Thaton to Chiang Rai

Thaton

A town near the border with Burma, Thaton is about a four-hour bus ride north of Chiang Mai. It’s a beautiful, quiet, laid back valley town with the Maekok river running through its center and surrounded on all sides by picturesque hills and mountains.

Thaton at sunset, on our way to dinner

Thaton at sunset, on our way to dinner

The heart of Thaton is Wat Thaton, a Buddhist temple a located a short hike up the hillside.

The panoramic view of the town of Thaton from the Buddhist temple Wat Thaton

The panoramic view of the town of Thaton from the Buddhist temple Wat Thaton

The temple had lots of statues, including a tremendous Buddha that’s visible over the trees from miles away.

Giant Buddha a little further up the hill from the Wat Thaton temple

Giant Buddha a little further up the hill from the Wat Thaton temple

After exploring the temple area, we took the rest of the afternoon to wander through side streets and scenic neighborhoods.

A farmer watering his field

A farmer watering his field

Our accommodations were a small riverside bungalow at a place called Apple Resort, which proved to be a nice place to watch the sunset.

Sun setting over Wat Thaton--the speck of white you can see on the hill is the Giant Buddha

Sun setting over Wat Thaton–the speck of white you can see on the hill is the Giant Buddha

The journey from Thaton to Chiang Rai

Connected by the Maekok river, Chiang Rai can be reached from Thaton with a three-hour longboat ride. The scenery was incredible.

Going around a bend, trying not to get splashed

Going around a bend, trying not to get splashed

On the way we saw water buffalo, small cows, villagers and fisherman. We waved at most of them.

Little tree that looked like it belonged on the savanna

Little tree that looked like it belonged on the savanna

Chiang Rai

Our first impression of Chiangrai was pretty impressive

Our first impression of Chiangrai was pretty impressive

Chiang Rai is actually slightly older than Chiang Mai, which itself is almost 800 years old. There’s a lot of gold decorating the town, and the atmosphere is like a smaller Chiang Mai. We were lucky to be in town for the ASEAN Flower Festival, which we didn’t realize until we arrived. We just have all the luck.

After our songthaew dropped us of at the Chiang Mai clock tower, we wandered around a while and found a guesthouse nearby. We settled in, then headed back out to make the most of our 24 hours in Chiang Rai. We walked through the night market and came to the Wat Mung Muang temple around sunset, which made for a great photo op.

A mythical temple guardian with the head of an elephant and the body of a lion

A mythical temple guardian with the head of an elephant and the body of a lion

Walking back through the night market, we found a street food stall selling chicken with sweet Thai chili sauce, which was thoroughly enjoyable. We also happened upon an incredibly friendly Thai family, who graciously let us sit with them when there weren’t enough tables to go around. We shared our drinks, and they shared their som tum (a sweet-spicy shredded green papaya salad). They asked if we wanted to go dance, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. It seemed as though we had accidentally crashed a huge Thai wedding, and we felt like the guests of honor.

Lovely Thai family who adopted us for the night in Chiang Rai

Lovely Thai family who adopted us for the night in Chiang Rai

Doing our best to keep up with all of the dances. It was kind of like line dancing.

Doing our best to keep up with all of the dances. It was kind of like line dancing.

The following morning, we took a local bus out to Wat Rong Khun, better known as “The White Temple.” It’s located about 12 km from the city center, and was definitely the most touristy, strange, and modern-looking of all the temples we’ve seen in Thailand.

The crowds at Wat Rong Khun

The crowds at Wat Rong Khun

Since the White Temple was more crowded than we’d anticipated, we didn’t stick around too long. Instead, we headed back into the city to take a look at Wat Phra Kaew, an older and more traditional temple with a longer history. Housed in this temple was an incredible Jade buddha inside of a really interesting jade-tiled room whose green glow gave it a science fiction feel.

The Jade Buddha room at Wat Phra Kaew

The Jade Buddha room at Wat Phra Kaew

After Wat Phra Kaew, we spent our last hour visiting the ASEAN Flower Festival, an installation of thousands of flowers including lilies, tulips, begonias and roses, among others.

Jeff and Nāga the Magical Dragon... sounds like an old fairy tale

Jeff and Nāga the Magical Dragon… sounds like an old fairy tale

That evening we took a bus back to our Chiang Mai home base, and for New Year’s Eve we’re going to see the ladyboy cabaret. Should make for a fabulous evening!

 

3 thoughts on “Thaton to Chiang Rai

  1. Well here in New Jersey it’s 10:30 a.m. on New Years Eve. I guess you are well into New Years Day already. Fabulous pictures, be careful of that “street food”, sounds a little dangerous. Thailand looks like a place right out of a fairytale and although I know I’ll never get to go there myself, I’m doing the next best thing through your wonderful pictures and commentary. Happy New Year and lots of love to you both. Aunt Gay & Uncle Paul

    • Mutti. Hi Babies - This blog post was lovely and serene. Jeffrey, it cracked me up that your new bff's identified you in my favorite movie scene ever! Barb says she likes seeing you in a different shirt. Enjoy, and please be so safe. I love you.

      Hi Babies-
      This is such a gorgeous blog. What a fun and beautiful trip. You two are great explorers, but be careful what you ingest. Enjoy, and be so safe.
      Love, Mutti

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