Thailand
Chiang Mai Province

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  • Day119

    Merry Christmas Everyone!

    December 25, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    For anyone who wants to watch our “Celebrating Christmas in Thailand” parody on Winter Wonderland, just click here:
    https://youtu.be/bvfm-0dwKZ4

    (We can’t post the whole thing on the finding penguins platform...)

    Performance and lyrics by all of us
    Video by Chloë

    These are the lyrics:

    [In this land, the land of smiles
    We must shed our winter styles
    Our flip-flops are out
    As we walk about
    Celebrating Christmas in Thailand

    Lanterns shine in the twilight
    Kids all whine on Muay Thai night
    No traffic lights to be seen
    But there’s still red and green
    For celebrating Christmas in Thailand

    So this winter we can still wear tank-tops
    Though in temples girls must hide their knees
    At the corner we can buy some ice-pops
    ‘Cause it’s the only thing that makes us freeze

    Mosquitoes hum
    Our Christmas carols
    While we sweat
    By the barrel
    Our life’s full of cheer
    But we wish you were here
    Celebrating Christmas in Thailand

    Celebrating Christmas in Thailand
    Celebrating Christmas in Thailand ]

    Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday! Much love from the Paisley-Taylors
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  • Day126

    And a happy New Year !

    January 1, 2019 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    To ring in the New Year Chiang Mai-style, we headed to the Old City, stopping at a Wat to send our New Year wishes up into the sky via lantern. After the kids were in bed, Geoff and I snuck back out to join the party by the city moat. I can’t get enough of these lanterns. They are so beautiful (until the next morning when the streets are littered with ashes and metal rings!). Happy New Year everyone and best wishes for 2019!Read more

  • Day2

    Day 1 - The Long Haul to Thailand

    December 11, 2019 in Thailand ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    At 6.00am the taxi arrived to take us to Hickstead to connect to the National Express coach to Heathrow for our next trip. All pretty uneventful.

    Check in at Heathrow was quick but chaotic, then we boarded the Thai Airways A380 with 500 other passengers which included way too many paedophile or sex tourism old men for
    my liking. The 10 hour flight passed without incident. The service on Thai Airways was pretty good, much better than the last couple of times we had flown with Emirates.

    I had been looking forward to watching a couple of the inflight movies, but I managed to mislay my Thai Airways headphones despite hunting high & low around my seat for them. My personal earphones wouldn’t work in the seat socket, so I was reduced to watching bits & pieces on my iPad.

    As we commenced the descent into Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, Jackie found her airline headphones still in their cellophane wrapper in the seat pocket in front of her. She had spent the entire flight watching movies with my ‘missing’ headphones 🎧. Great - I’m alright Jack!

    After negotiating Immigration & Customs remarkably quickly we located the check in desks for VietJet Air & our internal flight to Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, we had a 50 minute wait for the check in to open for our flight, so we waited on the concourse amongst crowds of people, mainly elderly & excitable Thai women who had no concept of personal space or the etiquette of queuing.

    A couple of hours later, now tired & ratty we boarded the VietJet aircraft for Chiang Mai. Upon stepping foot on the plane, we were assaulted by the most infantile song imaginable that was on permanent repeat until takeoff. The song kept repeating the words happy happy happy & lucky lucky lucky. It felt like we were being tortured, I would have admitted to anything!

    I have since researched this song and it is called Fly For Love and is the official song for
    VietJet Air. It is on YouTube and is definitely worth a look. The outfits worn by the dancers in the video are in fact the exact same uniforms worn by the crew - Burberry berets & shorts with a red blouse.

    My research revealed a post on Globejotting.com that was titled ‘Why I’d Rather Stab Myself in the Eardrums than Fly VietJet’. It was a rant about the song that I couldn’t have put better myself!

    55 minutes later we touched down at Chiang Mai International Airport only for that bloody song to immediately start up again. Aaaaaaaah. With our ears bleeding, we hurried through
    the airport, where we met Neil, our Nepalese driver, who delivered us to our hotel just 15 minutes later.

    After checking into the Thannatee Boutique Hotel, we took our luggage up to our Colonial style room & opened up the rucksacks. To my horror, there had been a leakage in mine of some strange reddish brown fluid. Typically, it was 3 white linen shirts & a pair of linen trousers that were most affected with big soggy stains.

