At the border
Driving through the fabulous highway flanked by the picturesque countryside, we headed over to reach the confluence of three neighbouring nations across the river Mekong.
Again, this is one of the most popular places to be ticked off the list of travelers, and the place is filled with tourists for the most part of the time. The countries of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar are separated by the natural border of the river Mekong. Although in recent times the word ‘Golden Triangle’ refers to the confluence of borders of these three countries, the name was coined to signify an infamous opium trading centre. A lot of illegal smuggling of the drugs happened over the borders for a long time, before it stopped.
If you’re interested in knowing the details about the border, you should visit the House of Opium Museum, which houses an interesting collection about the history.There is a massive ‘Buddha Temple’ beside the river, which looks scenic. The visa available at the official immigration office beside the temple lets you cross the border to Myanmar.
The ‘Commercial’ or the ‘Tourist’ Villages
After stopping over for a buffet lunch, we headed to the Akha hill tribe village tour. The tribal communities of Akha, who have emigrated from Myanmar have been living here for decades. Tourism is one of the main streams of income for these people as they sell their handmade products to the tourists.
Over the years, they have been able to sustain through tourism alone as there are about three villages including this Akha village have been set up as ‘commercial villages,’ which are open for tourism to promote and enable the sustenance of these tribes. The long neck tribe or the Kayan tribe is believed to be one of the oldest communities, where the name of the tribe comes from the women of the tribe who wear brass coils covering their entire neck.
The girls posed eagerly for my camera, and their cheerful, positive attitude emanated their confidence. Some of these kids even try to speak English, something which they have picked up from the tourists.
Recommended read: Highlights of Thailand
If you’ve got the time or would love to explore more in and around Chiang Rai, you should visit Doi Angkhang, which is home to the tallest mountains and picturesque landscapes and many tribal communities. Also check That, a quaint town further up, near the Myanmar border. It’s better to hire a taxi to visit these, though, as the transportation is not convenient enough.
Practical Information about Chiang Rai
How to reach – It is approximately 3 + hours of drive from Chiang Mai. Transportation is not a problem as there are plenty of buses plying every day. Buses to Chiang Rai are available from the main cities like Pattaya and Bangkok, although the journey is extremely long. You could also travel by train, but take a bus for a quicker or a cheaper transport.
Getting around – Hiring a bike for exploring the nearby interests are a better choice. For further places, take up a taxi or check for songthaews as they are much cheaper.