Last Modified: 04 Oct 2016
Chiang Mai & Golden Triangle
Trip code: TTAG-O
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2016
Experience the serenity of northern Thailand while exploring the notorious Golden Triangle region. Beginning and ending in the charismatic city of Chiang Mai, the trip takes you to explore the Chiang Dao Caves before arriving at a charming town of Doi Mae Salong. The region is famous for its Chinese tea traders and you can enjoy a cup of tea in a traditional Chinese tea house overlooking the mountains. Then, make tracks to the Golden Triangle and stand on the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers. Uncover facts and fables about the region’s chequered history, visit the Opium Hall. Enjoy bold landscapes and tuck into mouth-watering regional dishes, before ending the adventure soaking in the hot-springs of Mae Ka Chan. This short break covers many highlights of the less-frequented northern reaches of Thailand, making it a must-do for travellers who want to dig beneath the surface of this enthralling country.
TRIP CHANGES FOR 2016:
Following the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej a 1 year mourning period has been declared in Thailand. In the first 30 days all government offices will fly the Thai flag at half-mast and there will likely be restrictions on the opening hours or selling of alcohol at entertainment venues including pubs and clubs. If your trip is before mid-January 2017 and includes a visit to the Grand Palace, this activity will be replaced with an alternative as the Palace will be closed to tourists while people from all over Thailand pay their respects to the King. Your leader will discuss this and any other changes with you at the Group Meeting on Day 1. As this is an emotional time for Thailand and its people we ask that our travellers wear dark coloured clothing over the next 30 days as a mark of respect to the much loved King.
Table of Contents
Is this trip right for you?
- This Short Break Adventure is a ‘join in’ group departure, which means you are not accompanied by an Intrepid group leader – our local representative fills this role – and the configuration of any fellow travellers in the group might change during the trip.
- This trip will run with a minimum of one person, so you may be joined by other travellers booked on the same date as you, or you may be on your own.
- This trip starts early on Day 1 and finishes late on Day 3. Therefore we recommend you book pre and post accommodation in Chiang Mai in conjunction with this trip. Our sales team can assist with these extra nights.
Why we love it
- Journey into the countryside north of Chiang Mai on this short trip and experience the Golden Triangle, the infamous area where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet
- Discover rural village life with an overnight stay in Doi Mae Salong, a beautiful region up in the mountains where tea is grown and local hilltribe people come to sell their crafts in the town market
- No trip to Chiang Rai would be complete without a visit to the funky White Temple. Check out the startling modern design, and see where traditional Thai art and murals are broken up with pop culture references
Day 1 Chiang Mai/Doi Mae Salong
This morning you’ll be picked up from the joining point hotel by your local guide between 8am-9am, along with other travellers in your group. If you prefer to be picked up from a different, centrally located Hotel in Chiang Mai, please advise your sale agent at least 14 days before your departure date. Set off by road to the Golden Triangle region, the area where Thailand meets Myanmar and Laos. Your private minivan/car (depending on numbers) will head first to Chiang Dao Caves (approximately 1.5 hours). Explore the set of five interconnected caves that make up Chiang Dao, thought to expand more than 12 kilometres into Doi Chiang Dao Mountain. The caves are among the most extensive in the county and are associated with Wat Chiang Dao, and so are a popular pilgrimage spot for both monks and ordinary Thais. The caverns contain hermit images, a reclining Buddha, rock formations, and also a royal coat of arms to mark the visit of the Thai Queen. You’ll then continue on to the charming small town of Doi Mae Salong (approximately 3 hours). The atmosphere here is reminiscent of a small southern Chinese village, and the region is famous for its Chinese tea traders – so enjoy a cup of tea in a traditional Chinese tea house overlooking the mountains and tea fields. In the late afternoon there is time to explore the interesting markets, where you may see produce and crafts made by hilltribe people like the Akha. Please note sometimes in the low season the markets will close early. You’ll stay overnight here in Doi Mae Salong.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Golden Triangle
After breakfast, jump in a private minivan/car and visit the point of the Golden Triangle, where the Thailand, Myanmar and Laos borders meet. Stop at the border town of Mae Sai (approximately 1.5 hours), the most northern town in all of Thailand. It’s a great place to do some souvenir shopping; full of colourful shops stacked with Myanmar lacquerware, gems, jade and other goods from Laos and China, all at some of the best prices around! Enjoy lunch overlooking the mighty Mekong River and then pay a visit to the House of Opium Museum for a deeper insight into opium culture and this area’s problematic, drug-filled past. This afternoon climb on board a longtail boat and travel on the Mekong River to the old city of Chiang Saen, the ancient capital of the Lanna Kingdom. On the way there is a chance to step foot into Laos. Chiang Saen is surrounded on three sides by impressive ramparts, with the Mekong forming the fourth wall. Ruins lie around this charming one-street market town of quiet wooden shophouses. The town is also famous for the local rice whiskey sold from distilleries on the banks of river. From here you will travel south from the Golden Triangle to Chiang Rai (approximately 75 minutes), where you’ll spend the night.
