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Thai Tidbits #1 & the Joys of Jermsak

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Thai Tidbits #1 & the Joys of Jermsak

Thai Tidbits Part 1 and the Joys of Jermsak

Our travel in Thailand (11/27-12/15 2011) was going to be the culmination of a 9 week journey that began Oct.12 and included a reunion in Guilin and Nanning with our Chinese “sons and daughters”….our 2006 GXNU students , followed by 2 weeks in Laos , and then 2 weeks in Cambodia. 1970 was the last time we visited Bangkok and Chiang Mai, so returning held much excitement for us.

DH and I agreed that by the time we landed in Thailand, we wanted to do less navigating. Jermsak seemed to “fit the bill”. With 50+ years of independent travel behind us, I couldn’t help but think ”Will we tire of him?’ or more likely “Will he tire of these two old folks who march to their own drum?”

Not to worry !! Jermsak is a real caring human being who is smart,,intelligent , knowledgeable,insightful , humorous , energetic and a very careful driver. His focus is to make sure whoever he is with is having THE best experience possible.

We left Phnom Penh on Sunday,11/27. Our international flight on Bangkok Airways was enjoyable and when we landed in Bangkok we then had 2 hours to make our connection to Chiang Rai on Thai Airways. I had minor concerns before the fact, but it really was a “piece of cake”. BKK is easy to navigate. All arrivals come in at Floor 2 and domestic departures are on Floor 4.

We were picked up at Chiang Rai airport by the guest house we had pre-booked for 4 nights. When we arrived at our room we began to doubt that this would meet our needs for the stay in CR. I was truly thinking positively, but on the way to the Night Bazaar we checked out 2 other places just in case we needed to make a change. BTW, the stall food was just fine and the open air setting pleasant.

Jermsak arrived on at 8: 30 AM 11/28. We informed him that our first order of business was finding a place to stay for 3 nights. He took us to the Wiang Inn and while it was 3X the price of our original booking, it was more than 10X the value. This was what we needed. I’ve done a review of the Wiang Inn. “A terrific find” 5/5. By 9:45 AM we were ready to “hit the road”.

Air was driving the van and the “other woman” turned out to be Jermsak’s wife, our cook for the day. Our first stop was at a Buddhist Meditation Center with steps leading to a cave temple. The cave was closed, but the whole area was serene and beautiful. Definitely a 9+. Brought back memories of visits to Kripala in Massachusetts,USA. Hated to leave, but we were looking forward to the rest of our day! The Elephant camp was next on the agenda and although we had been on elephants through the years we “got with the program”. The Mahout had a hard time controlling the elephant, but we made it up the hill and Jermsak derived much joy in taking photos of us. One comment about the Elephant Ride: one leg goes over an iron bar and it would be nice if it was cushioned for comfort. I don’t think any of them are. Did meet a couple from Pittsburgh while there and we bumped in to them again at the Clock Tower. I have NO doubt we will see them in Colorado. Isn’t that what travel is about????

Rafting on the Mae Kok followed. And what a ride it was!!!!! Definitely a 10+ AND the highlight of our day. We stopped at the Suspension bridge and Jermsak lead the way to a LAHU village. REALLY enjoyable. When we arrived back at the raft, a feast awaited us. Jermsak’s wife had grilled chicken, then prepared a dish with chicken and cashews, followed by delicious fried vegetables and chicken. Is Jermsak’s wife a great cook?????? You bet she is and we didn’t fail to remind him of that for the next 6 days! Our feast ended with pomelo and pineapple. Perfect. After several glorious hours it was time to disembark the raft. I didn’t want to leave and started to behave like a 2 yr. old. I then came to my senses.

At some point we also stopped at a natural hot spring and when we arrived back around the Elephant Camp area, Air was there with the van and waiting for us.

We were completing the day with a stop at El Shadai Orphanage. Not only had I purchased a variety of toothbrushes at home and “shook down” the local bank for pens,but along the way we accumulated Chinese ,Lao ,and Cambodian toothbrushes and combs that I saved for this moment. I also prepared an envelope with hard cash. We arrived at the orphanage before the children had returned from school and Jermsak gave us a tour. So much hard work these past few years and the new structure was in the process of being built. Lucky kids! Suddenly Allan gave me a signal and I knew that he needed to return to the hotel. I was SO sad not to meet the children and Surasek and Mon, but left everything with Surasek’s brother. I really thought that perhaps on Wednesday we’d make it back to El Shadai, but it didn’t come to pass. By Tuesday night though, there was a lovely e-mail of thanks from Surasak. SO….we’ll have to return to El Shadai someday. After reading so much about El Shadai, it was terrific being there in person.!

