Our best day in Thailand.
Chiang Mai Travel Blog› entry 73 of 251 › view all entries
May 21st, 2008 – by: cmgervais
Our driver, Deer (same guy as two days ago), came for us at 10am. But Steve had a surprise work issue to take care of, and couldn’t leave! He didn’t know how long it would take, so I decided to do a mini trip in the meantime. I hoped that he would be able to go later, and didn't want to go too far.
So off we went to Wiang Kum Kam, the site of the “original” Chiang Mai (the city was moved in about 1297 due to flooding in the original city.
I had the option of seeing the area by horse carriage (200 baht) or by bike (20 baht!). I choose the latter (exercise!) and set off by myself in the hot sun. The bike would have been the perfect size for me, back when I was 8 years old.
I was on a regular road (with some traffic, and lots of dogs…one of whom chased me!), there were few road markings, and my map was not too good. I just could not correlate my position on the map to where I was, so for the first 20 to 30 minutes I was very worried about getting lost (highly precedented). Then I “discovered” Ku Khao, a crumbling brick temple -- I had somehow traveled from the extreme southwest of my map to the extreme northeast!
From there I figured it out, and rode on the narrow roads from site to site.
Just as I was wondering how to make my way back to the bicycle rental I got a text message -- Steve was ready to go! So he called Deer to pick him up while I tried to find my way back. Somehow I made it, and spent the 10-minute wait viewing the free museum. (It wasn’t that great.)
The drive to the park seemed like it would be through a continuous suburban sprawl, but then we broke free of all that, and started driving steadily up, through forested land. It reminded me of Canada! And the pine smell brought me right back home to Minnesota.
Our first stop was at the path above Wachirathan Waterfall. The temperature had definitely cooled, and we brought our rain jackets “just in case.” I almost immediately fell on a mossy step, banging my camera and my elbow (both are fine now). About 2 minutes later, another slip and near fall! Everything was damp and extremely slippery, and the scenery was so nice it was hard to look down for too long. It was a gorgeous hike along a rapid flowing river that ended at a spectacular waterfall. Along the way, we passed no one, nor were there any souvenir stands to be found. It was just perfect.
We had lunch at a café in the parking lot on Deer’s recommendation. The place didn’t look like much, but it was, of course, completely delicious. Every dish was under $1 (25 baht actually).
We made several stops in the park -- three waterfalls, a couple temples, and some really beautiful (but short) nature trails. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for the longer, guided, nature hike (about 2 hours). The park is big destination for bird watchers… they have 362 species of bird and I somehow managed to see (or notice) only one of them. I tried to get a shot (for JZ :^) but I had the wrong camera and the little guy would just NOT sit still!
There was a nice sign at the “highest point in Thailand” and we tried to do a self-portrait in front of it. It wasn’t working, but a monk offered to take the photo for us...cool. What I really wanted a photo of him taking our picture! We bought t-shirts there at the highest point (So OK, they had one or two souvenir shops -- but they were hidden and very low key), and I had a really good latte and a coffee stand hidden in the woods.
On the drive home, we had a nice conversation with Deer, and learned a lot about Thai customs in just about every aspect (schooling, weddings, funerals, you name it). He and Steve also talked at length about whiskey, and I may have dozed off.
We ended the day completely exhausted from all that fresh air and exercise. What a great day! This was our last full day in Thailand, and we really couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend it.
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