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This post is part of a larger trip report from my 17 day trip to Thailand (Krabi, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Bangkok) and Hong Kong!
- Using Miles to Book Flights on American Airlines Home from Hong Kong
- Using Miles to Book Flights on Continental to Thailand
- Sheraton Krabi Beach Resort Review
- Thailand Beaches Day 1: Phi Phi Excursion
- Thailand Beaches Day 2 & 4: Railey Beach
- Thailand Beaches Day 3: Hong Island
- Massages and Dining in Ao Nang, Krabi
- Northern Thailand – First Stop Chiang Mai
- Three Day Trek and the Golden Triangle Day 1
- Three Day Trek and the Golden Triangle: Day 2
- Three Day Trek and the Golden Triangle: Day 3
- Spending New Years Eve in Chiang Mai
- Wandering Around Chiang Mai
- Le Meridien Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai Hotel Review
- Aloft Bangkok Hotel Review
- Temples, Activities, and Dinning in Bangkok
- Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel Review
- Things to do in Hong Kong
- A Day in Macau
Day 3: Burma Border, House of Opium, Laos, White Temple
Our day started very early with an hour trip from Chiang Rai to Mae Sai. Mae Sai is a small town on the Thailand-Burma border and one of the most northern points in Thailand. It is a major border crossing between Thailand and Burma and contains many markets for shopping. As a tourist, you are actually able to cross into Burma, but you must go through custom, pay a relatively expensive fee, and give them your passport to hold onto until you return. On the other side there are more markets. We really had no desire to go, so we opted out. Most tourists go just so they can say, “I’ve been to Burma” – one of those check off the box sites. This area of Thailand is a very popular area to purchase the stone Jade. There are some legit stores selling Jade items (carved elephants, jewelry, etc.), but the markets are where you can purchase the cheap stuff. We didn’t spend too much time here, but it was cool to see, especially as it was primarily made up of locals.
Our next stop was the House of Opium. The Northern part of Thailand was very popular for opium farmers. In this part of Thailand, you still see many older folks with black teeth due to the opium. Opium is also very expensive and is known as “Black Gold” since it is very expensive – the locals also desire more black teeth as it shows wealth. This was an extremely popular trade between Thailand and the two bordering countries, Burma and Laos. The museum was a cool pit stop. It was interesting to learn more about the opium trade in this area and to see the steps government has taken to get rid of it.
After the museum, we made way to the Sobruak village along the Mekong River. This is where we rented a long tail boat to go up the Mekong and see a few temples along the river. We ended up at a small island of Laos, where we were able to explore for a little. It is an extremely small island and is primarily set up with many markets to make money from the tourists. When we got off the boat, we were inundated with kids asking us for Coca-Cola. After giving the kids our Coca-Cola we just purchased we soon realized how horrible they were with sharing and ultimately we unintentionally made a few kids cry. I then offered them my bottled water and they had no desire, all they wanted was Coca-Cola! This was a quick trip, but worth seeing.
Our last stop on the trip was Wat Rong Khun, otherwise know as the White Temple. This is an extremely newer temple (built in 1997) and looks nothing like the other temples in Thailand. It is extremely modern and one of the most extravagant temples I’ve seen. The temple still isn’t 100% complete and is not expected to be done until 2070! However, there is still a mass majority open to the public and very worth seeing. This is very close to Chiang Rai, so even if you do not do an entire tour north of the city, you can still visit this temple from the city.
The entire temple is white to represent Buddha’s purity. To enter the temple you walk over a bridge, and underneath are sculptures of hands reaching for you. This is supposed to symbolize hell. However, further ahead there is a huge pond with fish and fountains. This water is supposed to separate heaven from hell and symbolizes now crossing into heaven.
Inside the temple, the attention to detail is outstanding. The walls are lined with beautiful art work, which requires some time to fully understand the underlying meaning of what is being portrayed. The murals represent both good and bad, old and new. For example, if you look really hard you’ll be able to see a portrait of Bin Laden in the eyes of a Devil. Unfortunately they did not allow photos, so I cannot show you a sampling of the murals, but it was absolutely phenomenal (and I am anything but an art fanatic!).
The temple was the last site on our three day tour. We had a great time exploring this region of Thailand and seeing the outskirts of the cities. I highly recommend making a trip to the Golden Triangle region while in Thailand!