Chiang Rai, Thailand

Chiang Rai, Thailand

Streets of Chiang Rai
Arriving at Chiang Rai old bus terminal, it is, like most parts of Thailand, littered with tuk-tuks to bring you to your destination/guesthouse. Of course, haggling is a must in this part of the world. To be honest, I personally dislike haggling as it always leads to one party succumbing to the other and I hate to be on the losing end. Fortunately for me, my guesthouse was walking distance away from the bus terminal and so I ended up walking. You can find a number of guesthouses near the bus terminal at pretty cheap rates so give it a look before deciding on one.

Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)

Wat Rong Khun
This contemporary themed is privately owned by Chalermchai Kositpipat, who designed and constructed the entire temple, which was in ruins when he bought it over.

The temple retains original Buddhism teachings of good and evil presented in a creative and artistic form, which is pretty much intriguing to say the least. You don't even need to pay for admission too, which is a plus point ultimately. Prepare yourself though to find truckloads of tourists alighting from coaches flooding the place and the place is closed on rainy days.

To get here, you can take a public bus from the bus terminal.

Bus to Wat Rong Khun
 Just look out for the labels on the bus, and get on one that says 'Wat Rong Khun' displayed on its dashboard. The ticket seller will come to you on the way there, tell her your destination and she'll tell you how much to pay. It costs 20 baht (~SGD0.80), which is terribly cheap to be honest. It'll drop you on the main road junction and you'll have to walk a little less than 5 minutes to reach the temple.

The Bridge of "The Cycle of Re-Birth"
Detailed architecture of Wat Rong Khun
Sculptures of the heads of evil characters
To get back to the bus terminal, you'll have to walk out to the main road and flag down buses going in the opposite direction that you came from. Most buses go back to the terminal. I didn't manage to find out prior (didn't have much information on how to get back either) and I foolishly took a cab knowing I'll get charged exorbitant amounts. After much haggling though, I managed to get one for 360 baht (~SGD 14.40) and a whole bucket of regrets because yes, I was desperately looking for a way back and I didn't know how to.
Opening hours: 0630 - 1800 daily

Golden Triangle
Golden Triangle
The Golden Triangle is a spot on the Mekong River and Ruak River confluence that overlaps between Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. It used to serve as a main route for the transportation of illegal drugs like heroin and opium to other parts of Southeast Asia.

Nothing spectacular really, but it's quite interesting once you know the history and you can have a sneak peek into Laos and Myanmar, which has practically .. nothing. That said, it's pretty cool to just walk around and explore its surroundings.

Minivan to Golden Triangle
To get here, look out for the minivan at the bus terminal operated by Greenbus Company. It costs a meager 50 baht (~S$2) to get to and fro the Golden Triangle, also cheap given the long journey. It'll drop you at the main carpark and it'll pick you up from the same. You'll find the schedule of the bus at the bus berth where the Greenbus buses are parked.

To get a vantage point overlooking the entire triangle, you can choose to climb up a small hill located across the street from the Golden Triangle look out point. On top of the hill, you'll be able to overlook the whole triangle and it's a definite better view compared to the one at the bottom.

Golden Triangle overlooking the border of three countries
View from bottom of the hill
Phaya Naga, a mythical creature that lives in the river
View from the top of the hill
Viewpoint at the top of the hill
Just around the corner, you'll also find the 212 House of Opium Museum which gives you a brief history of the opium trade and some artifacts from the past used for smoking opium. It advocates the message of anti-drug and it's worthy of a short visit there.

212 House of Opium (Museum)
All-Silver Opium Smoking Set

Next up .. moving on to the next country, Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage City, in Laos.

Stay tuned.
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