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Northern most point of Thailand

Thailand: 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

Continue reading “Thailand: Golden Triangle tour – White Temple, Mekong River, Mae Sai, and entering Laos” »

Wat Rong Khun white temple Chiang Rai

Thailand 2010: Golden Triangle in Mae Sai; Chiang Rai’s White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

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.

Small town Chiang Rai school parade Thailand
Passed through a small town
Small town school kids north Thailand
Cute kids were all dressed up and marching somewhere
Bus ride to Mae Sai town Chiang Rai Thailand
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.

Mae Sai town Thailand
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.

Mae Sai river road to Golden Triangle
It was still a bit chilly in the morning
Mae Sai river town Chiang Rai Thailand
That’s Mekong river
Road to Golden Triangle Chiang Rai Thailand
It’s a 10 minute drive to the Golden Triangle
Golden Triangle sign Chiang Rai Thailand
And finally, here I was
The Imperial Golden Triangle Resort Chiang Rai Thailand
The Imperial Golden Triangle Resort, the only major hotel facing the Golden Triangle

Chang Saen immigration checkpoint office Chiang Rai Thailand

Golden Triangle entrance Chiang Rai
I kept walking to see where the ‘triangle’ was

And here it was…

Golden Triangle Mae Sai Chiang Rai Thailand panorama
That’s Myanmar to the left and Laos to the right

Hmm, that’s it. That’s what I came all the way for 🙂

Myanmar Burma from Golden Triangle view Chiang Rai
Not sure what this building in Myanmar was
Golden Triangle special economic zone Laos
Across in Laos, this was some special economic zone

Golden Triangle special economic zone Laos factory

Mekong river Myanmar Laos view from Golden Triangle
The Mekong river flows all the way from China

Mekong river map Golden Triangle Chiang RaiNow, 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.

Golden Traingle Mekong river Chiang RaiUnfortunately, I couldn’t waste any time and so, I decided to check out the surroundings.

Golden Traingle temple park Mae Sai Chiang Saen Thailand
There was a temple-slash-park nearby

Golden Triangle mekong giant catfishGolden Triangle Mekong river Chiang Rai ThailandGolden Triangle Mekong river Chiang Rai ThailandGolden triangle buddhist temple Chiang Rai ThailandGolden Triangle buddha temple coin rollingGolden triangle temple steps to buddha statue

Golden temple coin rolling buddha statue Mae Sai
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

Golden Triangle temple Chiang Rai

Mekong river Golden triangle boat tour
I could see one group boat tour on their way

Golden Triangle buddhist temple near mekong riverGolden triangle buddhist temple dragon art Chiang RaiGolden triangle temple structures Mae Sai ThailandGolden traingle temple near mekong river Chiang Rai

Temple entrance near Golden Triangle
Checked this place out next

Temple entrance steps Mae Sai ThailandTemple near Golden Triangle worship areaWat Phra That Ku Phao temple steps architecture

Wat Phra That Ku Phao temple Mae Sai Thailand
Wat Phra That Ku Phao temple

Wat Phra That Ku Phao temple Mae Sai Thailand

Golden Triangle view Mekong river from hill Mae Sai Chiang Rai
You get a better view from up here

Golden Triangle view point from hill Mae SaiDragon steps temple near Golden triangleOld temple on hill near Golden Triangle

Wat Phra That Pu Khao old temple Mae Sai Chiang Rai
Checked out what looked like an even older temple

Wat Phra That Pu Khao old temple Mae Sai Chiang RaiWat Phra That Pu Khao old temple hall Chiang SaenWat Phra That Pu Khao steps Chiang RaiWat Phra That Pu Khao forest trees Chiang RaiWat Phra That Pu Khao steps down Mae Sai

Wat Phra That Pu Khao tourist Chiang Rai
Got back down

Wat Phra That Pu Khao stone art Mae SaiWat Phra That Pu Khao dragon steps tourists Mae SaiWat Phra That Pu Khao stone dragon artStone dragon art Thai engraving Chiang RaiOnce 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.

Mae Sai Chiang Rai ThailandBut 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.

Laos across Mekong river Chiang Rai
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.