- Golden Triangle - Opium Hall
- Golden Triangle - Khong River boat trip
Hotel (1 nt)
1 breakfast, 1 lunch
Day 3 Chiang Mai
Chiang Rai boasts a relaxed atmosphere, a great night market, and a variety of good restaurants. This charming city has a small-town feel and is a great place to explore on foot. For many, the privately owned Wat Rong Khun, more commonly known as the enjoy a hot spring White Temple, is a must-visit. Travel approximately 30 minutes out to this contemporary temple, started in 1997 and expected to be a work in progress for another 60 to 70 years. The temple is constantly being added to and its strange design features references to Buddhist mythology, human sin and pop culture icons such as Michael Jackson, Harry Potter and Superman. You will then journey 70 minutes to Mae Ka Chan Hot Springs, with a lunch stop along the way. Although oddly located in the 'car park', the springs offer an opportunity to take a relaxing soak, and/or enjoy a foot massage 'fish spa style', whilst munching on quail eggs which have been cooked in the heat of the waters. After enjoying the hot springs you’ll hop back on the bus and return to Chiang Mai, the journey taking about 1.5 hours and arriving back at around 5pm.
Notes: Please note no accommodation is included tonight.
- Wat Rong Kun (white temple)
- Mae Ka Chan hot springs
- Mae Ka Chan Hot Spring Egg Boiling
1 breakfast, 1 lunch
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
Age restrictions apply to this trip - minimum age 5.
Chiang Dao Caves
Golden Triangle - Opium Hall
Golden Triangle - Khong River boat trip
Wat Rong Kun (white temple)
Mae Ka Chan hot springs
Mae Ka Chan Hot Spring Egg Boiling
1. This Short Break Adventure starts at 8am on Day 1 and finishes at 5pm on Day 3.
2. You will be picked up on Day 1 from the Joining Point Hotel listed in the Essential Trip Information for this itinerary. Pick-up will take place between 8am and 9am in the Hotel foyer..
3. If you require pick up from another centrally-located hotel in Chiang Mai, please inform your booking agent at least 14 days prior to departure.
Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
Please note many of our Short Break Adventures operate with a minimum of 1 person, so there may be instances where you are the only person on the trip.
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in your selected accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for your arrival, especially if you're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible, which means you won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, you can store your luggage and explore the new destination.
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
While travelling with us you'll have the opportunity to experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility.
2 breakfasts, 3 lunches
When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).
We recommend USD80 for meals not included.
The official currency of Thailand is the Baht (THB).
The most convenient and cheapest way to obtain local currency is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or Bancomat. ATMs are now available in most towns and visa cash advances are available in major banks. Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange, clean bills in small denominations are most useful. Traveller's cheques can be difficult to change. The use of credit cards is restricted, mainly to major hotels.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you bring an extra USD500 for emergencies (e.g. natural disasters or civil unrest). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to our itineraries, and we can’t guarantee there won’t be some extra costs involved.
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Although can be difficult to source we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier.
