Northern Exposure: Chiang Rai daytrip to Tachiliek, Myanmar

There’s a lot of expensive daytrip options around Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle.  We decided to do the cheap option of a day in Tachileik, across the border in Myanmar.
Many travel sites have stated this is quite a difficult trip to do independently – we found it the easiest thing to do.  By bus, songthaew and on foot.

There is a regular bus from Chiang Rai station to the Mae Sai border town for about 40 Baht.  Then there’s a songthaew – regular service for 50 each Baht from the bus station into the town centre and the border crossing.

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the delightful Thai bus interior
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the awaiting songthaews
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the realisation she’s going to be on an oul’ Irish guy’s blog

Once in the town centre – you walk.  Through the Thai exit and into the Myanmar immigration area.

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Thai border control
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Myanmar this way
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the border
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Fáilte go Myanmar – no soft border

There’s naturally no photography in the border control buildings.  Which was a pity as on the Mynamar side the immigration officer was a pleasant chap who had the Backstreet Boys playing on a CD.  He asked if we were here for a day’s shopping (yes), took the passports, gave us the visa (for Tachleik only) and a receipt to get the passports back.
And then we were in Myanmar.  The crossing took about 10-15 minutes. There is a multitude of guys offering tours, guiding, hawking all sorts of services on the walk to the main centre from the border but there was no hassle.

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Tachileik centre

First stop of course, was coffee and wifi.

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The Circle – first coffee in Myanmar

Then it was off to the market for food, football shirts and photos

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chicken –  I think

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quality head balancing
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cooking eggs – could be an Ulster Fry
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genuine Bose speakers for a tenner
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I did buy a lot here…

Elsewhere in Tachileik life goes on apart from all the day tourists from Thailand.

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pub.  The beer is called ‘Myanmar’
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Teenagers and an SUV.  could be anywhere
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differing gender approaches to mopeds


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As the afternoon got late, it started to rain – heavily so we headed back to the border, picked up the passports and spent a bit of time in Mae Sai before getting the Chiang Rai bus.

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If you’re in Chiang Rai, the daytrip to Tachileik is an easy thing to do without a tour.  The border crossing was quick and easy, it was $10 for the visa and the little taste of Mynamar adds something different to the holiday.  It’s a bit quieter and more reserved than in Thailand, the markets are great fun and everyone we met were friendly with no-one objecting to photography.  I did buy a lot of stuff which may have helped.

Northern Exposure: Chiang Rai – Wat Phra Kaew

entrance

Despite a general lack of any useful knowledge of or insights about Buddhism, visiting a temple is for me a great opportunity for some photography, a bit of peace and quiet and an experience of something extremely different from the normal day-to-day life in Belfast.

Wat Phra Kaew in Chiang Rai is a great example of a temple complex that is extremely welcoming to tourists yet doesn’t seem to get many tourists.  Chiang Rai’s Blue Temple and the White Temple in particular are tourist hotspots but Wat Phra Kaew has lots to walk around, places to sit, have bit of meditation if that’s your thing and great to spend a few hours with the camera and not be rushed.

 

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Monk

 

 

 

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Pagoda

Those who were there for devotional reasons were ok with photos being taken – but it’s best to be discrete about it

 

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The original Green Buddah is now in the Grand Palace, Bangkok but originated here.  It has a replacement now.

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Temple interior

In the temple grounds there are a variety of drums and bells.  Some you can’t play, others you can have a go.

 

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non-beating drum
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Bells and Shadows
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Big Bell

 

 

And there is the usual, delighful literal translation to English.  I did.

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Wat Phra Kaew is about a 7 minute songthaew ride from the centre of you can walk in about 25 minutes.

Pictures taken on the Canon 6D and 28-90 lens

Northern Exposure – Saturday Night in Chiang Rai

Everywhere in Thailand has a night bazar, a night market of some description or a big weekend market.  In Chiang Rai they take it a bit further.  A large thoroughfare is closed off for the market, there is an multitude of stalls to buy just about anything, a selection of food to end the most austere of diets – and a large square for line dancing.  Thai line dancing.  There seemed to groups – organised hardcore dance classes in uniform, with clear lead dancers, as well as less formal social groups and the occasional Irish tourist.

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There’s food
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some drink
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a bit more food to go with your drink
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A post-food snack
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many choices of snack
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some shopping for knickers..
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and a snack if you’re hungry after the shopping

The main attraction for me other than the food is the dancing and music. The dancing goes on for hours, a live band – sort of Thai Schlager – do the music and the dancing is continuous – til late.

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This lot were a delight to watch and most agreeable for a photo.

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Lock up your husbands

As was Busker of the Night. Playing the cute card along with the music
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And of course – evidence of the photographer getting in the swing..

 

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Classic White Man Dancing..

