Before heading on to Chiang Rai, I figured it would be good to drive around Chiang Saen to do some sightseeing and then check out one of the Opium museums at the Golden Triangle.
Chiang Saen reminded me a lot of Ayutthaya and the old temples dotted around the city there, some not more than ruins or a pile of bricks. It is a nice city though and pretty quiet so made for a nice stay.
There are two museums dedicated to Opium at the Golden Triangle, the bigger and more expensive one is the Golden Triangle Park Hall of Opium and the cheaper and smaller one is the 212 House of Opium. Since I didn't want to become and expert in Opium but was just generally interested, I figured the 212 House of Opium museum would be enough and indeed it was interesting and provided the kind of information I was looking for.
Once I set off to Chiang Rai, I had three route options and since even with the longest option I would easily make it there before lunch, I took the longest option. It appeared more scenic and fun, indeed it was scenic but not so much fun as the road was in very bad condition and it was a very dusty and bumpy ride. Along the way I also took the wrong turn and ended up doing a very long loop just to get back where I was an hour ago.
Needless to say, I didn't quite make it to Chiang Rai by lunchtime but it was still early afternoon and after finding a hotel there was still enough of the day left.
While looking online at things to do in Chiang Rai, I came across the White temple and figured it would be great to take photos there during sunset. Indeed it proved to be the right time and the temple itself is very impressive making the 12km drive out there well worth.
For everybody who has seen too many samey kind of temples in Thailand and really needs a change, this is a must visit. It looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie or like an ice palace in some fairy tale adaptation. When you first see it, you would almost not think it's an actual temple but something completely different, even the traffic cones around the temple are very cool with skulls on them.
After watching the sunset at the temple, I headed back to Chiang Rai to go for a walk around the city and explore some of it. The first thing I came across was the clock tower just when they had the light and music show on so this was great timing.
A few streets up, there was a street market with everything from clothes, souvenirs to food and drinks. I always love these as they provide good photo opportunities and also allow me to sample some of the different street food and fruit juices.
One thing that's never missing in Asia is a square with music where people of all ages dance together and have fun. Every time I see this it's great and has a great relaxed and friendly atmosphere where people are happy and having a good time together.
Tomorrow, will be a full day of exploring Chiang Rai and visiting the Black House after the White Temple today.