Chiang Saen town bus stop
I got into a bus heading for Chiang Rai
Bus Chiang Saen to Chiang Rai
Bus ticket cost ฿74 (Taken on the Nokia E72)
Leaving Chiang Saen for Chiang Rai Thailand
The bus left at around 10:30am

Chiang Saen village houses Thailand

Chiang Saen outskirts farmland Thailand
Since I woke up early, with the sun hitting my eyes, I quickly dozed off

Chiang Saen local house ThailandBut 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.

Chiang Rai new bus terminal Thailand
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.

Chiang Rai tuk tuk driver Thailand
The journey takes around 10 minutes from the city

Chiang Rai policeman moped ThailandOnce 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.

Wat Rong Khun white temple Chiang Rai
a.k.a the White Temple
Wat Rong Khun white temple Chiang Rai Thailand
It’s an art masterpiece for which construction began in 1998
White temple Wat Rong Khun tree heads Chiang Rai
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 golden structure Chiang Rai

Wat Rong Khun White Temple hands from hell sculpture
Wat Rong Khun is easily one of the coolest works of art I’ve seen!

Wat Rong Khun white temple skull hell hands sculpture Chiang RaiWat Rong Khun white temple skull hell hands deadWat Rong Khun white temple skull hell hands sculptures

Wat Rong Khun White Temple buddhist hindu temple
The temple was designed by the same man behind the Golden Clock Tower in the city, artist Chalermchai Kositpipat

White temple Wat Rong Khun warrior sculpture Chiang Rai ThailandWhite temple Wat Rong Khun warrior sculpture Chiang Rai

White temple Wat Rong Khun Chiang Rai Thailand
Photography inside the main hall, which houses the Buddha statue, is prohibited

Wat Rong Khun white temple fountainsWat Rong Khun white temple entrance pathWhite Temple Wat Rong Khun ubosot prayer hall Chiang RaiWhite Temple Wat Rong Khun Thai art design Chiang RaiWhite temple Wat Rong Khun lawn Chiang Rai ThailandWhite temple Wat Rong Khun chairs Chiang RaiWhite temple Wat Rong Khun garden Chiang Rai ThailandWhite Temple Wat Rong Khun compound wall Chiang Rai

White Temple Wat Rong Khun no alcohol Thai cut out
No alcohol allowed inside Wat Rong Khun… so says this cut out

Wat Rong Khun white temple no entryWhite Temple Wat Rong Khun architecture Chiang RaiWhite Temple Wat Rong Khun side garden Chiang RaiWhite Temple Wat Rong Khun ubosot hall Chiang RaiWhite Temple Wat Rong Khun ubosot design Chiang Rai

White Temple Wat Rong Khun Chiang Rai panorama
Panorama comprised of 6 shots

White temple Wat Rong Khun ubosot Chiang Rai Thailand White temple Wat Rong Khun golden hall Chiang Rai

White Temple Wat Rong Khun white fish pond Chiang Rai
Even the fish are white!

White Temple Wat Rong Khun white fish Chiang Rai

White temple Wat Rong Khun front Chiang Rai Thailand
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.

On the way to Chiang Rai airport
The drive to the airport takes around 30 minutes


Dry farm land Chiang Rai Thailand Lone house on way to Chiang Rai airportHouses on way to Chiang Rai airportFarm land Chiang Rai outskirtsRoad to Chiang Rai international airportRiver on the way Chiang Rai international airport Thailand

Chiang Rai international airport Thailand
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.

Orient Thai one-two-go airlines Chiang Rai to Bangkok
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.

Aerial view Chiang Rai Thailand
But the flight was just fine


Aerial photograph river Chiang Rai Thailand Aerial photograph from airplane Chiang Rai farm ThailandAerial photograph from plane Chiang Rai farm landAerial photograph river Chiang RaiAerial photograph from plane Chiang Rai

Clouds Thailand aerial photography from plane
The scenery gave way to the clouds
Thailand bangkok at night from flight
By the time I was over Bangkok, the sun had set

Aerial photograph from plane Bangkok city lightsMy 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.

Sukhumvit Bangkok MRT pillars at night
The bus set off past 7pm, passing Sukhumvit
Rama highway to Pattaya at night
We mostly rode on the elevated highway, the longest in the world
Bangkok port on way to Pattaya
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

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