The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$1. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
Local guides: We suggest US$2-3 per day for local guides.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest US$1-2 per day for drivers.
In total, we recommend you budget approx US$5-10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
The aim of our local guides is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. On this Short Break Adventure you will get to enjoy the variety of having someone different for each day and/or activity. They will be able to provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and, where possible, introduce you to our local friends. You can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
In addition to any included activities on your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. Our local representative may be able to assist you with available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that our local representative has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Imperial Mae Ping
153 Sridonchai Road
Phone: 66 (0)53283900
Fax: 66 (0)53270181
Joining point instructions
You will be picked up on Day one from the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel between 8am and 9am. If you wish to be picked up from a different, centrally located hotel, please advise your booking agent at least 14 days prior to travel.
We recommend pre accommodation at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel
Imperial Mae Ping
153 Sridonchai Road, Chang Klan, Chiang mai
Tel: +66 53 283 900
Should you need to contact our office for any Hotel pick up changes, please email Res_Thailand@intrepidthailand.com at least 48hours before the trip departure or for any urgent last minute changes call +66 2 282 2863 during business hours. We also have an afterhours number +66 898 103 722. Please note that the afterhours number is only for emergency calls and is unable to take any last minute joining point confirmations.
Imperial Mae Ping
153 Sridonchai Road
Phone: 66 (0)53283900
Fax: 66 (0)53270181
Finishing point instructions
You will be dropped off at your centrally located hotel.
As a general rule most countries expect that your passport has a minimum of 6 months validity remaining. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking and airline tickets. Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Your consultant will contact you when this is required.
Take a copy of the main passport pages and other important documents with you, and leave another copy at home with family or friends.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.
If entering by air most nationalities will be granted a 30 day stay on arrival.
If entering by a land border, you will be granted a 15 day stay only (some exceptions are citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Japan who are eligible for 30 day visa at land borders). A visa extension can be obtained in Thailand at an immigration office for approx. 2000THB or alternatively you can apply for a Thailand visa in advance from your embassy or consulate that will allow a 30 day stay when entering at an overland border.
If planning to enter Thailand via a land border multiple times during your travels, we recommend you pre-obtain a 60 day multiple entry visa from you embassy or consulate before you travel rather than attempting to obtain a visa at the border on multiple occasions which may result in being denied re-entry into the country.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
Rare instances of dengue fever have been reported in this region. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn.
Thailand is experiencing ongoing transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus and we advise all travellers to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Given possible transmission of the disease to unborn babies, and taking a very cautious approach, pregnant women should consider postponing travel to Thailand or talk to their doctor about possible implications.
Please see further information about the Zika virus (and our current cancellation/change policy) on our safety page of the Intrepid website at http://www.intrepidtravel.com/contact-us/safety
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the trip until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by our local representative.
If you have credit card insurance our local representative will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact telephone number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader or local representative has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller.
When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in the predominantly hot Asian climate. In many rural areas in Asia women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
ELEPHANT PERFORMANCES & ELEPHANT RIDING:
While we respect each individual’s decisions while travelling, Intrepid does not include elephant rides or unnatural performance activities on any itinerary, and we recommend you bypass these activities should they be offered to you during your stay. Professional wildlife conservation and animal welfare organisations, including the World Animal Protection (formerly the World Society for protection of Animals) advise that contrary to common belief, captive elephants remain wild animals and despite good intentions, unfortunately many venues are unable to provide the appropriate living conditions elephants require and this ultimately impacts their well-being. While there is some merit in the argument that the money that you pay for the activity goes towards keeping the elephants and their mahouts employed, we know that it also fuels demand for elephants to be captured in the wild or captive bred. We thank you for your support in improving the welfare of these majestic creatures. Further information is available on the below link:
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Thailand include:
* Friends of the Asian Elephant aims to protect and conserve the welfare of elephants - both domesticated and wild. FAE's elephant hospital provides free medical care and transportation, and is in the process of establishing a nursery in an effort to reduce the high infant mortality rate of domesticated working elephants.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.