Day 2: Chiang Rai, Golden Triangle, Karen Long Neck, and Laos

For our second day we booked a tour with Travelhub Thailand. It’s a one day tour in Chiang Rai. We’ll be seeing the White Temple, the Golden Triangle, and the Karen Long Neck village. I initially wanted to just go to Chiang Rai on our own but the logistics of everything seemed a little difficult so we got a tour instead.

From Chiang Mai, we went on a two hour drive to stop by a hot spring. There’s really not much to see from it, but there was a 7-11 and a bathroom. I got some snacks and water because we weren’t able to get some breakfast before leaving.

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The lonely hot spring. It seems to be a major stop-over for all tours though!
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Nothing special about the hot spring but the clouds were extra pretty that day!

It was a quick stop-over and after that, it was another long drive to the White Temple!

The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) is a 20-year old temple created by famous Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. The White Temple shows the journey to nirvana.

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The temple is beautiful and shiny!

The White Temple is a really famous tourist spot in Chiang Rai. There were plenty of tourist vans when we went. I think I’m lucky enough to get this shot where it doesn’t look as crowded as it is.

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The road going to nirvana. Yes, those are hands!
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We passed by the first level and now on to the second. This is where the picture stops because you aren’t allowed to take pictures inside. The inside of the temple is beautiful with pop culture references reflected.
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While the actual temple isn’t that big, the whole compound is. There’s plenty to see.
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We found the sweet spot to take pictures where it’s not too hot, not too crowded, and shows off the temple without the crowd!

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The temple also houses this — known as the best bathroom in the world. I didn’t go in due to the number of people, but according to my companion the bathroom was really clean!

Karen Hill Tribe

It was another drive going to the Karen Hill Tribe. There’s a lot of controversy about visiting this place because it’s set up as somewhat a tourist trap and a lot of people call it as a “human zoo”. On the other hand, the fees you pay to see these women is their livelihood and way of living.

I’m honestly not sure what it says about my moral compass because I didn’t feel much when we went there. I was really fascinated with their lifestyle and bought some stuff from them. I got a really pretty bag and nicely colored scarves. I think it really helped a lot that our tour guide was really nice to the people in the tribe and was actually talking to them and introducing them to us rather than just kind of pointing at them like how it was with other blogs I’ve read. There’s honestly not much to see at all in the area because it was one stall after the other of handmade items being sold. The ladies speak really good English (I guess due to the volume of tourists they see daily).

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With the oldest lady in the tribe. She currently holds the most number of rings around her neck (30, I think?). I can’t remember how long she’s been wearing those rings (I think for 25+ years already).

We got to hold and try out their rings. At ten rings, it was already really heavy. I was so scared of accidentally dropping it because for sure it will bruise my foot badly if I do. I just can’t imagine how heavy it is to wear more and to wear it on a permanent basis.

I really found this part of the tour as the most interesting for me. We have a lot of indigenous people in the Philippines whom I have never really had a chance to interact with (unless you count the Ifugao people in Baguio?). It’s fascinating to see how they manage to transcend modern life and keep their whole culture in tact — or as much as they could given the unavoidable cultural progression that they eventually had to adapt to. Of course this tour was different, and there have been stories of younger Karen women being required to wear the rings for the purpose of tourism. But having said all that, this is a pretty good glimpse of seeing how they live. Our tour guide mentioned that there are tours you can take wherein you are immersed with the village and you live with them for a day or two.

Golden Triangle

It was another drive going to our lunch. For someone who’s been the whole morning I wasn’t particularly hungry. The food was all right and quite decent. We were the first ones to arrive so it wasn’t crowded yet when we got our food. The lunch was buffet and it was just enough to get me through. We headed straight to the Golden Triangle after this.

The tour offered a boat ride to Laos for THB 300 which we availed of. The Golden triangle is the meeting point ofย Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. This is where the Mekong River meets the Ruak River. Historically, it’s known as an area where opium cultivation and trade happened.

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You ride a motorboat going to Laos.

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It was far away from being the cleanest river out there. I even saw a few shoes floating around.

The motorboat went around. I’ve forgotten the details, but our tour guide mentioned that casinos and gambling isn’t allowed in Thailand (not sure if until now) so people come up there and cross the river to do gambling. It was known as “Laos Vegas”.

The motorboat was quite huge and went by fast. It was a little scary because it was really low. I can put my hand out and touch the water. The tour guide also mentioned that the water near Laos is much lighter than in the other side.

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Done Sao market

We were given 40 minutes to go around Done Sao. It’s really just another market where you can buy stuff. They even accept baht. I didn’t get to buy anything but there’s an abundance of really interesting souvenirs that you can get. Replica bags are also widely available.

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One thing really fascinating are these exotic drinks. One is alcohol mixed with a tiger’s penis, or a snake, which is said to bring potency or have other therapeutic properties. I didn’t try and I can’t remember if anyone in our group was interested in trying so.

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Another stamp in my passport!

They don’t stamp your passport when you enter Laos, but a few of the people in my tour group insisted and beg our guide so he gave in, telling us that the stamp would be at the back of our passport. The stamp wasn’t too important for me but since they’re all getting theirs, might as well get mine.

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Heading back to Thailand. It’s a little scary getting in the boat.
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The huge gold Buddha is a sign that we’re back in Thailand.

After that sweet experience, we were supposed to go to Mae Sai (Myanmar border). Our tour guide gave us an option to either go there or to this place which provides a better and nicer view of the Golden Triangle. Since Mae Sai was another market majority of us chose the view instead.

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Not entirely sure what you can see when you go up here. I’m still on my trauma from the steps in Doi Suthep so I opted out of climbing the stairs at the side.
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Golden Triangle! We were in the Thailand side. Left is Myanmar while right was Laos.

We left Chiang Rai at a little before four. According to our tour guide, it was a four hour drive back to Chiang Mai, and we had a gas station stop. Since it was the afternoon back home and almost time for work to be over, most of the drive back was spent texting them and telling them all about my day. The drive back didn’t actually seem so bad, maybe because it’s been such a fulfilling day. There was no traffic at all and we got dropped off in our AirBnB at almost 9 PM.

Overall:

  • The tour is worth it. Although we just went to three places, the Karen Long Neck and Golden Triangle really satiated my desire for history (and culture — you could say).
  • I would say it’s just a half day tour if not for all the driving that we had to do because the places are so far apart from each other. If you can’t keep put and long drives bore you, it may not be the tour for you. The outside is a bit scenic, reminds me a lot of going back to the provinces in the Philippines. You get simpler houses and more trees/rice fields/greenery. I appreciated as well that the tour guide didn’t feel the need to chat with us every single time and actually allowed us to just soak up the scenery or sleep (which I did!).

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