Unlike last year, when I bought 10 t-shirts from Thailand, I figured I wouldn’t need to buy much this time.
Alas, I ended buying two from a small vendor at the night bazaar after bargaining it down to ฿300 for both. Oh well, we’ll see how many t-shirts I end up buying this year.
As I needed more rest for an early start tomorrow, I headed back. Plus, there was little else to do in Chiang Rai. There is barely any nightlife in Chiang Rai. It’s a lot quieter (and smaller) than Chiang Mai.
As I was clicking this photo, I bumped into the same British guy I had met earlier at the travel office. He told me he met up with a group of people who were planning on going on a trek (Chiang Rai is famous for trekking and cycling) and asked me if I wanted to join them. I told him I was unfortunately not in the best of health and that I had to be back in town early enough for my evening flight to Bangkok.
We wished each other well and parted ways.
I reached my room, freshened up, dabbed some more Vicks and snuggled up for a good night’s sleep.