Northern Exposure: Chiang Rai – The Blue Temple

I generally prefer black and white – it removes a feeling of clutter, great for showing contrast in a scene and it has that delightful separation from reality.  Occasionally, though, you encounter a scene that demands to be shot in colour.  In Chiang Rai there is Wat Rong Suea Ten – or The Blue Temple.  On a sunny day, there is nothing quite so blue as The Blue Temple.

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It is blue

As you can see, its predominant characteristic is its undoubted blueness.

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Maximum blueness

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Detail
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White outdoor Buddah

And once you get inside, there’s still blue. And some white. And people to add a bit of colour enhancement.

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Posing for Buddah – 1
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Posing for Buddah 2

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As with all religious sites, donations welcome

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As always when visiting temples, not all of us are Irish tourists runing around with cameras. Some are there for more spiritual reasons.

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BT10 BT13

Wat Rong Suea Ten is about 3.5km from the centre of Chiang Rai (the Bus station) and there are a variety of busses, taxis and songthaews.  We walked in the heat.  A lot of surrounding cafes were closed late afternoon and early evening (it closed at 6pm) but the light is so much better.

All shot on the Canon 6D and an old film era EOS lens 28-90 kit zoom.

Northern Exposure: Chiang Rai 1

I don’t know if it’s a good idea or not to start going over travel photos from the previous year or two in the middle of a lockdown but I’m more determined to get back to Asia in summer 2021 as the planned 2020 trip to China may have been overtaken by events….

So Thailand. My favourite place in Thailand is probably Chiang Rai.  It’s smaller and a bit more relaxed than Chiang Mai, has a few extraordinary temples – maybe not for the purist, but certainly ones for the tourist with a camera, a delightful premier league football ground and the most entertaining and exotic Saturday night market.

Here’s a few random shots for a intial feel of Chiang Rai.

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Girl on a Moped.
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More Mopeds – including two shy ones
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The Old Clock Tower

You’ll find no shortage of cafes and restaurants in Chiang Rai.  A particular mention to this one – the Bhucheedeun coffee shop ร้านกาแฟภูชี้เดือน, a few minutes walk from Wat Phra Kaew.  We called on a Monday – it seemed to be open only for take-out but they let us stay for super iced coffees and they popped out to another cafe to bing us cake.  You don’t get that in High Street Costa..

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And a random bloke in a vest happily fishing.

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fishing.

All shot on the Canon 6D.

 

Chiang Rai Utd v Big Bang Chula FC

When you’re travelling around the world, you often experience things that are so different from your normal day to day life  – food, language, culture and customs – while other things are pretty much universal.  Football, with its globally consistent rules and multinational structures, transcends location and culture.
Turn up at a match and you could be anywhere.

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Chiang Rai is the northernmost city in Thailand – a delightful, quirky place about 16 hours by train/bus from Bangkok – and hosts a top division league side – Chiang Rai United.  The Thai T1 league has 18 sides from around the country and all have badges, logos and designations in English as opposed to Thai, with many “Uniteds” and “FC’s”.  The opposition on this hot July evening was the splendidly named Big Bang Chula FC.

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The Singha Stadium is beside the airport about 15 minutes drive from the city centre (taxi is the best way to get there – and make sure you book one for after the match..) and it’s a fine modern stadium.  Outside there are the usual hordes of fans in replica kits and a number of stalls selling them – naturally I bought one.

Food is one big difference from the Irish or English leagues. In the absence of cheesey chips, there’s an array of spicy kebabs from 10 baht (0.20 GBP) each.

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no manky pies or Bovril
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cold drinks are essential in the 30 plus temperatures
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fans

Inside it’s open, largely uncovered and all-seater with the stands tight to the pitch.

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Before kick-off there was the formality of the Thai National Anthem.  This seems to have largely disappeared from European sporting events (excepting internationals) but like the States, where the anthem is sung everywhere from MLB and NFL down to local Friday night speedways, in Thailand they like to do the anthem at most public gatherings.  And as is common, it’s accompanied by a royal video clip.

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be upstanding and screen-facing, for the National Anthem

 

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5000 miles from the UK and there’s always a Man United fan..
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the Chiang Rai United rhythm section

On the pitch, there was a mix of players from Thailand and around the world including a few Brazilians.  A home team ex-pat favourite is Mark Bridge, an Australian and leading goalscorer.  The match itself was exciting affair resulting in a 2-2 draw, the crowd was noisy, the food was good and our taxi turned up on time after the match.  A perfect evening.

Mark Bridge 21
He makes it 1-0
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Mark Bridge, Chiang Rai United
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Final score 2 – 2.

Kit:
Canon 5D, 70-300 and 50mm lenses;
iPod (6th gen)

more Thai footie photos on the Flickr https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1qvnR9