Date: 24th November 2010
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.
Passed through a small town
Cute kids were all dressed up and marching somewhere
Concrete roads gave way to untarred roads. A sign of how remote a place I was heading to.
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.
But I was told it was still further away
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.
It was still a bit chilly in the morning
That’s Mekong river
It’s a 10 minute drive to the Golden Triangle
And finally, here I was
I kept walking to see where the ‘triangle’ was
And here it was…
That’s Myanmar to the left and Laos to the right
Hmm, that’s it. That’s what I came all the way for
Not sure what this building in Myanmar was
Across in Laos, this was some special economic zone
The Mekong river flows all the way from China
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.
There was a temple-slash-park nearby
This was some contraption where in you roll a coin down to the smiling Buddha statue down there and you can hear the coin roll all the way down into his tummy
I could see one group boat tour on their way
Checked this place out next
Wat Phra That Ku Phao temple
You get a better view from up here
Checked out what looked like an even older temple
Got back down
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.
Was I disappointed I couldn’t do the boat ride? A little bit
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.
I got into a bus heading for Chiang Rai
Bus ticket cost ฿74 (Taken on the Nokia E72)
The bus left at around 10:30am
Since I woke up early, with the sun hitting my eyes, I quickly dozed off
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.
This is the new bus terminal, which is a bit far from the main town
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.
The journey takes around 10 minutes from the city
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.
a.k.a the White Temple
It’s an art masterpiece for which construction began in 1998
The temple is designed with a theme of passing through hell during rebirth, a chance to purify oneself. Thus the colour white.
Wat Rong Khun is easily one of the coolest works of art I’ve seen!
The temple was designed by the same man behind the Golden Clock Tower in the city, artist Chalermchai Kositpipat
Photography inside the main hall, which houses the Buddha statue, is prohibited
No alcohol allowed inside Wat Rong Khun… so says this cut out
Panorama comprised of 6 shots
Even the fish are white!
It was time for me to leave
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.
The drive to the airport takes around 30 minutes
I arrived by 2:10pm, early enough
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.
My Orient Thai flight was on time as well
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.
But the flight was just fine
The scenery gave way to the clouds
By the time I was over Bangkok, the sun had set
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.
The bus set off past 7pm, passing Sukhumvit
We mostly rode on the elevated highway, the longest in the world
The journey took more than 2 hours
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.
Next posts in this series:
Thailand 2010: Pattaya — Beach road, Viewpoint, Jomtien Beach, Walking Street
Thailand 2010: Back to Bangkok — Chinatown, Patpong, Platinum Mall and Chatuchak Market
Thailand 2010: Gurdwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha, Sampeng Market, JJ market (again)
Thailand 2010: Damnoen Saduak Floating Market tour, Cobra show… and leaving Bangkok
Previous posts in this series:
Thailand 2010: Heading to Chiang Rai by bus, Wat Jedyod and Golden Clock Tower
Thailand 2010: Last day of Loi Krathong; Sunday Grand Parade (Day 4, Part 2)
Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai Zoo (Day 4, Part 1)
Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai Loi Krathong celebrations; first Grand Parade
Thailand 2010: Chiang Mai cooking class; Loi Krathong celebrations in Mae Jo, Sansai
Thailand 2010: First day in Chiang Mai for Loi Krathong; driving up Doi Suthep
Thailand 2010: Arriving in Bangkok and preparing for Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai