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“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemingway

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1 January 2015

Chiang Rai and The Golden Triangle

7th - 9th December 2014

It was an incredibly smooth and carefree crossing into Thailand from Laos. In fact if it hadn't been for our transport suddenly driving on the left hand side of the road (the proper side) we wouldn't have even noticed the transition.

Two hours later we were in Chiang Rai's second bus terminal which is located around 10km out of the city centre. The new station is convenient for travelers bypassing Chiang Rai but if your staying it means catching a tuk tuk. I had a slight problem as my debit card was not responding well to any of the stations ATM's. This becomes a bit stressful when you have no Thai Baht to hand, however the tuk tuk driver was nice enough to drop us off at a good bank so we could pay him.
After making some accommodation inquiries and booked a couple of nights in "Orchids Guesthouse". Its located a few streets away from the central bus terminal and the night market and the cheap private rooms with private bathroom were luxury to us.

Chiang Rai itself has very little in the way of sights once you have seen the clock tower and night market that's it. However round this province city there are a few sights that compete with Thailands best. We opted for a day tour around the region with stop offs at Wat Rong Khun, Baan Dam, The Golden Triangle and a tea plantation.

Wat Rong Khun known by tourists as "The White Temple" is not the oldest Wat we've visited but certainly the most interesting. Designed an owned by local artist Chalermchai Kositpipat the temple is a reflection of the artists image of heaven and hell with Buddhist influences thrown into the mix. Despite opening in 1997 the temple remains unfinished and slightly damaged due to the impact of a recent earthquake in May 2014. Sadly we were unable to see the interior as it was "cleaning day" but there is enough unusual architecture to keep you interested for the one hour stop. The grounds also contain a gallery containing the artists work.

The White Temple
Next stop was the White Temples alter ego the Black House. Originally the home of another prolific local artist Thawan Duchanee the residence is now more of a museum/memorial. Like Chalermchai's work at the White Temple, Thawan's art is also strongly influenced by Buddhism although the similarities seem to end there as the aptly named Black House celebrates much darker aspects of the world. The premises contains a range of wonderfully designed buildings containing a plethora of oddities the artists collected during his life although most are animal bones. The design and architecture of the predominantly wooden structures is something to behold and the artists meticulous work really shows.

Black House
After a morning of contrasts our minibus ventured North away from Chiang Rai towards the Thai border and the infamous Golden Triangle. The border region of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar has been the breadbasket of opium production for centuries and although activities have come to an end in Thailand heroin remains a big earner for its neighbours. If you visit the area make sure you visit the Opium Museum. The small premises is actually incredibly thorough in its informative exhibitions. It even gives a step by step guide into how to create heroin from opium so its fun for the whole family.

The Golden Triangle and Tea Plantation
The region remains fertile even today but now specializes in another addictive crop, tea. The rolling hills around the North of Thailand are perfect for plantations and to be honest there's no better way to end a hectic day tour than watching the sun set with a nice hot brew in your hand.

Links

Travelfish: Chiang Rai
Orchids Guesthouse
Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)
Black House (Baan Dam)
The Golden Triangle
Opium Museum