Day Trip to Chiang Rai
So, this is my last week in Chiang Mai, and even after seeing so many videos and having friends ask me if I had been to the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), I hadn’t seen it. I figured if I left Chiang Mai without doing so, I would regret it for the rest of my life. When people know you lived in Chiang Mai, it’s one of those things they continue to ask you about as you travel. I knew I had to see the White Temple.
I waited literally till the last minute to book the trip. I called a local tourist guide I found online and told them I wanted to see the White Temple. I was booked on the next tour bus the following day. You can take a scooter to Chiang Rai or rent a car, but I found it more convenient to go with a tour operator because I was able to see more than just the White Temple. Also, I didn’t have to worry about driving. The entire tour package, when all was said and done, cost 1,700 baht.
Our first stop was at the hot springs, which was a complete waste of time lol. It is literally a small pool with water shooting out of it, and they entice you to boil an egg while you wait. We spent about 15 minutes there, then left.
The next stop was the famous White Temple. This is something I’m glad I did take the time to visit, as it is a magnificent piece of art. It’s not necessarily a “temple,” as I thought originally, but is a piece of art if you will by a famous Thai artist, Bu Chalermchai Kositpipat. To date, Chalermchai has spent THB40 million of his own money on the project. The artist intends for the area adjacent to the temple to be a center of learning and meditation and for people to gain the benefit of Buddhist teachings. Kositpipat considers the temple to be an offering to Lord Buddha and believes the project will give him immortal life. It is an ongoing project scheduled to be finished by 2070. A lot of detail has gone into the temple and it’s definitely worth the trip.
Surprisingly, the trip had an unexpected stop that I was not aware of, or maybe I didn’t pay attention when booking, Apparently, the Golden Triangle isn’t too far from the White Temple. In case you’re not familiar with the Golden Triangle, it was considered the mecca of opium trading about 50 years ago, connecting the three countries of Burma, Laos, and Thailand. It was given the name “Golden Triangle” because the form of currency they used to trade drugs was gold. When arriving at the Golden Triangle, you get into a small boat and five minutes later you are in the country of Laos. You leave your passport at the Thai immigration office on the Thai border and your visa is not stamped.
When arriving in Laos, you encounter a simple market, so don’t expect to see much beyond a little tourist trap. However, located in this little market were things unique to Laos, including their famous whiskey infused with dead animals, such as tiger penis, snakes, and turtles. They give you a chance to try them before you buy them, and I must say it was some pretty good whiskey. I couldn't help but buy a couple bottles for my brothers back home; it’s definitely something you don’t see every day. How many times can you say you visited the famous Golden Triangle and came back with a bottle of tiger penis whiskey?
Shortly after that, we headed out to lunch – a buffet which was part of the package. Our last stop on the trip was the long neck village, where we interacted with the Karen, a tribal group that has historically lived in the hills on the Myanmar (formerly Burma) side of the Thai border. Best known for their elongated necks, Karen women wear heavy brass rings around their necks, forearms, and shins. Typically, the longer the neck, the more beautiful they are regarded as being. They will usually take off the rings only once a year. It was an interesting experience to see something I had only seen on TV; however, candidly, I couldn’t help but feel that it was a little weird – like they were being exploited even though they did seem happy. It was strange just walking by them, as if they were part of a human zoo. They were selling scarves they made themselves, which seemed to support their way of living. This concluded my trip and we headed back to Chiang Mai. I must say, the only thing that annoyed me was the car ride. We spent quite a bit of time in the van, as the way back home was a solid four hours. Still, it was an amazing trip and something else I can cross off my bucket list. If you’re in Chiang Mai, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the White Temple