Five days in the Golden Triangle
You can visit all three countries on this tour, but no visas are necessary!
The easiest ways to travel are to join tours or to hire a car and driver, but it's entirely feasible to use public transport as well.
Day 1: Doi Tung and Mae Sai
Visit Phra That Doi Tung, the twin pagodas where it is believed the collarbone of the Lord Buddha is contained, and the Doi Tung Royal Villa with the beautiful Mae Fah Luang Garden
Day 2: Chiang Saen, Sop Ruak and Chiang Khong
Note: You'll save yourself some backtracking if you overnight at Mae Sai and continue directly to the Golden Triangle.
Visit Chiang Saen to see the ruins of this ancient city, including ruins of numerous temples, stupas and Buddha images. Lanna Thai artifacts and archeological objects are exhibited at the museum.
Head 10 km north to the the Golden Triangle (Sop Ruak), next to the point where the three countries meet in the centre of the Mekong. Pop over to the Lao island of Don Sao (no visa needed) and pay a visit to either of the two Opium Museums.
Then cruise by longtail boat to enjoy a scenic along the Mekong River with spectacular views of the Laotian countryside via Ban Hat Bai (Thai Lue weaving village). Visit the town of Chiang Khong where giant fresh water catfish are caught between April 18 and early June each year. Visit the Yao and Hmong hilltribe villages before returning to Chiang Rai.
Day 3: Chiang Rai
Enjoy a pleasant ride by rickshaw, the favorite mode of local transportation, and tour Chiang Rai. Visit the local market area and major temples such as Wat Phra Kaeo which once housed the Emerald Buddha, or enjoy Wat Doi Khao Khwai or Wat Doi Thong the city view point. Continue with a short excursion along the Mae Kok River by longtail boat.
Day 4: Elephant Safari
1-hour excursion along the Mae Kok River by longtail boat to Karen village and begin a 2-hour elephant ride across hills, valleys and streams to hilltribes villages where lunch is served. Continue with a 1-hour walk to visit the waterfall and return to Chiang Rai by passenger van or local minibus.
Even better than an elephant ride would be a day trip to the Elephant Nature Park where elephants are rescued from abusive and inhumane treatment they endure in the elephant ride industry.
Elephant Nature Park 209/2 Sridornchai Road Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Tel: 053 818754, 818932 Fax: +66(0)53 904033 http://www.elephantnaturepark.org
Day 5: Doi Mae Salong
Visit Doi Mae Salong, village of the Chinese refugees. Along the way make a stop at the Hilltribe Development Centre, the centre aids and administers local hilltribe settlements. Hilltribe handicrafts, including woven cloth can be purchased. Continue to Pa Tai begin 2-hour excursion along Mae Kok river by longtail boat to Chiang Rai via Akha village, forest park, hot spa and Karen village.