This is part of the Trip Report So Long Mongolia, Hello SE Asia (December-January 2015) which covers:
- Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Chiang Rai, Thailand
- Yangon, Myanmar
- Ngwe Saung, Myanmar
- Mandalay, Myanmar
- Bagan, Myanmar
- Hong Kong
- Orlando, Florida
Catch up by reading the preview, The Banana Pancake Trail to Myanmar Starts This Monday, then the overview, Thailand, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Disney, Home, where the game time decision was made to leave Mongolia for good.
Congrats on surviving Bangkok. Come see the softer side of Thailand by going, as we Michiganders would say, “Up north.”
Here is the Chiang Rai Travel Guide using the Guns & Butter methodology:
- A trip is composed of two factors: Labor And Lazy
- Anything on the line (Production Possibilities Frontier for my fellow economists) is an efficient use of your time depending on your tastes and preferences.
- Anything inside the line is inefficient as should be avoided.
- Anything outside is aspirational but may be impossible to do given the constraints of time and resources.
- The opportunity cost (what is given up) for relaxing and being Lazy is gained by being adventurous in the form of Labor and vice versa.
Drop your guard, you’re no longer in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. That moment of calm evaporates quickly as you arrive at the bus station in search of a ride to your hotel. “$20 my friend,” must mean we really aren’t good friends. Pay $4 max and not per person.
Negotiations continue when you arrive at a local hotel as you haggle with the front-desk for the nightly rate. Incidentally, liking the hotel’s page on Facebook can result in a $10 discount.
The haggling continues as you enter the Chiang Rai night market which is the worst bazaar I’ve ever visited. The merchandise was nice but the merchants were awful. They wouldn’t negotiate the prices down to anything reasonable. (Consult my guide for what things should cost.) I left without any new tee shirts and without making any new friends.
Finally, the negotiating continued as I tried to find ‘best price’ for a day tour of Chiang Rai. I paid 1000 baht/person to see the White Temple, a boat ride to the elephants, lunch, the hot springs, and a ride home. I think I could’ve done better.
PETA people avert your eyes. I took an elephant ride on the river following the boat up the Mekong where I narrowly avoiding being sucked into the drug trade of the infamous Golden Triangle, the intersection of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand.
After feeding the elephant banana after banana, it was time for the elephant to exercise. N̂xy, which means little in Thai, took us from the elephant sanctuary, into the river, and then back and the main road for a trip that lasted about twenty minutes. She was well-behaved and tame compared to her cousins who were more erratic. A few photos later, I hopped off the elephant and we continued on with our adventure. This included a stop at the hot springs which, compared to Costa Rica, was a waste of time and didn’t seem clean.
Eating in Northern Thailand is a lot of work. The food is different from Southern Thailand and, in my opinion, much better. Though I will always love phở, tom yum soup is giving it a run for its money. Spicy curries, endless noodles, and seafood platters had me feeling like Anthony Bourdain as I devoured one dish after another.
The White Temple, Wat Rung Khun, is a must see in Chiang Rai though don’t be fooled as I was into believing it was built long ago. Construction began in 1996. It’s impossible to miss the symbolism of the structure. Crossing the bridge to the temple, there are hands reaching up out of the ground representing those that had, as my tourist guide explained, ‘too much drink, too many women.’ Those that avoid these vices won’t suffer the same fate and will make it to salvation.
Inside, the murals are interesting and disturbing.
There’s not much to see in central Chiang Rai. It is a scaled down version of a typical SE Asian backpacker town. There are more temples, an old clock tower, and a new clock tower. A quick stroll through the quiet streets of Chiang Rai requires half an afternoon. Save the rest of your time for overnight treks and other outdoor activities.
After elephant rides and bargaining headaches head back to Le Meridien for relaxation. Get there in time for happy hour and wait for day to turn into night a great day in Chiang Rai.