Along the planes bordering Mekong river, men and buffaloes join efforts in rice production.
It's a hard work, done in dangerous waters and climate, but it provides some spectacular sights and photos, of the real life of rural people.
If you want a real adventure, I can recommend travelling across the border at Maesai into Tachleik on the Burma side. Take a taxi or bus to Kengtong (162kms) and Monglar (260kms) on the Chinese border. I have done this trip about 15 times now but, I do live in Maesai (see website below).
I have travelled extensively over the last 8 years in Asia. Living in Chiangmai for 5 years and Maesai for 2 years.
The political situation in Burma is far from perfect but, if you like adventure this is the one for you!
Suggested hostel in Kengtong "Harrys" $5. Take your pick in Monglar there are many around the central market area 60 yuan (300baht).
If you want any free advice or maps before you go call into Monkey Island Guesthouse in Maesai before you go.
Unlike the route offered by most tour companies which goes straight from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai
this 3day/2night tour allows you explore the non-tourist and authentic parts of Chiang Rai.
You will come away feeling like you have been immersed in all Chiang Rai has to offer, from visits to hilltribe villages, stunning scenery, views of the Thailand/Burma border mountain ranges, amazing sunrise/sunsets, local markets and cuisine and much more.
The route starts off from Chiang Mai and goes to Doi Angkhang, a little known settlement in the Thai/Burma mountain range border that is popular amongst Thai tourists, then onto Fang, Thaton before an overnight at Mae Salong. Then back on the main tourist trail from Mae Sai back to Chiang Mai.
I came here as the first stop on a Golden Triangle Tour I did. The garden, which is located at Doi Tung in the hills to the north of Chiang Rai, is part of a royal villa that was the final home of the Princess Mother (mother of King Rama IX). The garden is very beautiful and worthy of a trip, if you have the time.
Since Chiang Rai is close to Myanmar & Laos, you can take a boat ride to these two countries. I did not visit Myanmar during my trip due to political unrest that time.
Pay RM40 for the boat ride and also documentation for immigration. There are many jetties where you can take a boat ride. The larger boats are usually equipped with life jackets. You will have the chance to passby Myanmar border, where you can see the famous Paradise Resort with casino. Many Chinese tourists come here to gamble. Further north, you can step your foot on Laos for some cross-border shopping experience.
Please visit my travel pages on Done Xao, Laos for more information. Thanks
The KMT soldiers came from Yunnan Province in China. So they speak mainly in Yunnanese, a dialect that is very different from Mandarin. The children go to both Thai and also Chinese school as well to learn Mandarin. Many are trilingual, as they speak Yunnanese at home. Some of the wealthier ones go to continue their study in universities in Taiwan. Most households have satelite tv channels from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, with at least 10 Chinese channels. All the Chinese households have the traditional good luck writings on or around the door. The inside is quite traditional as well.
If you can speak Mandarin, it can be a very interesting trip as you can always hear stories about life in the tough days from older folks.
The chedi above Mae Salong is dedicated to the King's mother, if I remembered correctly.
The entrance is behind a temple. There are 700 steps to reach the chedi on the top of the hill, with breathtaking view of the whole village and the ranges of mountains beyond. It is definitely the perfect place to watch the sun rise.
Dress warmly and bring a flashlight.
Kuomintang (KMT) General Duan founded Mae Salong in the early 1960s. This is only one of the many KMT villages in Chiang Rai province, and definitely the most wealthy one. Today, all the houses are modern with electricity and water. And the road has been paved since the 1980s. Tea plants and modern agricultural technologies were introduced to Mae Salong from Taiwan, and life is much better now as the superior oolong tea has become very popular among tourists, and some are sent to sale in Bangkok and Taiwan. If you come to Mae Salong in December/January, the beautiful cherry blossoms are in bloom.
There is a Chinese man dressed in soldier's uniform who looks after General Duan's Tomb. If you speak Chinese, he'll ask you to pay respect to the General by lighting an incense. And he'll also tell you stories about the area and the people. Donation is suggested.
The view from here is excellent, as it is right above the village. And you can see the mountains afar.
Get a map from Shin Sane Guest House (see accomodation tip). Walking is about half an hour or so.
From Chiang Rai city, take any bus that goes towards Mae Sai, and get off at Ban Basang (watch for the road sign - and the traffic light). There are some songtaew (pickup trucks) at the west side of the intersection.