    What could have caused such a disaster? The bag of suntan lotions that Jackie had given to me to put in my rucksack. Luckily I wasn’t tired or ratty!

    After chucking them in a laundry bag & dropping them off at reception, we popped down the road & found a little shack, Mary’s Restaurant. It was just after midday, so we had a Pad Thai, a chicken & cashew nuts & a couple of large Chang beers each. Total bill less than £10.

    Around 2pm we returned to the hotel & slept through to 6pm. After a shower, we were back out on the streets of Chiang Mai. We walked down to the moat that surrounds the Old Town intending to just go where our fancy took us. Instead we saw a group of westerners who seemed to know where they were going, so we headed in the same direction.

    We walked down Thanon Sridornchai & stopped at a little market, NGFM Vol 2, set up in a park. A decent band was playing which had attracted a large gathering and we wandered round the market which was selling mainly vintage clothes at ridiculously cheap prices. £1.50 for t-shirts for example. Sadly we haven’t got any room in our rucksacks for anything else.

    We continued on to Le Dta’wan Market Street Food Chiangmai, which was selling all sorts of exotic foods. It was very tempting to stop, but we favoured on playing it a bit more safe on our 1st night. We would go back.

    We then headed up Thanon Changklan & turned into Anusarn Market Chiangmai. We negotiated the brightly lit stalls & rested our legs at a bar for a Chang beer🍺. We then moved to street food stalls of Changnoi Market & sat down with our beers. We ordered some chicken satay from one stall then a plate of mixed dumplings, called Gyozas 🥟 (pork, chicken & vegetables) from another. The Gyozas were sensational.

    We had a second beer and reflected on this being pretty much our idea of heaven. It is difficult to put our finger on exactly why, but it is the food, the smells, the sounds, the climate & the happy lovely people. Chiang Mai appears have all those Thai qualities, but is less busy, exceptionally clean and cheaper.

    Eventually we moved off turning left into Soi Loi Khoi where we located the girly bars. We both needed a wee & hunted for a suitable establishment to use the loo. We finally found what appeared to be an ideal venue, the Ba Ba Bo Bo Bar. I raced in & used the gents & came back out only to find Jackie still stood outside. The ladies didn’t have a door, but instead a few strands of plastic hanging down in the doorway and the toilet clearly visible for the whole bar to see. Strangely Jackie didn’t want to use it!

    We continued into the Old Town, which had all closed up for the evening & located Chiang Mai Gate Night Market, where Jackie had a wee & I had a banana pancake. We stopped for a beer on the way home and we were back in bed shortly after 11.00pm, knackered.

    Song of the Day - Fly For Love by VietJet.

    Happy happy happy lucky lucky lucky flying round the world for love on repeat.
    Read more

  • Day96

    Muay Thai Fight Night

    December 2, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    We have been taking Muay Thai classes twice a week at a local gym. The coaches are excellent with the kids and with Lara and I. Two of our coaches were scheduled to fight this evening so I headed out to a stadium in rural Thailand with a bunch of the gym regulars to support them. It was great to see these guys in action. There are many rituals that precede each bout including both fighters greeting their opponents corner. Each fight consists of 5 rounds, a round lasts two minutes for women and three minutes for men. There were a few fighters as young as 8yrs old competing before the more seasoned veterans were called up. What struck me the most is how much fun the fighters are having. Each round begins with a high-five and ends with a hug, and they joke with each other between punches and kicks. It is truly a sport and not the grizzly display of bravado I was expecting. The last thing they do after the fight is over is go and drink out of their opponents water cup. Fun night, and I learned enough to know that I won’t be entering a ring anytime soon. I value my bones and what’s left of my brian cells too much.
    - Geoff
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  • Day53

    Chiang Mai

    February 18 in Thailand ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    Sawasdee ka & Hello aus dem Land des Lächelns! 🙏🇨🇷

    Mer mälded eus nochere längerer Pause mol weder medemene Update vo eusere Reis.

    Noch Australie hemmer nämmli ned werkli vell Ziit zom döreschnufe gha, om alles Erläbte chli chönne z'ordne. Denn med Chiang Mai esch in Thailand bereits s negste Highlight agstande. Es komplett neus Land med andere Kulture, Brüüch, Ässe, Klima usw.

