The bus from Chiang Dao to Tha Ton was... interesting! The bus was a local one full of Thais, and of brown paper wrapped parcels. The bus was the size of a standard coach, and was definitely going too fast for the winding roads! We would stop every now and again (or at least slow down enough) for the conductor to jump out to deliver the parcels! The kid sat across the isle from me also had a cockeral in a linen bag held right to his chest, which liked to complain with every turn!
I arrived safely in Tha Ton and checked in to Garden Riverview Guesthouse. That afternoon I walked into the town and instantly fell in love with it... the town was based on the river in a steep valley of jungle right on the Thai-Myanmar border. The was much more of an friendly feel and a buzz of activity compared to Chiang Dao, and the west bank of the river was lined with bamboo rafts and people relaxing and socialising. I found my own bamboo raft and chilled out with an ice coffee and ice cream!
I met up with Sean who I'd met on the bus and his friend Charlie, who lived in Tha Ton, for food and drinks until late.
The next day, slightly hungover, I tried to climb up Tha Ton mountain (more of a hill) which had 9 tiers of temples or holy sites with one large temple at the top.
At this point I decided that attempting to walk up a steep hill in 40 degree heat, to a deadline (wanted to walk up and back before 12) was impossible, so I flagged down a pick up truck with a family going to the top temple to pray... they loved that, as I can imagine picking up a funny looking farang was the highlight of their day!
Sneaky photo of the family as I sat with my back against the truck
I missed a few tiers I think, but saw them in the truck, they looked like monks' living quarters. Once at the top the views out over the valley and the river were spectacular, and the holy sites and temple were interesting, more like art work then places of worship.
I was pushed for time so I hitched a lift from a family straight away to take me down to the town, again I think I must've been the most excited thing all week as they kept turning around and waving to me through the window. A little less glamorous this one, as I had to sit in the back with all the bags and shopping!!
I fell in love with Tha Ton straight away and could've easily stayed for a long time, but I met Sean and a French couple who were planning on leaving Tha Ton by slow boat to go to Chiang Rai that day, and considering the number of tourists in the town I didn't want to risk getting stranded there and overstaying my visa.
So I left at 1 pm on the slow boat to go to Chiang Rai. Only after buying lots of snacks for the journey!
The boat ride was incredible, just the 4 of us on a narrow boat, with an expert driver who was able to negotiate the tight bends and shallow water. A lot of people were in the water, fishermen and women, children playing and adults chilling!
The way they use and treat their rivers here is fascinating, life really does revolve around it. They wash in it, work in it, relax in it, play in it... and also throw all their rubbish in it... it's odd!
We arrived in Chiang Rai that day and checked into Baan Bua Homestay. The following day Sean and I hired a motorbike and went to Chiang Rai's white temple. Definitely more a work of art than a temple it had to be the most stunning temple I have seen so far.
And the most beautiful toilet building ever...
After a coffee and pineapple, and some crazy Chinese tourists wanting photos with me, we headed off further away from Chiang Rai to a waterfall.
The walk up to the waterfall was such hard work, we were both so exhausted and sweaty, but it was well worth it. I got in up to my knees to cool off!
At least for me, the journey on the back of the scooter home was relaxing, driving through small villages and past rice paddies.
We got an early night that day ready to catch a 2-day slow boat from Chiang Khong into Laos!
Personally, I didn't really get a good feeling from Chiang Rai, I found it very seedy, with lots of prostitution and massage bars, but I would definitely return to Tha Ton!
NEXT STOP.... LAOS!!!!