I have been to Thailand more times than I can remember, as it was cheap and convenient for my visa runs. It is also the only country that did not give me any trouble whenever I entered and exited through Cambodia, Laos, or Malaysia either by land or air. Thailand truly lives up to expectations as a tourists’ country. It is an exotic place that has something for everyone. I have visited many islands and traveled by bus from North to South.
On one of my visa runs, I was trying to choose between Chiang Mai or Chang Rai and eventually decided to go to Chiang Rai as it is less touristic . It is also very convenient to exit at Tachileik, Myanmar or Huay Xai, Laos, and they allow you to return to Thailand on the same day. I took the night bus from Bangkok to Chiang Rai and stayed in a guesthouse which included a simple breakfast of local food, not far from the clock tower. I did not see any other travelers or tourists at the guesthouse so I thought “Is there anything to see in this place? I was walking around to familiarize myself with the area and get my bearings when I came across a tourist office. I learned that there were Hill Tribe Treks, and some Golden Triangle tours, where opium used to be an industry.I booked a trip on one of the treks that included, presumably, an overnight stay with a local tribe, dinner, opium smoking, and a massage. After dinner, we were all sitting in a circle to try smoking two pipes of opium which was included in the price – if you want more there was an extra fee. I noticed it was mostly the elderly of the tribe , with teeth so black and red colored that I excused myself when it came to my turn. I also cut short my one hour massage as the massage was mostly consisted of children jumping on my back. Early morning, I asked an elderly guy to show me his opium field. We walked some distance away, then came to a garden with beautiful pinkish flowers. I asked if it was legal; he said it was allowed for their own use as they needed opium to make them strong so they could work harder – whatever that meant. I’m not certain that we understood each other really well, but he did speak English. Needless to say, I enjoyed the experience and liked the people – they were really nice and entertained me, even if I didn’t get my opium smoke.
Long Boat Next was the Golden Triangle were I could see militias with machine guns guarding their opium trade or so I thought. I hopped on to a long boat to get to a point where the Mekong River borders Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. The short boat ride was pleasant, and after taking some photos off we went. I didn’t see any militias but did see other boats taking other tourists with the same idea.
I crossed Mae Sai to Tachileik, Burma (now Myanmar) for that important visa stamp in my passport. I just wandered around the area next to the border, though I was allowed to stay for 3 days if I changed enough Kyat (Burma’s currency), but I went back to Thailand the same day, and the same way that I came.
Mae Sai, Thailand