Saturday, August 18, 2012

Review: Top North Hotel Tour No.1 Chiang Rai-Golden Triangle

Cost: 700 Bat/person
Time: 7:00 a.m.- 20:30 p.m.

This tour offers visitors to Chiang Mai the chance to explore the White Temple in Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos converge. In addition, you can pay an extra 500 Bat to go on a boat trip around a Laotian Island and to go into the karen (village) of the long neck people. It is possible to purchase one of the extra excursions but not the other.

The standard tour begins by taking you to a hot spring about an hour from Chiang Mai. The geyser is unimpressive and if you look close enough at the bottom of the geyser there is a plastic or metal tube which is directing the stream.

The next leg of the trip takes you to the White Temple. This is a beautiful, if macabre, piece of architecture. A visitor could spend hours exploring this intricately detailed temple. Unfortunately, the tour only allows for thirty minutes before continuing on to the next location.

It takes over an hour to get to the Golden Triangle. The first stop in at a port town on the river separating Thailand and Laos. For those who purchased the boat ride, this is where you board. For those who did not purchase the boat ride, you are welcome to wander while you wait for the rest of your tour group to return. Thankfully, the port town has some attractions to see while waiting. They have a museum of opium that costs 50 Bat, a golden Buddha seated on a boat and stalls to purchase souvenirs.

Once the boat returns, the tour continues on to lunch, which is included. The lunch is at a buffet style restaurant. The food was decent but the restaurant has a sign up promising a 100 Bat fine for excessive food left on your plate. That meal was not worth 100 Bat in the first place.

We then continued on to the land border with Myanmar. Unless you have to make a visa run, there is little to do there but walk around and peruse the stalls with knock-offs of name brands.

The final leg of the tour is the long neck karen, which is located about an hour from the border. The village is another extra and unlike the Golden Triangle, there is little to do while the those who paid for that excursion go through. You can enter the first part of the village, which is where all the souvenir stalls are located but to enter the actual village you must pay a fee. For those who choose not to go in to the village, the surrounding area offers a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains.

Overall, this tour left much to be desired. Instead of taking the tour, I would suggest renting a car or a taxi for the day, driving to the White Temple and spending an hour or two walking the grounds. From there, you could drive to the Golden Triangle, stopping to take pictures of the stunning scenery on your way. Enjoy lunch at a local cafe and skip the buffet and, if you want, you could pay the fee and visit the long neck people in your own time.

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