Chiang Mai & Pai, Thailand:
Finally we arrived in Chiang Mai after a long night on the bus from Bangkok. The landscape of northern Thailand is characterized by steep hills covered by dense forests. Chiang Mai is the most important city in the area and serves as the base for most tourists. Famous for its large number of temples, you can easily spend a day strolling through its streets and alleys. Nevertheless, we also wanted to see something from the countryside and took a tour leading to the so-called Golden Triangle, the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers. Three countries meet at this point: Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand. Of course, the place is a tourist trap with many souvenir stalls selling trinkets, but the landscape is quite nice and we enjoyed the drive.
During our visit in September 2008, Myanmar was still largely off limits to foreigners, but we could get a glimpse into this “forbidden” country at the border crossing of Mae Sai. In contrast, you can take short boat trips across the Mekong River to set foot on Laos. Even without having a visa, tourists are “allowed” to visit a market full of stupid souvenirs, including bottles of “tiger penis whiskey”… Our last stop in northern Thailand was the small village Pai, which is the centre of backpacker tourism in the area. Throngs of young people stay here to enjoy cheap accomodation, good food, and the tranquility of the countryside – and I have to admit, hiking through the rice paddies surrounding the village is truly wonderful!
After these relaxing days amidst the hills of northern Thailand, we took the bus back south. Our holiday came to an end and we wanted to spend the last few days on one of the nicest tropical islands: Ko Tao.