My mom was raving about this tour regularly organised by Philippine Thai Cultural Organization (PTCO) . It was actually more of a friendly delegation in line with the group’s aim to encourage, develop, promote, strengthen and nurture ties between the two countries through mutual networking and programs of socio-cultural, educational, scientific and technological exchanges. Although I was drawn to the places on the list, I was skeptical about joining a big tour. Images of cattle came to mind as we were going to be a total of 70 participants in three bus loads. (Normally, they host half the number but their 2017 tour was postponed as the country mourned for their king).
Until I verified the quality of accommodations they selected for us was I convinced to join. Carefully coordinated with Filipinos whom have resided in Thailand for many years, they knew what we would like and they were genuinely concerned about our interest, comfort and convenience.
The whole package (including accommodations and most meals) was a steal! I was also impressed with the array of restaurants in this trip. It was as if, we were friends taken out to good restaurants rather than tourists accommodated in some random establishment. Note the ambiance apart from the delectable eats served.
Overall, it was quite an experience! Kudos to the organisers for handling all 70 of us. It wasn’t easy but with the right attitude and open mind, you will realise the positives definitely outweigh the resolvable negatives. We took a lot of pictures, had good laughs and made new friends!
Mae FahLuang Garden used to be a poppy plantation and an important route for opium caravans and those involved in heroin-related trafficking and weapons. It is now transformed into a magnificently beautiful garden of temperate flowers planted over 10 acres of lans in accordance with the Princess’ Mother’s wish, to give Thai people who have never travelled overseas an opportunity to enjoy a temperate flower garden.
Not far inside the garden is the Tree Top Walk. Its a fun activity that allows visitors to see the jungle from a bird’s eye view. Rope bridges take you above areas of the forest where you can overlook coffee trees, seasonal trees, the dam and distant mountains and a vetiver of grass plantations.
Golden Triangle, the words arouse images of opium poppies, of hill tribes, of mist-shrouded hills, of the mighty Mekong River, and of tropical forests. But most of all, the words, “Golden Triangle” evoke images of mystery and danger surrounding drug production and trafficking; porous borders; civil wars; armies; police and smugglers clashing; poor hill farmers eking out a living from a beautiful poisonous plant; raids on hidden heroin factories; donkey caravans along old jungle trade paths. Historically, the Golden Triangle has been an area well-known for the growing of opium. The name comes from a US State Department memo on the practice. These days, though, the place lives on the cultivations of tourists. The landscape is hilly, divided by the Ruak River that flows into the Mekong River. These rivers form a natural boundary between the three countries: Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.
Long Necked Karen Village hill tribe or Padaung are a unique clan of the greater Karen people who came from Myanmar and crossed the Thai-Burmese border to seek temporary shelter. What distinguishes them from the rest of the hill tribes is the spectacular costume of their women, which is completely unique.
Singh Park Previously known as Boon Rawd Farm, the fertile soil here was used to grow barley for beer production. In the earlier years, the farm was off-limits to the general public. That all changed when Boon Rawd decided to transform the area into a sustainable tourism project. Large areas of the park are still a working farm with fruit orchards and tea plantations as well as some of the original barley fields. These days though, the barley is mainly used for malted drinks and health foods. The farm is now more famous for its production of oolong tea and tours of the park provide visitors with the chance to see how tea is grown and carefully picked. The park has also been sympathetically landscaped with trails, lakes and meadows all combining to make it an attractive destinations for people in Chiang Rai.
Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten). The interiors of this temple is predominantly in blue with a large white Buddha that marks all spirits. Blue color represents the Dharma, the Lord Buddha virtue code of moral that spread all over the world. The name of the temple “Suea Ten” translates literally to “dancing tiger”.