    Mer send währed 8 Nächt imene härzige, ruhige Resort onderbracht worde, in Mitte vo Riisfälder - öppe genau so wiemer sechs in Thailand vorstelle chan. De Papi vom Fabio wohnt sett guet 8 Johr bereits in Chiang Mai ond de Abstächer noch Thailand hemmer hauptsächlech wäge em gmacht. Chiang Mai esch ganz im Norde vo Thailand ond bekannt för die toll Natur, vell schöni Tämple & nätti Mönsche. Es gilt als "das wahre Thailand." Ganz was Anderes, als wiemers vom Süde här kennt.

    Mer hend eus as neue, sehr heisse Klima schnell dragwöhnt ond au de Food (vell Chicken ond Riiiis) hed eus sehr vell Freud bereitet.
    Zämegfasst chömmer säge, dass die Täg wie im Flog vergange send. Mer hend so vell erläbt, hend onderanderem traditonelli Ässensmärt ond idröcklechi Tämple (vorallem de Wiissi Tämpel in Chiang Rai) bsuecht. Hend so fein ond gönstig gässe, eus i onzählige Massage (1h för 6.-) lo verwöhne lo, hend en Elefantefarm bsuecht ond eus is Nachtläbe gworfe. Das send nor es paar vo vellne andere Highlights. Chiang Mai esch werkli en sehr abwächsligsriichi City ond hed för alli was bote. Medem Papi vom Fabio hemmer natürlich au de ideali, privati Reiseleiter gha, wo eus vell Insider-Tipps ond Erfahrige us sim Läbe in Thailand hed chönne wiitergäh. Osserdem semmer med sim Auto au super mobil gseh ond send schnell vo A noch B cho.
    Mer hend aber au die weniger schöne Siite chli müsse erfahre, Velles dreiht sech au im Norde Obe oms Gäld, Fraue ond d Korruption hed au done d Oberhand. So hemmer zom Bispel einisch en Buess med de Polizei diräkt chönne om 50% abeverhandle. Stelled euch mol so öppis ide Schwiiz vor! Osserdem esch d Loft dorch die velle Abgas vode Töff, Autos etc. chum zom erträge gseh. Wie chan das so nor wiitergo?

    Es send wekli Wälte zo Australie ond scho gar kei Verglich zode Schwiiz. Aber wemmer bi all dem au chli hinter d Fassade chan blicke, verstohd mer wieso velli Mönsche eso ticked. Das en Mehrheit med 300 Franke done muess im Monet uscho, ged eim scho sehr zdänke ond zeigt wie chli de Spalt zwösche Riichtom ond Armut leider esch. Omso schöner z'gseh, wie die Lüüt done trotzdem med sehr bescheidnige Mittel happy send ond eim emmer es Lächle zroggänd. Mer lehrts i dere Ziit vorallem omso meh weder z'schätze, wie guet mer's eigentlech deheime hend! Dass die meiste Problem wo mier hend, vellfach ebe eigentlech gar kei werklechi send. Das werd eim emmer weder bewosst wemmer i so ärmere Länder esch. Velli chöntet sech ächt en Schiibe vo de Läbensistellig vo do abschniide.

    Eus heds uf jedefall sehr guet gfalle, weder so vell neu Idröck, spannendi Erläbnis etc. & send aber glichziitig au froh, hemmer noch 9 Täg chönne wiiterzieh.
    Aktuell semmer in Bangkok, wo mer 2 Nächt verbrenged. Weder en riese Stadt wo mer sech locker au en Woche chönt verwiile. Trotzdem merked mer au, das mer doch au müed wärded ond nömme ganz so vell Energie hend. Morn gots aber zom Glöck wiiters uf Ko Samet, en Insle wo mer eus ide letschte 5 Nächt vo eusere Reis no einisch so rechtig chönt entspanne! Das chömmer bestemmt sehr guet bruche!
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  • Day109

    Hike to Hmong Hill Tribe Village.

