Four days, three countries in the Mekong Region

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Nok Air takes cyclists on a whirlwind tour of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos

LOW-COST AIRLINE Nok Air recently organised its last bike trip of 2015 taking a group of some 80 travellers – admittedly not all of them cyclists – on a tour that stretched over Thailand’s borders into Myanmar and Laos.

Our journey into the unknown begins after lunch at Malet Cha Restaurant inside the Tea Oil and Plant Oils Development Centre in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district, which is operated by the Chaipattana Foundation.

Passing the Thai-Myanmar Border Gate into Tachilek, we cycle 3.5 kilometres to the Shwedagon Pagoda and Rakang Temple, pay our respects to the much-revered Buddha images and visit the market before cycling back into Thailand.

Our next foray takes us from Mae Sai to Chiang Saen, a distance of 30 kilometres, where we stop at the Golden Triangle viewpoint and look out over fields once planted with the opium poppy. Here too, we pay our respects to Phra Buddha Nawa Lan Tue, a massive bronze Buddha image that weighs 69 tons and measures 9.99 metres wide and 15.99 metres tall.

nok3We stay in Chiang Saen overnight and ride through the historic route to Wat Pa Sak, which was located outside the old city’s walls but is today part of this northern town. The temple has undergone numerous restorations over the centuries, including significant enhancements by Lanna rulers in the 15th century. The best-preserved part of the temple complex is its elaborate chedi, which stands 12.5 metres high and boasts a base measuring 8 metres. We also admire Wat Phra That Chedi Luang, which is famed for its bell-shaped, Lanna-style main chedi 88 metres high and 24 metres wide.

We are treated to the typical northern khantoke-style lunch at Baan Tha Khan Thong next to the MekongRiver and are entertained by traditional Isaan performances of “mor lam” and “mor khaen” before looking at a weaving demonstration and visiting plantations growing passion fruit and Inca peanuts.

Our next cycling trip takes us 25 km to Chiang Khong where we enjoy a Lanna-style dinner together with traditional music at Luelaikham textile and fabric museum. It’s the brainchild of Suriya Wongchai, who has amassed Lue textiles and traditional costumes by buying old clothes from Lue villagers and turned his two-storey house into a tribute to the Lue people and their unique culture.

The next day we load our bikes on a long-tailed boat and cross the river to Huay Xai in Laos before pedalling to Fort Carnot, which was built by the French at the beginning of the last century. Two towers still remain standing and we climb to the top of one of them. Our second stop is Wat Chom Khao Maneerat, the biggest temple in the area, but all too soon we are back in Thailand and on the road from Wiang Kaen to Pha Tang. Bad weather hits before we are halfway through the 40-km journey and we are ordered to stop.

Vans take us onwards to Pha Tang where we enjoy a hearty Yunan-style dinner and sleep soundly, only to wake to a spectacular sea of fog at Doi Pha Bong and Doi Pha Tang.


Source: The Nation

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