Crossed the border into Thailand this morning. We crossed over from Huay Xai in Laos to Chang Khong in Northern Thailand which was just a short boat ride across the Mekong. We then took a bus to Chang Rai and even got here in time for lunch; Chang beer and Pad Thai. Thailand immediately felt different to Laos and the rest of SE Asia so far, certainly more affluent. Chang Rai is a small city and I think we walked round most of it this afternoon visiting some beautiful temples along the way. We lost count of how many 7eleven stores there were in town but I was very pleased to see a Boots the Chemist!
Friday - we took the tourist option today as it would save us lots time getting to see various sites by booking on a tour. We found ourselves the only people with our guide for the day, Mr Guy and ended up having a really good day with him. The first stop was the White Wat which has only recently been built and still has artists working on the friezes on the inside. It is a stunning place that looks like an ice palace from the outside and I found it quite awe inspiring.
We also stopped at various hill tribe villages which we hadn't been sure we wanted to do but I ended up joining in with a village school for a little while. They were only tinies but were sat in rows learning with exercise books so it felt like stepping back in time. Getting them singing was easy though and then you couldn't get them to stop!
After that we went to Mae Sai, the town on the border with Myanmar. It is a long standing trading post and had the largest market, mainly filled with cheap goods from China that the Thai's often travel a long way to for the various bargains. The next stop was the view point for the Golden Triangle, where the Mekong and the Nam Ruak Rivers join, and where you can see Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. It was definitely a tourist spot but the old Wat at the top of the hill was beautiful and the Opium Museum more interesting than I had thought it would be.
The final stop was the areas old capital city of Chiang Suen, one of the places I had wanted to see and that would have been time consuming to get to otherwise. It was a peaceful little town with ancient walls at every turn and an elegantly crumbling old Stupa and Wat.
Chiang Rai has it's own night bazaar with a large seating area in the centre surrounded by food and drink stalls. You can get almost anything you want there but the speciality and most popular choice seemed to be fried food and cheap beer!