Thailand: Mae Hong Son – Chiang Rai – Sukhothai

After visiting Mae Hong Son I rode in one long day to Chiang Rai via the famous road nbr 1095. There are reportedly  1,864 curves on this route.  Doing it now by car instead of on the bike, it seems much harder as back then.  (The report of my 2008 journey can be found here.)  One thing is sure: traffic has become about ten times more than back in 2008.  It is still a spectacular route, but I had multiple close calls with cars and motorbikes.  On a bicycle, I wouldn’t recommend this route anymore.

Chiang Rai and the surrounding area has some interesting attractions:

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Wat Rong Suea (The Blue Temple)
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Inside the Blue Temple. Stunning Buddha image.
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On the way to Khun Khorn waterfall, one walk through impressive bamboo forests

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Wat Rong Khun. This is the forst time I saw ‘The White Temple’ with my own eyes. Unforgettable and probably second on my list of must sees after the Golden Palace in Bangkok.

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Wat Phra Kaeo, the temple of the Emerald Buddha.
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I think this is a replica of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaeo.

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Clock Tower, Chiang Rai

I took smaller back roads from Chiang Rai towards the Mekong River, passing villages like Ban Mae Paeng and Ban Than Sat.
Ban Sob Ruak is where I actually saw the Mekong River again. It is the epicenter of Mekong tourism in Thailand, called the Golden Triangle, the point where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet. The bus loads of tourists here, I know them from the past. What really susprised me is the complete new city that is being built at the Laos side of the border. Multiple high rises, all hotels and casino’s for Chinese and Thai with enough $$$.

We took a boat trip on the Mekong and visited the Laos side but it has zero charm and has nothing to do with what Laos really is.

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Golden Triangle statue with Myanmar (left) and Laos (right) in the background.
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Las Vegas on the Mekong. Sad.

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Leaving the mayhem of Ban Sob Ruak behind (but not after we had an excellent lunch at a small local restaurant in the north of the town), I followed the river down stream towards Chiang Khong.

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Colourful temple in Chiang Khong
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We rented some small but excellent bungalows a bit out of Chiang Khong.

We continued going south, close to the river. First to Doi Pha Tang viewpoint with its General Lee Memorial pavillion and a nice sitting Buddha.
For the next attraction we had to stretch our legs a bit: climbing up to the famous Phu Chi Fa. From the top of the cliff, you have an incredible view towards the Mekong Valley and over Laos. Most people go there for sunrise, so it’s better to go in the afternoon when all is quiet.

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Mekong River

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At the top of Phu Chi Fa (1.442 m asl)
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Me, on the way to Phu Chi Fa.
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On the left, if you look well,  you can see people on the top of the cliff.  Gives you perspective of the grandeur of the whole thing.
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Phu Sang waterfall

From Chiang Khong, I rode via Phu Sang & Doi Phu Kha National Parks to Ban Sop Bong. Doi Phu Kha is the highest point in the province of Nan (2.000 m)

Some different temples from small villages in Nan province below:

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Upon leaving Ban Sop Bong and riding through a small village, I stumbled upon a fantastic little, white temple, totally devoid of tourists.

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Wat Bo Kaeo
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No tourists, fantastic experience. One wonders how a small village can finance such a beautiful temple.

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Just before arriving in Sukhothai, I saw this giant Buddha along the road.

For the fourth time I visited Thailand’s ancient capital, Sukhothai.

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One of the most famous temples of Sukhothai is Wat Si Chum.  Inside is a giant Buddha, Phra Atchana.  King Bhumibol ordered renovations of the temple, which were done in 1952.

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Wat Si Chum

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I visited Krubasrivichai Monument outside the city of Lamphun.  I didn’t make a good picture of the statue myself, so this is from another website.   The things you see below his chin are giant wasp nests.
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There’s a whole complex at Krubasrivichai Monument.  Pictures below.

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A small last update about the last days in Bangkok to follow soon.

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