Friday, 28 February 2014

Day 206 - Mae Salong to Mae Sai, The Golden Triangle and Chiang Saen

Another early start to take a photo of the sunrise but since I could see it from my bungalow, I could go back to sleep a bit longer afterwards.
Once I got up and had breakfast, I first went to the Phra Boromathat Chedi and climbed up the stairs to the top for some exercise and to enjoy the view. This would certainly make a good spot to see the sunrise from.

Since my plan was to go all the way to Chiang Rai via the long mountain roads and by stopping at the Golden Triangle, it meant I could not visit anything else in Mae Salong but did manage to see the market on my bike and take some photos. It looks like a very nice place and certainly worth spending more time there, a bit more touristy than Doi Angkhang but it is not bad.

The roads were again great, fantastic views over the tea plantations and across the mountains and valleys, through smaller and larger towns to a tiny road one could almost miss. And miss I did it at first but lucky I was not too far off when I discovered it so didn't lose too much time but gained some nice photos.
This road was full of potholes, partly unpaved and under construction, very narrow and quite steep in places but I hugely enjoyed it and when I finally made it to the main road, I almost wanted to turn back and go again.

Still, there was more road in front of me to cover but I decided to stop at the Mae Sai Arboretum for a quick break. The arboretum is certainly worth a visit and it made my quick break very enjoyable by also providing some nice views across the nearby mountains. On my way out, some of the local sellers invited me to try some of the wines and juices they made in the region (strawberry, grapes, lychee and apple) all were very nice and if I had a car instead of a motorbike, I might have filled up the trunk with a few bottles.

A few security checkpoints and a road side lunch break later, I got into Mae Sai and was just in front of the border to Myanmar, since my passport was at the bike rental place, I could not really cross over for a quick visit so instead visited the Wat Phra That Doi Wao temple. This provided me with at least some views across the border and into Myanmar.

Then came a slight miscalculation on my part as I forgot about the Golden Triangle not actually being on the road to Chiang Rai but requiring a 35km detour. This made Chiang Rai a bit too far to comfortably reach, especially after I stopped for a coffee break before realizing this.

Still, I could just head straight to Chiang Rai but miss out on the Golden Triangle or go to the Golden Triangle, take my time and rush it a bit to Chiang Rai or drive in the evening there.
The Golden Triangle was well worth the extra detour as it provides very nice views of the Mekong and into Laos and Myanmar although by the time I got there I could not visit any of the Opium museums.

The way to Chiang Rai lead through Chiang Saen and while driving through I realized it seemed like a nice city right by the Mekong with quite a few old temples and ruins. Determined to reach Chiang Rai before the evening however, I did not spend much time sightseeing.
I was already out of Chiang Saen when I decided it's best to turn around and stop there for the night.

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