Staying in Chiang Saen for just over a month afforded us the luxury of exploring the local areas, ones which we may have skipped otherwise. Most people venturing this far up to Northern Thailand typically race for the border and hop over to Laos, in turn, missing out a few of the gems that this part of the world has to offer. Here are a few things that we would recommend doing in Chiang Khong or Mai Sai:
1. Ride a Moped
The journey connecting Chiang Khong to most other nearby cities takes you on a spiraling ride through the mountains and offers unbelievable viewing points from above. With a few cafes dotted along the way, you can stop, relax and top up your caffeine or sugar levels in almost absolute silence as you take a gander of cloud topped mountains and luscious greenery that Northern Thailand is renowned for…
2. Visit the Hub Pub
Aside from having the cheapest dorm beds we found at 99 Baht a night, the Hub Pub is a great chance to meet a living legend and have a chat about his exploits. The guy who runs this place, who I later found out is from Liverpool, is the current Guinness World Record holder for circumnavigating the globe in the fastest time… on a bicycle.
On 4 August 2010, Alan Bate completed the circumnavigation in 106 days, 10hrs and 33mins, which has been ratified by Guinness World Records and remains the official record. Crazy, and if you like bikes he has a pretty big selection to next to his pub.
3. Eat at Bamboo Mexican House
The Mexican food here is delicious and the hand made fresh bread just oozes of the taste of home. Get a different type of spice before moving out of Thailand or just top up on some carbs before making your way home, just bear in mind that the food is only served after 6pm, but it’s worth the wait.
4. Cross the Friendship Bridge IV to Huay Xui and take the 2 Day Mekong River boat trip
As I mentioned further up, this is where most people fly through before arriving in Laos. Once you have had your fill of Chiang Khong, then the next stop is Huay Xia if you’re leaving Thailand. From here you can get the 2 Day Mekong River boat trip down to Luang Prabang. Just make sure you buy your tickets in Huay Xia (Laos) to save a few extra bucks and get up early to get yourself a good seat, you’ll regret it 5 hours in otherwise. Oh and charge your camera, you’ll get some great snaps.
Mai Sai is another border town, but this one is hugging Myanmar instead. Here you’ll find a few cool things to do which should occupy your day and are worth sticking round for.
1. Saturday Market
This Saturday Market is massive and well worth a visit. If you are in the market for knock off electronics, some of which are just entertainingly laughable, or some precious stones (mainly Ruby and Jade), which have made their way from Myanmar, then this is the stop for you. We just picked up some avocados and new trainers which was enough for us, but you’re likely to find whatever you are looking for here.
2. Walk the 100 or so steps to The Burmese Temple, Wat Phra That Wai Dao
Yes, the steps look daunting, but when you get up there you will find a cool arrangement of statues and architecture, including a pretty awesome Scorpion Statue. Once you’ve maxed out your culture levels, next to the scorpion statue you’ll find a few more steps up to a platform which opens the door to some amazing views over the town and further afield.
3. Snap some shots of the most Northern point in Thailand
The bridge over to Myanmar (Tachileik Province) is the entry point into Thailand for Burmese traders who set up shop in the town’s market stalls. It is also the most Northern point of Thailand and has a few signs to prove it. If this entices you more, then you can even have a stroll over the border and stay for up to 14 days for about 500 Baht (£10) – we did not.
4. Get some authentic Indian Grub
The best place in town – or so we heard – was Anantapura Restaurant, and it did not let our taste buds down. With a wide range of foods and a relaxed host you’ll hopefully not be disappointed. We went here after an earlier meal at a place right next to the border crossing and were bitterly disappointed, so save yourself and angry stomach and search for this little Eastern gem.
We had a great time in both of these little border towns and would recommend at least visiting for a day if you are in the area. If you can think of anything we missed out then get replying peeps.