Travels this week: Chiang Rai & The Golden Triangle

Just to the south of Chiang Rai is the famed White Temple, or Wat Rong Kun as its correctly called. The temple was built specifically to put Chiang Rai ‘on the map’ and this has been spectacularly achieved; sometimes to ill effect; there has been some controversy recently about bad behaviour of Chinese visitors and in particular their bathroom habits… so bad that the owner of the temple recently banned them for a few days.

The temple closes at 5.00pm and I was too late to go in, on the plus side I got some photos without hordes of people swarming about.

Wat Rong Khun
Wat Rong Khun

A similar distance as the White Temple is south of Chiang Rai, to the north is Baan Dam (Black House), this is not a temple (as it is sometimes labelled) but rather and art park built by a local artist (now deceased). This is as equally impressive as the White Temple and well worth a visit, signage from the highway is poor so use a sat nav to find it. The Black House is open 9 to 17.00, but closes for an hour 12 – 13.00.

Near the northern tip of Thailand and on the banks of the Mekong, Thailand, Burma and Laos meet – this is The Golden Triangle.

I didn’t cross any borders, but the Thai side was worth a stay over, and would be worth an overnight on a future trip. A wide selection of accommodation and restaurants gives the place a resort feel, with boat trips on the Mekong and a Museum of Opium to fill out a day.

The Burmese and Laos banks are dedicated to gambling, with a huge casino complex on the Lao side – aimed completely at Chinese visitors (China being about 200km to the north); I wonder at the state of the toilets there…

Golden Triangle
Golden Triangle

Mae Sai is the most northerly Thai town and a border post to Burma – many come here for a visa extension. Its also a huge market town with goods from the north; not really anything you can get elsewhere but worth a wander around.

Borders have always held a fascination for me; strange to think that in such a short distance so much can change. In the image below (taken in the car park), the fence is in Thailand, the buildings are in Burma; so near and yet so far…

Golden Triangle - Mae Sai
Golden Triangle – Mae Sai

Final stop on the way back south: Choui Fong Tea Plantation.

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