Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Saturday, February 17, 2018 17:50:40|
China, Thailand to Singapore 2018: 4 Chiang Rai, Thailand
Thursday, February 15, 2018 (Continued)
The flight was delayed for an hour, as the plane was late getting in. We had bulkhead row seats and I was on the aisle, so could stretch my leg up the aisle in front of the seat- it only got tripped over by a stewardess once!
Our guide Roon and driver A (like the Canadian "eh") were waiting for us with a luxurious 10 seat van equipped with plush seats, a mirrored, decorated ceiling and good leg room. On our drive north we stopped for lunch at a restaurant with the intriguing name "Cabbage and Condoms". There were mannequins dressed in clothes made of condoms (new, not used) and various other condom related displays including condom coasters.
The restaurant owner was one of the leaders in a push for safe sex in Thailand, where there was a considerable epidemic of AIDS. Through his efforts, and that of other like minded people, they were able to make progress in controlling the disease. He currently donates 10% of the restaurant profits to the fight against AIDS, and to help victims.
There are a lot of similarities to Costa Rica in this part of Thailand, including crops, temperature, time of rainy and dry seasons, vegetation and so on. Even the flags are similar – if one reversed the blue and red on a Costa Rican flag it would be a Thai flag.
There was no program laid on for today but a very busy one for tomorrow, so our guide suggested we go to the Mae Fah Luang botanic gardens. The Queen of Thailand headed a project of reforestation, irrigation and education on crop production for the impoverished local farmers that included the construction of these very beautiful gardens. The project was a great success, with local farmers now producing decent incomes, and the surrounding area now a lush forest which conserves water. Apparently the Thai Royal Family have spearheaded many such projects to help people help themselves.
Our hotel tonight was recommended by long time friend Han Iluk, who years ago arranged our spectacular tour of the length and breadth of Indonesia. It was a change he made from the original Khiri Travel itinerary to save driving time and to experience the hill country. Han was the one who recommended Khiri travel to us. The hotel is beautiful, located high in the hills, where each individual cottage has a spectacular view of the valley below. Paved paths wind through jungle to access each unit. There is a good bar and restaurant built around a pond filled with carp, where dinner is served to the sound of croaking frogs. In the cool mornings (about 16 C, 61 F) the many birds sing to greet the sunrise.
Friday, February 16, 2018
After a good buffet breakfast we were picked up for the drive to Myanmar, which locals still refer to as Burma. When we crossed over a small river into the Burmese town of Tachilek the Myanmar officials held our passports and gave us a paper to serve as a day pass. Other than filling in a form and being photographed there were no formalities.
After walking through a knock off filled shopping area near the frontier we hired a Tuk Tuk to take us to a large Burmese temple complex. It was interesting, but apparently is the only thing really worth seeing in this hill town of narrow, winding streets.
After returning across the border and collecting our passports we drove to a hotel restaurant where the dining room had a great view of the Golden Triangle consisting of Burma, Thailand and Laos, with the mighty Mekong river separating Laos from the other two. We visited the well done Hall of Opium museum, which laid out the history of the Opium trade, the Opium Wars and the big part the Golden Triangle area played in Opium production. It also pointed out clearly the damage done to people and economies by the use of the drug.
A private boat was laid on to take us for a short cruise up and down the Mekong, stopping at the Laotian Island of Don Sao. This area has been totally taken over by the Chinese. The original intent was to have a free zone for shopping to create employment for people formerly dependent on the opium trade, so the area was leased on long term to a Chinese group who built hotels, shops, restaurants and so on, however they employ largely Chinese. Thailand is the dominant economy in the north for both Burma and Laos. Thai Baht is the currency, and the Thai language is spoken in both places. Many of the children go to school in Thailand.
It was a good thing we visited the botanical gardens yesterday, as there would not have been time today. Back at the hotel we relaxed with drinks and a dinner of flavourful appetizers.
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Today started with a transfer in our comfortable van to the City of Chiang Rai, where the metro area population is 200,000. It is another bright sunny day, as each day has been since we arrived. En route we stopped to visit the Blue Temple, where blue and gold are the predominant colours and protection is by huge carved dragons a couple of stories high. The massive Buddhas are white.
As we were early for check in we stopped at an open air riverside restaurant for Thai tea and some snacks. The temperature in the shade is perfect for sitting and relaxing. The very nice Nak Nakara Hotel had our room ready, but it was on an upper floor of the three floor traditional style hotel which had no elevator, so we waited for half an hour for a ground floor room to be arranged. Marilynn took advantage of an offer by the hotel to driver her to where she could get a manicure and pedicure. They also drover her back. I had a swim.
The hotel is great, with all amenities, clean rooms, a sparkling clear swimming pool and a great location. The staff are friendly and very helpful, but dinner in the hotel restaurant wasn't great.
Two tuk tuks were laid on for a night city tour, one for the guide and another for Marilynn and I. There were two streets with night markets, which we walked up and down. Marilynn bought some clothes at very low prices, and I had some holes punched in my belt as it wasn't doing the job of holding my pants up as I've lost some weight. The fellow who did the belt repair refused to take any money.
We ended up at a large outdoor bar/restaurant with live entertainment. Drinks and eats were all reasonably priced – this is a place when one could live quite inexpensively. Our trusty driver A was waiting to take us back to the hotel.