The early New Year traffic allowed our bus to quickly leave Chiang Mai and soon we were winding along small roads through a scenic paradise. The bus seemed like an old diner inside. The ceilings were highly polished, giving lots of views not normally seen inside a bus.
Rice fields began to appear between bamboo, banana and teak forests. People were picked up and dropped off as our bus headed towards the Myanmar border. After three and a half hours, we were two of the last people left on the bus as it rolled into the small border town of Tha Ton, the first Thai town that the Mae Kok River enters after leaving Myanmar (Burma). We were to now catch a long tail boat for a river ride to Chiang Rai. The boats are called long tails due to the long propeller shaft. My guess is that this is needed as the Mae Kok runs low at certain times of the year. Our river captain had to navigate sand bars, hidden boulders and small rapids as we enjoyed the sites:
Monks & Monasteries
After an hour riding, our captain pulled over for a quick rest and stretch.
Two and a half hours later we finally arrived at a dock outside of Chiang Rai. Fortunately, a taxi driver talked us into a ride to town. We had been under the impression that the boat dock would be near the town center. If we had walked, the route would have been long, dull and dusty. The taxi dropped us off at the Akha River House, sister to the Akha Hill House which would be our final destination of the day.
A quick rest found us again piling into a moving vehicle. This time, we stood in the back of a pick-up truck with eight others as it carried us through breathtaking hills to the Akha Hills House. The lush green was quite vibrant around us and sparkled in the evening light as we passed bamboo in all stages of growth. (I just learned that bamboo first grow its wood stalk straight up. It is only later that side shoots with leaves appear. At this point, the bamboo can be many meters in height.)
As we approached the Akha village, the jungle scenery gave way to neat plantations of tea.