It has a large collection of photos and the history of how the KMT soldiers left Yunnan province, China, into Burma and eventually settled in Thailand. They helped the Thai government to fight against communist insurgents and most of their offsprings had Thai citizenship. Interesting enough, there was little about the the village's role in the opium trade in the golden triangle. There is an admission of 30 B.
From Shin Sane GH, the museum is passed General Duan's tomb. Keep walking on the main road, passing the last building in town. After a downhill bend to the left, you'll see a huge archway - the main entrance of the museum. It is about 10-15 minute walk from General Duan's tomb.
Oolong tea was introduced into Mae Salong from Taiwan. When you get closer to Mae Salong on the songtaew, you'll see rows of tea trees on the slopes along the side of the mountain.
Not too far from Shin Sane Guest House (get a map from there), you'll see a few tea factories with the tea leaves laid on the flat bamboo plates. The workers are drying the leaves using machines.
You can try a cup of tea in any tea sellers in the village. Try them all because there are many different varieties and qualities of tea.
If you have your own transportation, and you like to experience a little bit of the ethnic minority culture and nature on your own as a day trip, you can head to Huai Mae Sai village about 20km NW of Chiang Rai city.
Get onto Route 1207, follow the signs to Ban Huai Mae Sai (Ban means village in Thai). You'll pass by Yao, Akha and Lahu villages along the route. The first two villages are quite developed, while the last village, Ban Jalae, still maintains their traditional stilt houses that have thatched grass roof and split bamboo floors and walls. There is a museum in the village that was built by the villagers and a local NGO, with collections of artifacts that were given by local villagers. There is a small charge for the museum (10 or 20 B), and donations are accepted. See the web link below for more info.
There is a shop that sells drinks and traditional weaving (such as bags and bracelets) directly across the museum. Life is difficult and there are many social and cultural problems that are faced by many of the ethnic minority groups. Consider make some purchases to contribute to the local economy. But do NOT give money to kids. This encourages begging.
There is a sign that says turn left for the waterfalls. Follow this, BUT do not go up the steep hill! There is a path on the right before that steep hill. Take that path and continue on until you reach the parking lot. The lower waterfall is about 10-15 minute walk, up and down with some stairs. There is an upper fall also about 10 minute walk up. But I didn't go there as I was tired.
A fact about the waterfalls and Ban Jalae: The village was actually originally located above the waterfalls. But the government moved the whole village to the present site without any compensation because the village was too close to the waterfalls and were polluting it.
Mae Sai is about 2 hours from Chiang Rai city. It is the northern-most point in Thailand. The town of Tachileik in Myanmar (Burma) is just north of the border. The things in Mae Sai are cheaper than in CR, mostly made in China goods that came from China via Myanmar (Burma). You can find all kinds of goods available here, from pirated VCDs, clothing, shoes, Chinese snacks and dried food. Most vendors here can speak Mandarin. There is a sprawling market within walking distance from the border gate.
You can get a day visa into Burma, but you can't go beyond Tachileik. There is really nothing much to see there, other than more Chinese goods at even cheaper price. Tachileik is one of the popular visa run border towns. But the border can be closed at times with the unstable relationship between Burma and Thailand.
There are many buses that go to Mae Sai from Chiang Rai city, roughly once or twice every hour. Be sure to bring your passport with you as there is a police check point along the highway. You need to transfer to a songtaew from the Mae Sai bus station to town. You can get off near the border (the three storey building/gate in the photo).
Khun Korn Waterfall , is at the end of a 30 minute trek through a majestic forest. A gorgeous and peacefull setting with many mountains surrounding the park. It is about 30 minutes from central of Chiangrai.. Khun Korn Waterfall is the tallest fall in Chiangrai,70 metres tall.
Rice is a main food in Thailand, so no wonder they grow it here, too.
The difference to other countries that also grow rice is, that you won´t see many terraces, because the area is flatter.
The land around Chiang Rai is one of thailands main Rice growing grounds. Don´t hast ethrough this or you will miss an important part of Thailands culture.
Rice can be grown twice in a year. It takes a lot of water. When they have taken the fruit, they let the water out, so the rest of the plant gets dry.
They use this to feed the animals (and the dung of the animals is the fertilizer for next time).
It's well worth taking a boat trip down the Meh Kok river.
It's only a day long and costs in the region of 600 baht (10 English pounds) but you get to go elephant trekking around a hill tribe (although one that is well used to tourism) and take a dip in the hot springs. On the way back if its in the early evening the chances are that you'll get to see a fantastic sun set.
It really is a journey well worth taking.