We were up before dawn this morning to set off for our trip at 7.30. It was a mini bus for our trip today and there were 11 of us. We had to bring our passports with us as there were immigration checks in Chiang Rai as it was so close to bordering countries and people could try and come in.
The first stop on the trip was the hot springs which was an hour away from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai province. We had never seen hot springs before so it was pretty weird to see boiling hot water spilling out of the ground! It was really interesting that this happens! It literally shot up boiling water out of the ground. You could buy eggs from street sellers to boil in the water! That's how hot it was! That was a new one for street sellers- eggs! They really do sell anything and everything!
The white temple was the next stop which was an hour and a half away from the hot springs. We just kept napping for the journeys- we will never sleep tonight! The white temple was the most beautiful temple we have been to on the trip. It was obviously all white, hence the name, and it reflected in the sun. Inside there were paintings on all the walls- you could tell it was a modern temple as the paintings were much different to anything we had seen! There were heaven and hell on the pictures but weird drawings of characters within them such as Harry potter, Michael Jackson, Batman and loads of other random things! It was very weird for a temple! The guide told us that the toilets were the best in Thailand so I obviously had to check them out, been a keen user of all toilets around the world! They really were pretty good toilets! The building was in the likeness of a temple and it was all painted gold and glistened in the sun! You wouldn't think it was a toilet building! I would recommend this toilet for keen toilet users like myself!
After walking around the temple we were back on the mini bus and on our way to the Golden Triangle which was another hour and a half away from the white temple. A lot of travelling today to get around to the different sights but it's good what you fit into the day! We stopped at the first sights for about half an hour each, which was enough time to see what was there. When we got to the golden triangle the guide asked us if we wanted to pay 300 baht each to go on a boat ride over the Mekong river to Laos. For some people on the trip it was already included. When we thought about it, we think there was another Chiang Rai trip with this included but we didn't book on that one. We didn't really have a clue what was going on so we just went with the flow. We obviously wanted to go on the boat trip so paid the money for the ticket and then had to pay 30 baht tax as well for Laos. Still not bad for what we get on the trip. The Golden Triangle is a point where three countries meet (hence triangle); Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. It's called the Golden Triangle as within the three countries they did not have one common currency so they traded/bought in gold or jewellery. Still now they trade opium with gold. 1kg of opium is 1kg of gold. Crazy!
The Mekong river splits the three countries so the point is technically in the middle of the water. Between Thailand and Myanmar there is a smaller river and then no mans land. I never knew what this meant until today- literally what it says! It's nobodies land, it's not owned by any of the three countries so there are no laws there, no nothing- just empty land. The guide told us if we wanted to kill anybody, that's where we should go to get away with it. I'm going to suggest going here for our honeymoon!! In Thailand there are no casinos and they are not allowed to gamble so the Thai president built or funded a casino to be built on Myanmar's land so Thai people could go there to gamble. There is also a 5* casino on Laos side which many people visit. In the Golden Triangle area you do not need a visa, just need to pay land tax, so you can visit the three countries and then return back to your own country- all in one day!
The boat took us up the Mekong river past Myanmar and then back down to Laos where we stopped and got off for half an hour. There was shopping there which could be bought in many currencies and Nath got a cheap T-shirt. We both tried cobra whiskey- whiskey with a preserved cobra in- which just tasted like very strong pure whiskey! There were other whiskies as well that they sold such as tiger penis, gecko, scorpion. Some of them were illegal, just not in Laos. We took the boat back up the Mekong across to Thailand and then got back on the mini bus for half an hour to a restaurant for lunch/dinner as it was 3pm by then.
The restaurant was an all you can eat buffet which was perfect! It had a mix of loads of different Thai food that we ate until we couldn't eat anymore! Nath was the last person in the restaurant still trying to scoff food down before we had to go.
The guide asked if we all wanted to go to the market or just go on straight to the Akha and Palong hill tribe village. None of us were bothered to shop so we were happy to miss it out. The guide said it was just like the night bazaar in Chiang Mai, so we weren't really missing anything. It took 40 minutes to get to the village where we had a walk around. There were different tribes in the village from China, Burma and Myanmar and they wore different clothing for their different tribes. Women in one of the tribes had black teeth from eating a certain food. This symbolises for them that they are strong women. I had the chance to try on one of the tribes headwear and get a photograph with one of the tribes women. We also got to look inside one of their homes. The huts were made of bamboo and straw as this was something they did not need to pay for. Their houses had three different areas all in one room, probably the size of our dining room and kitchen together. There was a kitchen area, a living area and two beds, children sleeping in one, adults in the other. The hut housed a family of about 6. Some huts in the Akha village had a solar panel to provide them with electricity and some used battery powered appliances. Walking through the village there were stalls set up everywhere trying to sell items to tourists. Even out here in the middle of the mountains, everything was still orientated around tourism. I know they may make money off tourism but it still must be awful to have to rely on it and to have people constantly walking through your village and homes taking pictures of you. Says me with the big camera at the ready!
Everyone else on trip had the Karen tribe village included in their tour, just not us. God knows what we booked on to so differently from everyone else! It was an extra 300 baht again to go into the village and see the Karen tribes people but that's included in our trip tomorrow so we did not bother. After walking around the village we were back on the mini bus and heading for 3 hours back to Chiang Mai.
The views on the way back were breathtaking. We drove through winding mountain roads and watched as the sun set a bright red colour behind the mountains. It's been a long but eventful day. We have seen so much again today and the extra trip to Laos was a brilliant added bonus to the day! Another great trip! It was half 9 before we got back so we just headed out to the 7-11 and got some food from there for dinner and for breakfast in the morning.