    December 15, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

    Lara sent me off with the Doi Suthep Walkers early this morning. The Walkers are a collection of local hiking aficionados and the current Chiang Mai travellers lucky enough to stumble upon their Facebook page (myself included). We climbed for close to three hours to a small hill tribe village where we enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by one of the families from the village. It was fun to be out with other travellers and talk shop, although none of them were also escaping from their young children for the day. Hikers from our group represented England, Romania, Finland, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, Malaysia, China, and the good old US of A.
    - Geoff
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  • Day111

    Trying to find community...

    December 17, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    One of the things I love to do when travelling is find and join in local community activities - I find it especially rewarding when these include music or dance. In Thailand, of course, it has proven more challenging - the language barrier means I can’t read posters or do a thorough social media search. Here are the fruits of my labour so far... I learned a) outdoor local music shows don’t only get rained out in Ottawa, b) being an expat might be a bit like being at camp - lots of amateur performances amongst cliques, and c) a hearty sing-a-long hallelujah chorus is possible anywhere at Christmas time! - LaraRead more

  • Day4

    Day 2 - Shoes On, Shoes Off

    December 13, 2019 in Thailand ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Woke up at 3am & didn’t get back to sleep again, so read & did my blog as Jackie slept through.

    The plan was for today to be a cultural day to see Chiang Mai’s finest Temples. My Lonely Planet guidebook had a walking tour route that took in the highlights.

    Jackie insisted on wearing her Navratilovas, a relatively short skirt (that was probably too short for the temples) & trainers Apparently I was going to carry an entire wardrobe change in my rucksack, so she could dress appropriately only as & when necessary.

    Around 9am we went down for breakfast which included 4 espressos that had me physically buzzing, omelette, croissants, French Toast & fruit. So much for my promise to myself to stay off the bread. Jackie had curry.

    During breakfast I heard a couple enquiring about dress code for the temples and being told that women should have their shoulders covered & wear a skirt or trousers that came down below the knee. Fellas were just fine.

    This prompted a complete outfit change, Jackie changed into a pair of trousers, a different T-shirt & flip flops.

    Finally we got out & started walking down the street when I noticed that Jackie was wearing one blue & one yellow flip flop. She had been undecided which ones went better with the outfit. And I thought only someone as forgetful as Diane Abbott could make such a faux pas!

    Eventually with matching flip flops, we walked for about a mile to our first temple in the Old City, Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai’s most revered temple. Pilgrims flock here to venerate the famous Buddha known as Phra Singh (Lion Buddha) housed in a small chapel.

    We paid our 40 Baht (£1) each entrance fee and wandered the monastery grounds. There were about 6 lavish temples and buildings within the grounds which required us to remove our shoes prior to entry. I was already regretting my decision to wear my brand new trainers & tiny socks that kept rucking up under my soles.

    Wat Phra Singh was spectacularly colourful and shiny. Resident monks were in the temples chanting and praying and prayer joss sticks burnt. It all felt very spiritual. The strangest sight was seeing some visiting monks taking selfies in front of the gold coloured stupas.

    After looking at every single Buddha & image, we moved on to the next. I bought a pair of sensible ankle socks for 20 Baht, then we called into the temples of Wat Si Koet & Wat Thung Yu for several more shoe removals at each.

    Next we came across the very fancy Chiang Mai Police Station that had entered into the spirit of all things shiny with a gold statue outside the front door, then Wat Chai Phra Kiat for our not so favourite pastime.

    We continued to Wat Phan Tao, considered to be the most atmospheric wat in the city. The grounds were full of colourful fluttering flags & ribbons and the monastery (shoes off) interior is everything teak. Nice. Shoes on.

    Pretty much next door was Wat Chedi Luang & Lak Meuang, which required another 40 Baht entrance fee. Lak Meuang was a ‘men only’ affair so Jackie waited outside with all the other ladies, whilst I entered bare footed. I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about, but apparently Buddhist rules dictate that women are not allowed to enter and view the revered city pillar. I took a photo, which I would have shown Jackie if I thought she would’ve been remotely interested!

    We then continued into the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang with its enormous towering Lanna-style chedi. It was built in 1441 and is currently in ruins, but it is subject of a restoration project by UNESCO & weirdly the Japanese government. This was probably my highlight of the day.

    We visited all the temples without our shoes & contemplated talking to some monks. A group of monks were sat under a sign that read ‘Chat with monk’. Apparently they will tell you about their life as a monk & they benefit by practicing their English. I was up for it, but Jackie didn’t fancy it, not knowing what to ask them. I suggested she ask “Do you come here often?”