White Temple (Wat Rong Khun). The awesome glistening White Temple was designed and supported by the national artist, ChalermchaiKositpipat. Likened to the “Taj Mahal of Thailand”, the main temple is painted white to symbolize the Buddha’s purity, and is covered in mosaics of mirrors, sparkling in the sun, representing the Buddha’s teaching. The structures, the murals and the symbols are representation of what people in life are consumed by, and what they need to do to let go of this materialism.
Black House (Baan Dam Museum) A short drive from the middle of Chiang Rai City, Baan Dam (Black House) is the unique creation of National Artist, ThawanDuchanee. Part art studio, part museum, part home, Baan Dam is an eclectic mix of traditional northern Thai buildings interspersed with some outlandish modern designs. Baan Dan is a thought-provoking combination of sanuk, the surreal and the somber. The Black House isn’t just one structure, but a collection of around 40 buildings of varying shapes and sizes dotted around a peaceful garden. The largest structure is located by the main entrance and sets the tone for what visitors can expects as they explore the rest of the site. Traditional and elegant on the outside, the combination of honey-coloured teak timbers and imposing doors are a work of art in their own right, but its whats inside the surprises.
Loy Krathong Festival. The highlight of the trip is the celebration of the Loy Krathong Festival where the group was brought to a nice restaurant by the Ping River away from the madding crowd at the center of town. After a sumptuous dinner, we were able to float our krathongs in peace. It is one of the best-preserved traditions and most beautiful festivals in Thailand. On the night of the full moon of the 12th lunar month, usually in November, people gather at lakes, rivers and canals and other waterways to set adrift krathongs. Krathongs are vessels shaped like lotus blossom made of banana leaves containing a candle, incense sticks, flowers and coins. The floating of krathongs represents payment of respect to the goddess of water as well as prayer for happiness and prosperity and delivery from miseries.
Doi Inthanon. The highest mountain in Thailand is 2,565 meters above sea level. Its high elevation allows its forests to host species of trees, plants and flowers that grow well in the temperate climate rather than tropical. Cold and chilly, the forests are suitable for trekking.
King and Queen Pagodas were built to honor the 60th birthday anniversaries of King Bhumibol in 1987, and Queen Sirikit in 1992. They are surrounded by a beautiful garden boasting of awesome cabbage roses in green, white and purple colors.
Hill Tribe Market is a food and handicraft market run by the Hmong and Karen Hill tribe. The very colourful market carries dried fruits, fresh fruits such as strawberries and persimmon, different kinds of snacks, clothing and jewelry.
Chiang Mai is a primary center for the highest quality of handicrafts in Thailand. The village of Sankampaeng is surrounded with small cottages that are also factories and workshops for artists who create wonderful works of art. Visitors are welcome to stop by and watch these people create silk and textiles, umbrellas, woodcarvings and furniture, lacquerware, silverware and paper products.
The Royal Park Rajapruek was built to commemorate the 60th anniversary of His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Accession to the throne as well as His Majesty 80th birthday. This large floral and botanical park has an incalculable number of plants and flowers and a nice orchids garden.
The very refined Ho Kham Luang Royal Pavilion.
Khantoke Dinner is held at the Lanna Cultural Center with a show of cultural dance and music. The tradition of Khantoke is much older than 30 years and is considered a ceremony only for very honored guests. Amidst an architecture expressing the regal Lanna theme, guests are asked to sit the traditional way, on a flat floor with triangle pillows as backrest in an open-air sala, and are served the traditional cuisine of Northern Thailand.
Considered by many to be the most beautiful Night Safari in the world – twice the size of the Singapore Night Safari, it stands on over 300 acres. We rode an open-sided tram to visit its three-zones composed of three-sections – the Savannah Zone, The Predator Prowl Zone and the Jaguar Trail Zone.
Mae Taman Elephant Camp offers interesting activities like elephant show and riding, ox-cart riding and bamboo rafting. During the show, the elephants perform various activities like logging, playing football and basketball and even painting. One can ride the elephants also as they trek through the forest, down a hill and even through a river.