The only reason I wanted to visit Chiang Rai was to see the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun). Since we were already up north in Chiang Mai, we figured that we might as well do a day tour (and by we, I mean me since I’m the planner of the trip).
This was a mistake because it took 3 hours each way, meaning you’re spending at least 6 hours in a van (a pretty nice van albeit, but a van nonetheless). Plus, you don’t really get to see much – at least not with the tour that we took (Touring CNX). Here was our rundown for the day:
- Pick up from hotel at 7 am
- Thaweesin Hot Springs (30 minutes) – this was basically a bunch of jacuzzis that people sat and dipped their feet into. We opted out because it looked like a fungal infection waiting to happen. There are lots of shops in the area, so I suspect that the tour company gets some kind of kickback for bringing tourists there
- White Temple (40 minutes) – this was kind of a shit show. There are so many people there that you can barely move. FYI – all of those IG photos you’ve seen of peace and serenity at this temple are definitely photoshopped
- Wat Chedi Luang (25 minutes) – a small temple, which was nice to check out since we were the only ones there
- Lunch – lunch was actually pretty good. Since we were a small tour, it was nice and intimate. Food was served family style
- Golden Triangle – this is the point where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar all meet the Ruak and Mekong Rivers. It’s also where most of the opium was produced, back in the 1950s
- Boat to Laos – another kickback. They basically took us to Laos for souvenir shopping. Once we arrived, we hadn’t even left the boat yet, and there were Laotian children begging for money. I wasn’t sure what to think of this – they probably knew that all the tourists come here and would have money
- Opium Museum – very old and rundown. It gives you a brief history of the opium trade back in the day, as well as some tools they leveraged to use the opium
- Coffee break at Amazon Cafe – this was probably halfway back to Chiang Mai, when they knew people would need a bathroom break. It was also my first time using a bathroom that was in the ground
I’ve taken many tours but this has to be the worst one. It didn’t seem like the company really cared about our experience. It seemed like they were more concerned about their kickbacks. If you really want to see the White Temple, I would recommend staying the night prior, and then going super early to the temple. This way, you can (hopefully) avoid the crowds, and spend more time there.