    Jackie wasn’t having any of it and instead busied herself by taking a photo for an American lady & writing a little message on a gold heart having paid a small donation.

    By now it was lunchtime, so we found a little Thai restaurant, Huan Chao Bua Tip, for a couple of beers. I had some not so great crispy dumplings & Jackie had a very spicy Tom Yum soup that made her sweat & cough, but apparently wasn’t too hot for her!

    Eventually we set off again, north up Soi Prapokklao to Wat Inthakhin Saduemuang, where we peered in from the steps, then looked at Anusawari Sam Kasat, a statue of the three Lanna Kings who founded Chiang Mai. At this location were three museums, that didn’t appeal to Jackie, so we looked at some weird art that was part of their annual Art Week that ran for 15 days!

    Our final temple of my walking tour was Wat Chiang Man, which is the oldest Wat in Chiang Mai founded around 1296. By now we were a bit ‘templed out’, so apart from going into the main temple, we just looked into the others from the doorway.

    We were now feeling totally knackered, my back & shoulders ached from carrying my rucksack, so we called it a day, walking about another mile back to our hotel. We did stop at Mary’s Restaurant for a much needed quick beer, then we fell asleep back in the room.

    At 7pm, we dragged ourselves out of bed & headed out for the evening. We headed towards the Ping River to check it out & see if we could find any river boat cruises. We didn’t.

    We then found Ploen Ruedee Night Market, which drew us in with the booming music of an extremely good rock band. They were playing on a large stage in front of loads of tables & chairs surrounded by food and drink vendors. It was really smart, so we bought a couple of large Changs & sat down to listen to the band, who covered Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi amongst others. My only gripe was that the beers were double the price we had been paying elsewhere.

    The nearest vendor to us was selling insects, including large scorpions. We bought a taster portion of fried crickets for 20 Baht & had our very own Bush Tucker Trial. Jackie could only stomach the one, but I pretty much finished the rest. We also had skewers of beef & chicken served up in bamboo sticks with an assortment of spicy dips.

    Sadly the rock band finished their set & a pop band took over singing swing & disco songs. Not so much our cup of tea, so we headed home & surprisingly stopped at Ba Ba Bo Bo Bar for a nightcap beer & cocktail & people watched. Jackie did eventually have to use the loo, but discovered that it did have a door on it after all.

    It was around midnight when we finally got to bed.

    Song of the Day - Temple of Love by Sisters of Mercy.
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  • Day4

    Day 3 - Heaven in a bowl

    December 13, 2019 in Thailand ⋅ 🌙 22 °C

    Woke up at 5am to the news that exit polls were predicting a massive win for the Tories, a humiliating defeat for Corbyn and best of all Jo Swinson to lose her seat. I then spent the next 4 hours monitoring the results as they came in on the BBC website.

    Around 9am, we had breakfast, Jackie had fish curry, then set up camp on the only 2 sun beds beside the pool at the rear of our hotel. Here I wrote my blog for Day 2 and we caught up with some admin & planned our movements after Chiang Mai.

    The result of our mornings endeavour was that we booked 2 train seats for the 10 hour journey from Chiang Mai to Ayuthaya on Tuesday morning. We have already been allocated our seats & Jackie is fretting because it doesn’t look like we are sitting together. We had intended to travel on the Monday, but worryingly the only train available got into Ayuthaya at 3.00am.

    As a result we have extended our stay in our current hotel for an extra night.
    Through the staff on reception at our hotel we have also booked a hire car for Saturday & a short cruise on the Mae Ping River on Monday.

    We have researched accommodation in Ayuthaya for 3-4 nights and discovered that the websites were showing that no trains were available to take us then on to Bangkok!

    Just after 2pm we headed out for lunch & decided upon a restaurant called Pakorn’s Kitchen, which we had seen people queuing to get in to on our 1st night. We sat at an outside table & ordered 2 beers, but were told they weren’t allowed to sell alcohol between 2 & 5pm. Seeing our disappointment, the waitress asked us if we wouldn’t mind drinking out of mugs- not at all. She returned with 2 large tea mugs filled with frothing Chang Beer.

