Duration: 3 days
Operator: Intrepid Travel
Cost: US$500 twin share, $625 single
Your tour starts in Chiang Mai, the historic northern capital of Thailand. You meet your small tour group at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel in Chiang Mai between 8-9 am and head straight for the Golden Triangle region to the north-east. Along the way you’ll visit an elephant camp where you’ll be able to watch these majestic animals bathing and hauling logs in a typical working environment. You’ll also get to go on an elephant ride through the jungle.
In the afternoon of Day 1, after lunch at the elephant camp, you’ll explore the magnificent Chiang Dao Caves where you’ll walk through an amazing tempe-style entrance into a cave network said to consist of over 100 caves running 10-12 kilometres into a mountain-side. Then it’s on to Doi Mae Salong, a small town on the Thai-Myanmar border which was settled by Chinese nationalist soldiers who escaped the victorious communist army by fleeing overland through Burma. You’ll enjoy a cup of tea from one of the best tea-growing regions in Thailand and explore local markets where the hilltribe people sell their art and crafts. You’ll stay overnight in a hotel in Mae Salong.
After breakfast on Day 2 you’re off to Mae Sai, a town on the northern border of Thailand with Myanmar where you’ll have time to explore the expansive markets underneath the border bridge which are absolutely crammed with clothing, crafts, jewellery, sunglasses, jade and more freshly imported from Myanmar, Laos and Southern China. If there’s time, you’ll be offered the opportunity to cross the border bridge into Myanmar (Burma) to visit another, much cheaper market. To do the crossing you need to buy a temporary Myanmar entry visa at a cost of 500B, but be warned that you’ll only get a 15-day visa when you return into Thailand at this border.
From Mae Sai you’ll travel parallel to the Mekong River back to the Golden Triangle and have lunch in a restaurant overlooking the river and the Golden Triangle region. After lunch you’ll visit the Opium Museum where you’ll learn about the region’s not-too-distant history as the drug capital of South East Asia. Then you’ll board a long-tail boat for a trip up the Khong River to Chiang Saen, a port town where ferries dock from Southern China and backpackers cross the border headed for Laos. You’ll even be offered the opportunity to take a quick trip into Laos itself. You’ll stay overnight in a hotel in Chiang Rai.
On Day 3 you’ll have the awesome experience of visiting the famous White Temple, a living artwork still being created by a famous Thai artist as his reflection on the world we live in. Then you’ll be off to Mae Ka Chan hot springs where you’ll have lunch, which might include an egg freshly boiled in the boiling spring waters. There’ll also be time for a relaxing swim in the hot springs or a traditional Thai massage. Then it’s back to Chiang Rai where your tour will end around 5 pm.
The tour cost includes your breakfasts in Mae Salong and Chiang Rai and lunch on each of the three days, two nights hotel accommodation, road transport and the boat ride. The only additional costs will be your other meals while in Chiang Mai and an option tip for your local tour guide (usually $2-3 per day).
Find out more about the Chiang Mai and Golden Triangle tour from Intrepid Travel.