If you’ve heard of Chiang Rai, it’s likely you’ve heard of the Golden Triangle tour. This tour takes you on a full day excursion to numerous tourist spots (like the White Temple) as well as being able to see where the Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos border all connect. The Golden Triangle tour is great because you’re basically able to cover all of the major sights in Chiang Rai in one day; perfect for those who are on a tight schedule!
1. The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)
This was the first stop on our tour and was one of the highlights of my time in Chiang Rai. I won’t go into too much detail, since I already wrote a post about the White Temple previously, but I will say that this is an absolute hands-down must-see if you’re in Chiang Rai. The pictures just don’t do it justice. You can read my post about the White Temple here.
2. The Black House (Baan Dam)
In stark contrast to the White Temple, the Black House is comprised of one large black house at the entrance and multiple smaller unique black houses throughout the grounds. The Black House is an art exhibit with no religious meaning set up by Thai artist Thawan Duchanee (recently deceased). He built these houses to showcase the various animal skulls, bones, and skins, sculptures, paintings, etc. he has collected on his global travels. Though the atmosphere is quite dark, the exhibit is very interesting.
3. Choui Fong Tea Plantation
At this tea plantation, you’ll be able to see the staff out picking the tea leaves, and you can walk into the plantation to see the hard and long work that goes into working here. I found it interesting that this plantation makes the ever-so popular Chinese Oolong tea – I had always figured that tea came from China! You couldn’t go inside the factory, but you were able to go into their shop to try a few different tea flavours, buy some tea and tea products, and grab a drink or a bite to eat at their cafe overlooking the plantations.
4. Monkey Cave & Temple
If you’ve ever traveled throughout South East Asia, it’s very likely you’ve come across some kind of tourist attraction that involves far too many crazed monkeys in an open area. I’m not a fan of monkeys at all (I’ve had some interesting experiences in Bali and in Hong Kong), so I was a bit apprehensive about stepping foot outside of the car. Thankfully, the coast was clear and there wasn’t as many monkeys as I had anticipated.At the Monkey Cave, there is also a temple at the top of a fairly steep and long set of stairs. The temple is really nothing special, but if you’re there on a clear day (which we unfortunately weren’t) you’ll be able to see the town below.
5. Mae Sai (The Northern Most Part of Thailand)
The Mae Sai district is as far north as you’re able to go in Thailand. On the tour, we drove right up to the border of Thailand and Myanmar, and were able to walk out to the “Northern Most of Thailand” (as seen in the featured image above). To get to this section, you have to walk through a stuffy alley filled with vendors, whom we were told sell cheap goods at not so cheap prices. Once we were as far as possible, while still technically in Thailand, we were able to see the sketchy looking bridge that was letting people through the border on both sides. Having come from somewhere where passport and border control are a huge deal, this was quite the sight.
6. Temple On The Hill
Here we came upon yet another temple “on the hill” during my travels throughout the north. This one was definitely the least impressive temple; comprised of merely a small building that looked like it was ready to crumble. Besides the temple, at this spot you’ll be able to look out into the water where the three countries’ borders meet up and do a bit of souvenir shopping (because there obviously isn’t the opportunity to do that anywhere else..).
7. House Of Opium Museum
If you’re like me and have no clue about the crazy history of opium throughout Asia and, specifically, how it was smuggled between these bordering countries, then this museum is for you. Albeit a bit outdated, there was actually some interesting information scattered throughout. You’ll leave here knowing a whole lot about opium. That is, if you actually take the time to read everything.
8. The Golden Triangle
A few steps from the opium museum and you’ll be at the “main attraction”. Essentially you’re right by the water with, yet again, hundreds of souvenir shops, food stalls, and a bunch of tacky sculptures. Honestly, there’s really not too much to see, which is probably why the government felt the need to spice the place up with some head-shaking decor. When you look out, you’ll be able to see both Myanmar and Laos, and if you have your passport on hand, you can actually hop on a boat that will take you to a little market right on the Laos border.
The price for this tour varies depending on what time of the year you go and how many people you go with. However, you can expect to pay somewhere between ฿1,500 – 2,000 per person for the full day. Just like in Pai, we were lucky and ended up being the only ones on the tour due to it being low-season.