Day 10 - 12
We caught the local bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao. We were the only foreigners travelling on the bus, although the bus conductor did not speak good English, we were able to get him to understand that we needed him to tell us where to get off, this being our first visit to Thailand. The bus journey cost 40 baht, bargain! We arrived at Chiang Dao and was immediately greeted by a friendly lady who had a songthaew to take us to our guesthouse. I have to admit that the town was not what appealed to us travelling to this part of the country, however I had fell in love from what I had read about Chiang Dao Nest 1. Luckily it did not disappoint, it was so beautiful and peaceful. It was located up a country road which had little traffic and had a back drop of mountains and lush vegetation. As our room was not ready when we arrived, we had a bite to eat in the restaurant on site. The staff are very attentive, the food is excellent and I understand that people travel far to sample their food. Next to the restaurant are thatched gazebos where you can lounge around and take in the fantastic scenery. After lunch, we walked to the local temple, Wat Tham Pha Plong which has 510 steps to climb. There was only a handful of other tourists visiting the temple so was very quiet. We then headed to the caves which is about 15 minutes walk from Chiang Dao Nest 1. There are obviously snakes in the area as we came across 2 snake skins on the road on the way to the caves (between 12 - 18 inches long). When we got to the caves we hired a guide, you need to as it is pitch black in the caves and the guide has an oil lamp. Even with the oil lamp, it was still difficult to see as the guide was holding the lamp, I was walking directly behind her and hubby was behind me so alot of light was blocked out for him by us two ladies and he did bump his head a few times in the cave. A couple of times the cave really narrowed and we had to crouch down to get through parts of the cave. The guide showed us around and some rocks had the appearance of animals like elephants, lions etc but sometimes you did need to use your imagination! There were rocks looking like a waterfall and another like a lotus flower. When you get out of the caves, you can buy food and feed the huge fish which are swimming in a pool, the water comes from the mountain. We returned to our guest house and In the evening we enjoyed a lovely meal at Nest 1, at Nest 2 you can sample Thai food but we stuck with more Western style food.
We hired some bikes from Chiang Dao Nest 1 but did not get off to a very good start. Hubby had difficulty getting his bike seat at the right height. After assistance from a Thai gentleman, we set off on our journey. We had not got very far when hubby said his seat was moving and then it broke off from the bike completely. Thankfully, we had just passed Chiang Dao 2 where we managed to swap bikes for him. Only problem was his chain then fell off which he was able to put back on but not before getting his hands covered in oil! We eventually biked into town, we were provided with a map by the guesthouse but did miss a turning which is supposed to be pituresque. I was feeling really tired when we reached town (hadn't been feeling 100%) and did think about putting the bikes in the back of a songthaew back to Nest 1 but had an icecream which charged my batteries up. Saying that I did get off my bike a few times on the homeward jourey as it is quite hilly at times, perhaps hiring a motorbike might be a better option?.
We had arranged to be picked up at 8.15am by songthaew to take us to the bus station where we caught the bus and travelled 2 hours to Thaton where we caught a long boat to Chiang Rai. We were packed in like sardines, there must have been about 15 fellow travellers on the long boat along with all of our rucksacks and cases. We had to sit sideways on in the boat and were given a small square cushion which you had to decide whether to sit on or use it as a back cushion against the metal frame of he boat. It was not the most comfortable of rides but it was great fun, taking about 3 hours to reach Chiang Rai and I would definiately recommend doing this journey. Chiang Rai JBR to follow