    In their food menu was an article stating that CNN had declared the Thai Massaman Curry as being one of the Top 50 dishes in the World. It wasn’t clear if it was their Massaman curry or just Massaman curry in general. Either way they were clearly proud of their Massaman curry, so I ordered a beef one - as I always say “When in Rome.........." Jackie ordered a pork & chilli dish.

    After having our mugs surreptitiously refilled, our lunch arrived. The curry arrived in a huge bowl with chunks of succulent beef. The sauce was utterly heavenly and very nearly forced me into an involuntary Greg Wallace impersonation. This dish most definitely features in my Top 10 meals I have ever eaten & one that I am unlikely to ever forget.

    Jackie’s lunch was also nice, but she enhanced it with several spoonfuls of my special sauce. At the end of our meal, Jackie tried to discreetly steal the cloth pouch our cutlery had arrived in by sliding her specs into it. She got well & truly caught by the ladies on the next table who were laughing, pointing at her & exaggeratedly pretending to zip their mouths. We paid up & managed to evade capture!

    We then took a stroll around the backstreets in the vicinity of our hotel & ultimately found ourselves in the centre of a bustling locals food market with delicious looking stalls, apart from the one that sold pig bones that were all piled up with skulls & jaw bones clearly visible. We had a beer at a roadside shack to observe the hustle & bustle of local life.

    Later after getting ready for the evening, we headed out into the Old City without a specific plan. We entered the Old City via the Chiang Mai Gate & strolled around until we found Restaurant Kaow Tom 1B on Soi Ratchadumnoen. It was heaving with people including local Thais, so it must be good. TripAdvisor gives it rave reviews.

    We grabbed a vacant table at the front & ordered. Jackie had a prawn chilli dish & I ordered fried kale with crispy pork. Unfortunately it all arrived at the same time as our chicken satay starter, which is one of my pet hates. The satay was good, but both main courses were bland. I didn’t like to think which bits of the pig my slivers of pork were from, but it felt like a Bush Tucker Trial for a second day on the trot!

    On the way home, we stopped at Chiang Mai Gate Night Market & purchased a Nutella & banana crepe, which was not as good as the Thai pancakes, then finished with a nightcap at our local bar.

    Song of the Day - My Country by New Model Army. (Dedicated to the General Election Result).
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  • Day6

    Day 4 - Driving up into the Mountains

    December 15, 2019 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Woke up at 5.30am & wrote the previous days blog.

    Around 9am we went down to breakfast. I had the usual, apparently too much, and Jackie had green curry.

    At 9.50am we were waiting in the hotel reception for our hire car to arrive. Twenty minutes later, ten minutes late, our black Nissan hire car arrived. I filled in the paperwork with the guy & handed over 5,000 Baht (approx £125) as security. It was that or my passport, but I was too scared that it could get lost.

    We then went outside & inspected the car for current damage. It was riddled with minor scratches & dents, which he insisted on me photographing, but the reflection of the sun made it difficult to actually capture the damage on my camera. After, I signed my life away in which I was liable for the 1st 10,000 Baht’s worth of damage & he for any more after that.

    Paperwork complete, we headed out on to the chaotic Old City ring road & battled through the traffic. We headed north & did remarkably well in not making a wrong turn. We drove up to & through Mae Rim on the busy Highway 107, then turned left onto the scenic Route 1096. We were following a driving route recommended by my Lonely Planet guidebook.

    Our 1st stop was Mae Sa Waterfall that were just inside Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. We paid our 100 Baht each ‘foreigners’ entrance fee (also 30 Baht for the car) & drove in. Jackie was not amused that we had had to pay 100 Baht, when Thais only had to pay 20 Baht!

    The entrance fee was soon forgotten, when we parked up & set out along the path through lush rainforest to the waterfall. Mae Sa Waterfall is in fact a series of 10 cascades each about 150 metres apart that run down the rocky Mae Sa river from the San Doi Daen mountain ridge through the jungle. A concrete path ran alongside the cascades, which we followed to the very top. With the sun falling in shafts through the tree canopy it made for a very atmospheric hike, particularly as there were very few other visitors, just hundreds of butterflies.

    Below each cascade was a pool, some of which permitted swimming, but we gave it a miss. I was however on the way down forced to wash my feet in a pool, because I had used the bathroom & inexplicably obeyed the sign requesting me to take my adventure sandals off before entering. I realised I had made a massive mistake when I was suddenly wading in god knows what to get to the urinals!

