The Far North of Thailand Chiang Rai Province
In an earlier blog I wrote about Thailand’s wonderful Northern city of Chiang Mai (here). For most tourists this is as far North as they go, but Chiang Rai province with the historic city of the same name has a lot to offer too. Here in the far north of Thailand you can view the mighty Mekong river, visit the Golden triangle where you can stand in Thailand and see Myanmar (Burma) and Laos in the same view. There are majestic mountains, large lakes and inimitable tribes. I don’t think anywhere else in the world you will find a long neck tribe. Oh and there is possibly the most beautiful temple in the world on the outskirts of Chiang Rai. And that is exactly what the artist come temple creator set out to achieve. Few can argue he didn’t reach his goal. It is spectacular.
Co owner of Sabai, Wilawan or Gina as you may know her, grew up and went to college in this part of Thailand. She calls it home and has fond memories of Chiang rai. Gina often goes back to visit friends and family. Here you can see her at the top of Pu Chi Fa before sunrise.
There are numerous flights to Chiang Rai from Bangkok. If you want to travel here from Chiang Mai perhaps the best way would be to hire a car. There are so many nice places to stop off on the way. Soon as you leave Chiang Mai you start to drive up into the mountains with beautiful scenery. Depending on what road you choose to take you’ll see streams, rivers and waterfalls. The easiest and most comfortable way to go from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is to use the Green Bus . Forget our National Express coaches, if you’re like me you will have your knees wedged against the seat in front. But this service offers seats more akin to that of business class on an aircraft. Ample leg room and a very acute recline.
Wat Rong Khun
On the way into Chiang Rai city just off the main road you will find the aptly named White Temple or Wat Rong Khun.
By the end of the 20th century, the original Wat Rong Khun was in a bad state of repair. Funds were not available for renovation. Chalermchai Kositpipat, a local artist from Chiang Rai, decided to completely rebuild the temple and fund the project with his own money.
Chiang Rai City
Chiang Rai used to be a walled city and still has ruins in many places which gives it real character. The night bazaar is a good place to hang out at night. To watch a show and to eat some delicious food.
A trip to this part of the world would not be complete without a trip to the Golden Triangle. It gets its name from the days when it grew opium and where three countries meet on the banks of the Mekong River. Below you can see me many years ago with a lot more hair and a dodgy shirt standing in Thailand with Wilawan’s grandmother. Behind me is Myanmar and to the right of the picture across the river is Laos.
A nearby town called Chiang Saen has some fantastic ancient ruins having been a walled City hundreds of years ago. Many ruins can be found throughout the town.
Between Chiang Saen and the Golden Triangle on the banks of the mighty Mekong River you can find nice hotels which is a great base to explore the area. Breakfast looking out over the river to Laos is a beautiful experience.
This is a great place to stay right next to the flood plains of the river and has a nice swimming pool to cool off.
Gins Maekong View is inexpensive, comfortable with great views and is a good location. Click here
Pu Chi Fa
This was a magical experience climbing up to the highest point of Pu Chi Fa to see the sunrise above a sea of cloud. As you can see from the pic on the bottom right we were not alone. Thousands were there to watch the sun rise on New Years day 13 years ago. I am not sure if any tours go here but you can hire a car and do it for yourself. Info here
Heading to Laos
If you’re backpacking a great experience is to get a boat down the mekong River to the wonderful Lao City of Luang Prabang. A mixture of Asian and French Architecture. The gateway for this is the chilled riverside town called Chiang Khong. A great place to spend a night and relax and to arrange your visa. It has some lovely riverside hotels/resorts. If you go in the colder months you can have breakfast with a nice mist over the river.
The trip to Luang Prabang takes two days and the scenery is breathtaking. See above right. You spend a night in a small village called Pak Beng where you can find a place to stay. On the boat you can buy ice cold Beer Lao which is very cheap. Sit back listen to some music and admire the views.
If you want to know anymore then pop into Sabai for a meal and ask Gina for some tips.