Today was the last day of riding in northern Thailand. It was 70km from Chiang Saen to Chiang Khong along the river, an extra 17km then it could have been, but this avoided having to go over the mountain! It also marked crossing over the 1,000km mark, a worthy reason to have a few beers tonight!
Chiang Saen was a pleasant little place with food stalls lining the bank of the Mekong river and seats on bamboo mats with low tables, overlooking it. They have made an attempt to provide English on a number of the menus, however this is probably an example of Google Translator gone wrong when items are listed such as ‘the ark shell burns’ and ‘the shrimp cooks whore dust’. That said, this is not a touristy place, there are a few guest houses and a hostel (first one I have stayed at in SE Asia). I spent two nights and made a 10 km ride up to the golden triangle as well as getting a Thai massage and eating heaps.
The golden triangle holds no historical merit, it is merely a tourist attraction created after the halt of the opium production on the Thai side. After the crackdown there were a lack of funds flowing through the area and in the government’s wisdom they decided to erect a massive Buddha, some elephants, et cetera at the point where the Mekong meets the Ruak River and Thailand, Myanmar and Laos border each other. If the number of tour buses can be used as a measure, it would appear their plan worked and this is the largest tourist trap in northern Thailand.
Chiang Khong is my jumping off point to Laos. After exiting Thailand tomorrow morning it will be a short boat ride across the river, go through the entry process for Laos and board a slow boat for two days to Luang Prabang.