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Getting from Pai to Chiang Mai isn’t simple, you have to go back to Chiang Mai then head north. We opted for the “interesting” route…. So the journey from Pai to Chiang Mai was in a minivan through the same company we used to get to Pai. Different driver, but still reasonably well driven and slower than the public minivans. So 3+hrs of windy roads and not being sick we made it to Chiang Mai. You can get a direct bus to Chiang Rai, but we opted for a public bus to Thaton – so 4hrs cramped in a slow bus…. (we did question our call!) After a couple of hours the scenery was pretty and interesting and it wasn’t too bad.. After 4hrs we got to Thaton and hunted accommodation rejecting a £5 basic and naff room and instead paying £12 for a great room overlooking the river as we knew we needed sleep!
From Thaton there is a pubic boat that goes to Chiang Rai – 400thb though the internet says its 350. It wasn’t. But a 4hr boat trip in speedy longtails, swapping boats mid way and scraping the bottom in places, and even having to walk 500m or so through a very shallow bit. One stop was at a village with huge reptiles caged for photos, not our cup of tea. The river is called Mae Kok which tempted me to joke about Mel riding down Mae Kok for 4 hours, but decided better of it.
At Chiang Rai, as expected the boat terminates about 3-4km outside, so you need transport to the town. There was a single truck (song thaew) who wanted 50thb just to get to the central bus station per person – should normally be 20thb or so, or 100tbh for a tuktuk. But it was just him and eventually most of us agreed to pay 40thb – so he got 360thb for a 3km journey which is normally enough for, say, a 2hr drive! No other option except walk. A few refused and waited by the road but it was one of those roads tuktuks don’t frequent so they’d have a long wait and as there were less people they’d have to pay more. All for 40p!!!! We just wanted to get to our hotel where we splashed out on a suite for our stay (15 pounds a night!)
Chiang Rai isn’t great to be honest and can be avoided, but the scenery is nice and we want to do external trips and activities. But don’t visit to see the city. We did find an excellent local food place, 80p for an excellent khao soi, but hardly a reason to visit.
However, the trips from here are interesting, the first was a minivan tour taking in Singha tea plantation, the white temple (again), the black house (weird arty place full of voodoo esque water buffalo heads, monkey/fish caves, scorpion temple, and the golden triangle (where Laos, Thailand and Burma/Myanmar meet). Bit of a few iffy stops but the main reason was to see things we hadn’t seen before and see the countryside, so for that purpose it was fine. The minivan was fine and met some nice people. Just a shame we had to include the white temple……
The following day we did a cycling tour which was with the same excellent company as 4 years ago, over 50km through lovely countryside and to the white temple! Argh. Same same. But again, lovely group of people did the whole day and the tour was interesting taking in the same tea plantation as well as some other bits enroute.
With Chiang Rai done we headed back to Chiang Mai on a 3.5hr green bus, simpler quicker and a lot cheaper than the way up, just for one night before an early flight to Krabi where we head to Ao Nang and the beaches! Sneaked in another cheap haircut at Ninas. Looking forward to that, but sadly means we are in the last 2 weeks… 🙁