1 day tour in Chiang Rai
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We are currently in Chiang Mai and, given the short time available, we decide to visit the province of Chiang Rai through an organized full day tour. We book it in our hostel with the company JourneySmile for 1000 baht per person (26 euros). The departure is at 7 am and the return around 9.30 pm. We move with a minivan together with a group of 10 people, accompanied by a friendly local guide, Giuly.
We make the first stop after about an hour and a half. We visit small geysers, which are more an excuse to stop for a break and buy something to eat at the many stalls. We leave again and after about an hour we stop for the main attraction of the tour: the Wat Rong Khun, better known as the White Temple. It is a newly built and located 15 kilometers from the city of Chiang Rai. It is a very special Buddhist temple designed by the visionary painter Chalermchai Kositpipat. The latter, in fact, decided to donate to his hometown a legacy that lasts over time. The work began in 1997 and other 39 years are needed in order to finish the whole complex designed by the artist. It should be noted that the entire project is financed exclusively by Kositpipat himself. The outer part of the main temple building depicts sinners burning in hell. It is in fact forbidden to stop along the corridor that overhangs this area otherwise it would mean that you will be destined to hell. Later on, instead, we enter the main area, that of Paradise. As in any Buddhist temple, you must remove your shoes and cover your knees (for women) before entering. The temple is entirely made of mirrors and white chalk, a color that indicates purity. In fact, this is the characteristic that makes it one of the most visited temples in Thailand. The complex designed by the artist includes also other buildings like the public toilets built in a golden structure. His purpose, according to our guide, was to show that you must never judge a person or a building from the outside, but you need to know the inner part to judge it thoroughly.
Near the temple we stop for 30 minutes for lunch, included in the price of the tour, at a local restaurant.
Continuing, 15 minutes from the white temple, there is a charming blue temple, the Wat Phra Kaew, also recently built. His creator wanted, as in the case of the white temple, to create something unique to bequeathed to his village. This temple, indeed, is made entirely in blue, red and golden colours, giving it a majestic and lively appearance at the same time.
Then we move to the fourth stop of the day: The Black house. The Baan Dam Museum, more commonly known as "The Black House", is a very special creation of the Thai artist, Thawan Duchanee. It is a mixture of traditional northern Thai style buildings with a modern and grotesque design. Inside you can find the surreal works of this artist that are rather difficult to interpret without a preliminary study of his work.
We continue the tour heading towards the village of "long neck”, meaning women with many neck rings and therefore called "long neck". This stop is optional. We decide not to do it after being informed about it and understand that it is about women who put these rings to take pictures with tourists. Those of our group who went there then confirmed it.
Last stop of the day is the famous golden triangle.
It is, in fact, the mountainous area included in the border areas between Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. It is the second Asian area in terms of importance and size for the production of the opium after the area of the golden crescent, which has its centre of greater production in Afghanistan. The golden triangle took this name because a good part of the opium to be refined was bought in the border towns and paid with gold bars (given the difficulty in converting illegal foreign money). In the mid-sixties, in the triangle, the production of heroin began. It was an area governed solely and exclusively by the local mafia. Anyone who tried to enter was killed.
Nowadays it is a tourist attraction, suggestive because of the idea that it is a meeting point of three different lands and for the history that it contains. But, beyond that, there is not much to visit. Also, in this case, you can choose whether to take a boat trip on the river to reach Laos, but we also decide to avoid it because we will visit soon this country.
In conclusion, it has been a long and intense day, sometimes tiring because of the many hours on the bus.
Moreover, nobody has informed us about the presence of these "optional stops", therefore we've had to wait a couple of hours in total for part of the group to finish the tour.
Anyway it remains an excellent opportunity to get to know part of the neighbouring Chiang Rai province in one day.