I have been meaning to write our trip report for ages so here goes…
We had arranged our trip via Audley Travel and our guide and driver met us at the airport and whisked us off to The Legend, I have added a review about the hotel, we had a one bedroom Pool Villa and loved it!
The first afternoon we took the hotel transport into town but soon realised that it was easier/faster/cheaper and more fun to get them to call us a ‘taxi’ a Tuk Tuk. We had a wander round then went back to the hotel for a swim and then went back into town for dinner.
Day 1: The next morning our guide met us and we started our day by visiting Tachilek, Myanmar. Even though we knew that we would be handing our passports over it still felt odd although the official was smiling as he took them and explained we would get them back as we left so a ‘happy’ transaction.
Our guide had arranged for us to be met by 3 Rickshaws and off we went, we did feel for one of the ‘riders’ as he was an older man and some of our trip was up hill…
They dropped us of at a food market and we wandered through with our guide explaining everything we saw and letting us smell different things. We were the only westerners there but we were made to feel ‘welcome’ and everyone was smiling at us even though we were clearly not buying anything.
The ‘meat’ and fish stalls were eye opening covered in flies… On one there was some kind of rat/mole but the size of a small piglet it was hairless with huge teeth like a beaver. Even our guide had no idea what it was just shrugged and said ‘meat’ and we talked about how lucky we were not to have to even think about eating it.
We next went to the Phra Jow La Keng Temple via rickshaw which was interesting as was the monastery next door, she explained that unlike in Thailand it is not acceptable to photograph the monks as they believe it takes away their soul.
On to a local housing area, again we felt so lucky for how we live in comparison. We brought some ‘pancake’ type crispy sweet snacks cooked over a charcoal bowl. We ate one and shared the rest with the small children we met there who were happy with that plan!
We also wandered round the ‘real copy market’ fakes are not our thing but it was interesting to see fake ipad 2s and iphone 5s (the iphone 4s is the current model). Our guide explained that Thai’s like to come over and buy from there as the fakes are such good quality and come straight from China…
Back out of Myanmar, passports back we stopped off at a Jade factory for a quick but interesting tour. No heavy sell, no pressure to buy, which we didn’t just a really interesting talk about different types of Jade from one of the staff there.
We asked to visit the fish and monkey cave so an impromptu diversion and we stopped to feed the fish and watch the monkey’s under the watchful eye of a ‘warden’ there who reminded the monkey’s to keep their distance from people by waving a stick around, way away from the monkeys but they got the message.
On our way to lunch we passed some ladies planting rice in a paddy field so we stopped so I could take some photos. They were waving and asking our guide if I would like a job and would I like to come and join them. My reply was that they would sack me very quickly as I would be far to slow which caused much amusement! Lovely lunch in a beautiful garden setting and off we went for the afternoon.
Next stop was the Golden Triangle where the Mae Kong and the Ruak River meet, we also visited Wat Phra That Pu Khao and she explained the ‘fortune telling’ sticks that you shake till one drops out and then you open that numbered draw for your ‘fortune’. If you don’t like or agree with it you can tie it to the tree as that apparently resolves it. Mine went there as it said I was yet to meet the love of my life…. Did not share that one with my lovely husband!
A ride down the Mae Kong river in a long tailed boat was next on the agenda with Myanmar on one side and Laos on the other.
Back to the hotel for a relax by our pool it had been a long but great day.
It was Valentines day and we decided that it would be fun to eat at Cabbages and Condoms, good meal glad we went. Back at the hotel they were letting off the biggest Chinese lanterns that had fireworks hanging from them for residents who had been at their Valentines dinner. We arrived at just the right time and I think they thought we had been there as well as we were invited to join in.
Day 2: Met by our guide and 3 more rickshaws we toured Chaing Rai, first stop was a food market which was a different experience from the day before but you still would not have wanted to eat meat brought there…
On to Wat Phra Kaew and the museum the whole site was fascinating and we learnt more about Buddhism from our guide who was a practising Buddhist and who paid her respects in every temple. Really interesting to gain a personal insight into her religion.
Back to the rickshaws and a trip by long tailed boat to Tham Pra cave (Buddha cave), really fascinating and met a lovely monk who lives there with 3 others a large number of well fed cats and hundreds of bats. He was laughing about it being a full time job cleaning up after them! Our boat when turning round to leave got stuck on a sandbank in the middle of the river so our driver had to push us off with a pole, how he did not fall in I will never know! The boat took us back to our hotel jetty which was a great way to arrive.
Took a Tuk Tuk into town and ate at Phu Lae, recommended by our driver (I have written a review).
Day 3: We arranged via our hotel a half day trip and we started at Doi Mae Salong Team Plantation which was really interesting and like a mini China, then onto General Duan’s tomb learning all about his story and how Mae Salong was founded. We then wandered round that village which really was really odd as everything was Chinese.
That afternoon we toured Chiang Rai under our own steam and visited Wat Phra Singh, Wat Klang Wiang and a few shops and markets.
We decided to eat in the hotel that night as we were shattered and wanted a quiet evening ‘in’.
Day 4: Our Chaing Mai guide and driver met us and we started the day by visiting Wat Rong Khun, wow what an amazing place! We could have spent hours there just taking it all in. Sadly we could only spend a couple of hours there and we started our journey by long tailed boat stopping of to visit villages belonging to the Lahu, Akha and Karen villages. All very different and interesting in their own ways, in each village we were the only ‘outsiders’ and our guide ensured we could understand their way of life without being intrusive.
The river trip was beautiful we went through jungle, open areas, quite rough water and very smooth, we saw water buffalo in the water several times (great photo opportunities!). We got off the boat at Tha Ton where we had lunch at a lovely little restaurant looking over the river.
Before reaching Chiang Mai we visited Chiang Doi Caves we managed to get in just before it closed so we had it to ourselves.
After a long but brilliant day we arrived at the Banthai Village…. I will add that trip report next….