Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai

We started with a four hour drive up the AP7 to just outside Barcelona, where we stayed overnight at Can Panyella Hotel, in order to catch the 10.30 flight to Singapore from Barcelona Airport

Can Panyella Hotel has the advantage of hands on, very helpful, owners. It is only a couple of minutes off the motorway, and we found it a convenient stop for the early flight from Barcelona Airport. The owners got up at 7 a.m. to give us breakfast. They also run the adjoining restaurant which serves reasonable meals The bedrooms are modern and comfortable. The room, dinner and breakfast (including wine with dinner) was 112€, which illustrates the value for money of the place The only negative point was that the entire surrounding area is an industrial estate, so there are no little walks in the area, and I do not think I would stay for more than 1 night. Having said that , it was perfect for the one night stop for the airport. And would also be good for a layover for the night on a long north/south motorway trip. The hotel is much better than you could expect for the price. Having said that, I think, as we can afford to spend more on a hotel, then I would stay at the Wine Hotel that we have used before, which costs more than twice as much, but is much more luxurious

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It was under an hour to the Airport from the hotel, and although there were many diversions to get to Victoria Parking (due to the construction of an Amazon mega sized distribution warehouse) , we made the plane comfortably. We then flew Singapore Airlines from Barcelona to Chiang Mai. The Boys took the opportunity to get to grips with the local news


From Chiang Mai it takes some 6 hours to drive to Chiang Rai . We therefore needed an overnight stop in Chiang Mai. This was at 137 Pillars hotel - on TripAdvisor and 9.2 on Booking.

This small boutique hotel was one of the most luxurious hotels that we stayed at on this trip. I am not an aficionado of butlers, but you are allocated one when you arrive, and many people on TripAdvisor have spoken of using the butler's services. Oddly they wanted my credit card on check in, even though the room had been booked and paid in advance by our travel agent - this was the only hotel in 5 weeks of travel in the region that wanted a credit card on arrival. .

Our bedroom was large, and romantically "teaky". In other words lots of dark, teak wood in it. The bathroom was modern and had a pedestal "old style" bath. Plus indoor and outdoor showers. An interesting swimming pool. The hotel is within walking distance of a number of local restaurants, but we chose to eat in. More expensive, but more convenient. I was not impressed with the service in the restaurant. There did not seem to be anyone in charge. I was NOT impressed when signing bar or restaurant bills that they added a service charge, and then left a further space for "tips" as well. Maybe OK for Americans, but not Europeans In spite of a few failings, it is a very nice hotel, and I enjoyed our stay

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We departed from Chiang Mai after breakfast and headed north with our guide and driver to the picturesque, mountain town of Chiang Dao. There is one of the King's Royal Projects here with a restaurant by a small lake. We continuied on to Thaton Temple before reaching the Golden Triangle via tea plantations which are Chinese owned - that is ethnic Burmese Chinese. In fact the next small town, Doi Mae Salong, has many Chinese pattern houses and a sprinkling of red Chinese lanterns. The town was established just over 60 years ago, and was established as the home to the 5th Regiment of the lost 93rd division of the Chinese Nationalist army. Following the Chinese civil war, remnants of the anti-communist Kuo Ming Tang, refusing to surrender, escaped to Myanmar before finally seeking asylum in this small pocket of Northern Thailand. And then we dropped down from the mountains to reach our destination.

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We stayed for two nights just outside Chiang Rai among the rice paddys at Manee Dheva Resort - on Tripadvisor and 8.7 on Booking. This is probably a hotel that you would either love or hate. You get one of 10 private villas, each set on stilts and surrounded by rice paddies. Oddly the reception/dining/swimming pool is 600 metres from the villas - there does not appear to be a good reason for this, but the hotel is stuck with that layout. You can phone for a golf cart to take you back and forth, and at night tend to need it to get back from the restaurant. The individual villas are large, perfectly adequate,but not luxurious, and have large terraces to sit out on. Our terrace looked out onto a hedge, so a lot of chair moving was necessary to get the lovely paddy field view. The hotel is so remote that you have to eat in their restaurant, which has a lovely setting. The service was friendly but lacking in training. The food at dinner and breakfast was middle of the road, but not expensive. Internet connection is only at reception and restaurant, and not in the villas. It was slow and weak. But was available most of the time The hotel makes a good base for exploring the Golden Triangle. The French manager avoided us until we were leaving, then had a few words with us. I did not rate the hospitality a good. So, if you have read my critique, you will see why I say it is a hotel you could love or hate. We enjoyed our stay here, but with a few improvements it could have been superb

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The next day, after breakfast, we were taken to Mae Sai a bustling trading town at the northernmost border between Thailand and Myanmar - this is The Golden Triangle. This tiny area is a cultural melting pot of hill tribe minorities, Burmese, Thai and Laotian travellers all crossing its borders. At one time it had a fierce reputation for drug wars and opiate traders

Wat Pa Sak

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And a trip in a long tail boat on the Mekong. We declined the visit to a Laotian Island - it looked a bit of a tourist trap, and Chris was having difficulties getting in and out of the low boat. I thought that the boat trip was a bit too "touristy"

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On to Keng Tung

Burma Holiday