An exciting journey from Chiang Mai to the Golden Triangle
Total distance today appr. 270 km, driving time about 4,5 hours
Day 1 Chiang Mai – Chiang Saen
The White Temple of Chiang Rai
Your guide and driver will meet you at your hotel in Chiang Mai at 0800 for your “From Chiang Mai to the Golden Triangle” tour. Today is the longest day of the tour: it will bring us from Chiang Mai to Chiang Saen via Chiang Rai. We will take the shortest route but it still is a long drive. Our first short stop will be at the Mae Kachan Hot Springs after which we will continue to Chiang Rai. Wat Rong Khun is also known as the “White Temple”. Over the past decades, it has become one of the most popular attractions in Chiang Rai province. We will also have lunch here. After lunch, we will take the bypass road to Chiang Saen.
A cave temple on the Kok River
The Wat Tham Phra is a cave temple on the Kok River, that flows through Chiang Rai. As we pass it, it is worth stopping for a moment. King Rama VII visited Chiang Rai in 1927 and also paid a visit to this centuries-old cave temple. Caves are an integral part of religious practices and beliefs in Northern Thailand. Caves have also served as temporary resting places for wandering monks. The location and scenery of Wat Tham Phra are very pretty and the cave contains several Buddha images, enough reason for a short visit.
From the Kok to the Mekong River
We continue along the recently opened bypass road and cross the main road from Chiang Rai to Mae Sai. Another new road with great views of rice fields then takes us to the “mighty” Mekong River, which is the border of Thailand and Laos here. From here it is only about 20 km to Chiang Saen, our final destination today, but we have some more places to visit. On the Mekong River are some of the ruins of “Little Chiang Saen” in the compound of Wat Song Pee Nong. The last major sight today is Wat Phra That Pha Ngao, a large and very lively temple complex. There are several museums and temple buildings but our main interest is the White Chedi on a hill overlooking the Mekong River and Laos. Recently they have constructed a “skyway” here, the kind of view deck that is popular with local tourists.
Dinner on the Mekong River
After the temple, it is only less than 10km to Chiang Saen, where the Siam Triangle hotel is our favorite accommodation. Take your time to relax at the pool and enjoy the Mekong view. After dark, we will take you for a dinner on the Mekong, just a couple of km from the hotel. Join the local Chiang Saen people having dinner on the pavement on the Mekong River. It is a magical experience.
Day 2 Chiang Saen – Ban Pha Mi
Total distance today appr. 50 km, driving time about 1,5 hours
Explore ancient Chiang Saen by bicycle
We will make another early start today, the second day of our adventure from Chiang Mai to the Golden Triangle. We will take bicycles from the hotel to explore the old city of Chiang Saen. In our view, this ancient city should be a UNESCO World Heritage site. We pedal along the impressive city walls and visit the numerous temple ruins, that remain scattered in between the modern houses. Of course, we will visit the two main temple ruins of Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Pasak, as well as the small but interesting National Museum (closed on Monday and Tuesday). After our ride, we will return to the hotel and take a shower before we check out.
The Golden Triangle and a boat ride on the Mekong River
We will drive along the Mekong River to the Golden Triangle, the place where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet. We are in the highlands of Southeast Asia where not that long ago opium smuggling and crime were rampant. Those days have long gone but the area still has a reputation. Only two museums remind us of this past. The Golden Triangle spot has become a tourist attraction where we will visit the small opium museum, due to time constraints. Then we will have lunch at one of the restaurants. Making a boat trip on the Mekong River is a must so we will board a small local boat for a trip of half an hour on the river.
The bamboo-woven Buddha and Ban Pha Mi
On the way to Mae Sai, we will visit the largest bamboo-woven Buddha image in the world at Wat Phra San. After a brief visit to the border market of Mae Sai, we will continue to our accommodation. This will be at the Akha village Ban Pha Mi or somewhere near here. It will depend on the time of the year. This Akha village is a major producer of coffee and now attracts many local visitors. The views from the village over the lowlands are spectacular.
Day 3 Ban Pha Mi – Doi Tung – Chiang Rai
Total distance today appr. 85 km, driving time about 1,5 hours
Wat Tham Pla and Doi Tung
After breakfast, we will drive up to the viewpoint overlooking Myanmar. Let’s pray for good weather on this day. We will descend to the main road and continue to Wat Tham Pla, an extraordinary temple with a fantastic backdrop. Beware of the resident monkeys. Wat Tham Pla is an interesting place that deserves visits. From there we continue to Doi Tung, a mountain that once was covered with opium fields. Those days are long gone, thanks to the Royal Family of Thailand. We will visit the magnificent Mae Fah Luang gardens. If you are up to you can also try out the tree top walk.
The Black House and the Choui Fong tea plantations
We continue to the Choui Fong tea plantations. On the way, we stop at the exceptional Chiang Rai Koi Farm. In 1977 Thawee Wanaspitaksakul started his first tea plantation at Doi Phaya Phrai, right on the border of Thailand and Myanmar. In 2003 he bought land closer to Chiang Rai and founded the extensive Choui Fong tea plantations. Choui Fong is now one of the biggest producers of quality tea in North Thailand.
Before we arrive back in Chiang Rai we will visit the Black House aka Ban Dam (Thai), an open-air museum of buildings and artifacts, created by the deceased Thai national artist Tawan Duchanee. It is rather dark and gloomy but certainly unique and worth a visit.
Wat Huay Pla Kang and the Blue Temple
Wat Huay Pla Kang and Wat Rong Suea Ten aka the Blue Temple are the last places we will visit today. The huge statue of Kuan Im, the Goddess of Mercy, of Wat Huay Pla Kang is visible from afar. It is an extraordinary complex that keeps on growing and changing. The temple has become a center of social welfare. It raises donations to construct a hospital where local people can get free medical treatment and takes care of more than 500 orphans. The Blue Temple is a beautiful temple that attracts many local visitors. After this, we will drop you off at the hotel. Here ends our tour “from Chiang Mai to the Golden Triangle”. Say goodbye to your guide and driver who will go back to Chiang Mai.