    Upon returning to the car, we continued along the 1096, passing numerous elephant camps, to our 2nd scheduled stop, Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden. I pulled up to the entrance hut & declared I wished to pay for 2 adults. The young cashier asked “Is that for senior citizens?” Quite taken aback, I enquired what age qualified for senior citizenship & she said “60”. Instead of lying & paying the discounted fee, I indignantly informed her that I was only 55 & needed to pay the full 100 Baht each. We drove in leaving her with a fit of embarrassed giggles.

    Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden covers an area of 1,000 hectares & is situated in the foothills of Doi Suthep-Pui. Our 1st stop was the Canopy Walk that was a 400 metre long raised metal walkway high above the jungle below. The biggest problem for me might have been the height, but instead it was getting past the hoards of locals who were taking photos of each other every step of the way. The stupid thing was that they could have been anywhere, because they didn’t actually look out over the canopy. Potentially we could have seen Draco Maculatus, a flying lizard, unique to Doi Suthep mountain, but we didn’t.

    We drove on to the Glass House complex and viewed an array of plants in different categories. Interesting, but not anything we hadn’t seen before. The best bit was the scenery surrounding it all.

    After, we stopped for lunch which consisted of just a Cornetto, Jackie had Strawberry & I had Black Hojicha, which I later found out it is a black tea. The ice cream was grey & it had a black charcoal cone. It wasn’t that nice.

    Time was moving on so we continued our trip. Next stop was due to be the Hmong village of Nong Hoi. Annoyingly the description of the route to get there was non-existent, so we made an educated guess & ended up in some private estate with tepees & a lake, that gave the impression of being the home of some sort of cult. We drove around the lake & saw people tending the grounds but no one stopped us. We were clearly in the wrong place so we drove back out again.

    We had another go up a road on the other side of the 1096 & crawled high up the mountain only for the fuel warning light to come on, hence we abandoned that idea. Back on the 1096 we were relieved to find a petrol station & we put in 200 Baht, which only took the level back to where we started.

    We continued to a hotel called Proud Phu Fah, which was recommended for it’s views from the restaurant . We chose not to stop but continued the route as described by Lonely Planet. We climbed a steep windy mountain road through stepped coffee fields for about 5 miles until we were certain we weren’t on the right road again. One bonus was that we had to stop in the road for an elephant and his trainer to cross.

    We were forced to retrace our route back to the Proud Phu Fah hotel & get back on the 1096, then picked up Route 1269 and swung around the mountain ridge back to Chiang Mai, where we hit total gridlock. The Saturday market was causing absolute chaos on the roads back to our hotel. On the way, we stopped for more fuel & being a total tight arse, I put in just an extra 100 Bahts worth which didn’t get the fuel gauge back to where it needed to be. Bugger, I’d have to go back out again in the morning.

    We got back to the hotel around 6.30pm & after freshening up went straight back out again. We headed for the famous Saturday Walking Market in Th Wualai just up the road from us. As anticipated it was heaving with stalls selling food, clothes & novelty handmade goods of every description with an even more heaving mass of locals & tourists browsing. The market was essentially one very long narrow road with a river of people flowing in both directions & occasionally crashing into each other. Amongst these masses were schoolgirls, blind guitarists & others weirdos busking. It was all Jackie’s idea of hell!

    We looked at Wat Srisuphan, the silversmiths temple & discovered we had to pay, so decided to visit another time. We bought a Chiang Mai spicy pork sausage that tasted of satay. Luckily we finished it just before a man with such severe facial burns walked past that he made Simon Weston look like he was just suffering a mild sun burn.

    Feeling slightly queasy & having had enough of the market, we left in search of somewhere to eat without the crowds. As it happened our favourite Massaman curry restaurant was open but entirely empty, so we couldn’t resist the opportunity to do it all over again. It was just as good as before, but if I had to find fault, the beef was slightly fatty. On the way home we stopped for a nightcap & had a relatively early night.

    Footnote : Doi Suthep and Doi Pui are two of Northern Thailand’s most sacred peaks.

    Song of the Day - Holy Mountain by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.
    Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Chiang Mai Province, เชียงใหม่

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