We did not spend time with Jermsak on Tuesday 11/29, but knew that 11/30 was going to be another grand day. After a great breakfast at the Wiang Inn, we walked to the Municipal Market. We are always interested in all things edible and frankly, I couldn’t get enough of the Asian pears, because I knew once I got home I’d be hard pressed to pay US prices of $1-$1.29 each vs. 25 cents here. In addition, markets are an open window on daily life. Got a haircut at the barber for 60 baht…….indulged in latte…….had a foot massage……relaxed at the pool and made plans to have dinner at the Salungkham Restaurant in the evening. When I checked the map, the restaurant looked close, but when I inquired at the front desk about walking there, eyes rolled. So……we negotiated a tuk-tuk ride and enjoyed our meal and the ambience. Have done a review. “A definite delight” 5/5. Broder , we are in “trouble”. There was an article today in the adventure and travel section of the Wall Street Journal on Elephant Polo….and in the where to eat section there was the recommendation for the Salungkham ! Can you imagine????

Got to the Clock Tower in time for the 8PM show. A hoot!

Wednesday 11/30 we were bright eyed and bushy tailed and heartily greeted Jermsak at 8:30 AM.

Really did not know what to expect at the Black Artist’s Compound, but that was the first stop of the day. Well……………..we loved it! I did a review. What a grand respite! Another hated to leave moment. A longer ride took us to the Mae Fah Luang Gardens @ Doi Tung. This too, was right up our alley. Spent much time walking around with Jermsak appreciating the design of the area AND all the flower displays, but especially the orchids. It was a long ride to the Golden Triangle and in all honesty IMHO WE could have skipped it. Remember, ”different strokes for different folks”. We made a short stop at the small opium museum and then on to the enjoyable Chedi Luang Wat at Chiang Saen. We thought the Tea Plantation was worthwhile and even splurged on Oolong #17. The AKKHA Village,seemingly in the middle of nowhere , held our interest with much explanation by our great leader. The car ride back to CR was marred by a terrible motorcycle accident just in front of us and I still think about whether the young man lived.

So day #2 with Jermsak was filled with a touch of sadness about the accident, but much joy and many surprises.

Thursday Dec.1 Leaving CR with Jermsak to drive the MHS Loop. This represents day #51 of our adventures.We paid our bill at the Wiang Inn, but we were sad to leave.

Our first stop was the Buffalo hill Temple with a Chiang Rai city view point. Here was a beautiful mirrored temple,another Buddhist retreat center and a guy from Broomfield,CO. who was eager to talk with us. He’s been living in CR 5 years now and lamented about not getting news of the world.

The White Temple was next and simply amazing! I would adore meeting this artist AND the Black Compound artist. Talk about thinking OUT OF THE BOX! Artists with very different concepts and both wonderful and exciting.

The Khun Korn Waterfall was another treat. It was in a park and the trek was 1.2 km each way. We found it terrific to be walking in a quiet forest with not many people on the trail. Chalk up another button pusher for us.

After the waterfall we are on our way to PAI. When Jermsak announces the trip will be 6 hours, I’m confused. I had 3 in mind. Yes…..3 to CM and 3 to Pai!!!!!. After Chiang Mai the road becomes curvy and I kept thinking “and we were going to do this”. We do not get to Pai until dark. Had pre-booked Baan Pai Village and have written a review.”Beautiful Exterior” 3/5. The Night Bazaar was extremely civilized and after checking out the Mexican Grill we walked back to Baan Pai Village for the music and delicious green curry. Had a good night’s sleep,decent breakfast in the AM ,short walk after that and then the 3 of us headed for MHS.

Friday Dec.2 Before leaving the area we drove to another viewpoint. It was too misty and foggy to appreciate the view. Pretty soon we were at Lod Cave: the largest and most important cave in Thailand. This 3000 year old cave was only discovered 40 years ago. Enjoyed our exploring there,but let J know that it was not necessary for us to visit the Fish cave or Coffin cave today. One cave was just fine. After some driving, we stopped at a LAHU village that had separate areas for people and pigs. The karst scenery here was memorable. We arrived at MHS and Piya House around 3 PM. I did a review of Piya House.”Just OK” 3/5. What a great location across the street from the lake.

Another civilized night market at our doorstep and we ate at Salween River restaurant close by. I’ve written a review. “AN off night?” 2/5. The next morning J complained about his food the night before and we did too.

Saturday Dec 3 Saturday morning is quiet in MHS. Breakfast did not come with our bungalow and so by the time we had breakfast,we could have spent a few bucks more and stayed at the Residence.

With J, we went to Wat Pra That on the mountain. Not only was it a decent view,but the Burmese construction and design interested us. J then drove us to the Karen Village, warning us about the steep admission fee. I did a review”A worthwhile Endeavor” 4/5, and in spite of the fee we enjoyed ourselves and took many photos of the Long Neck tribe and wandered through the residential area too. Coming back in to town….we made a stop at the oldest temple and then parked the car at Piya House to go through Wat Jong Kham and Jong Klang. With time to spare I wandered around and found Jongkham Place: a

new lodging and a short distance away: the Residence. I would certainly explore these options before going back to Piya House.

Dinner time was upon us and we walked over to the Fern and also explored the menu at KAI MOOK. We decided to dine at Kai Mook and what a great decision it was! Tried doing a first review, but haven’t heard from TA. The restaurant was lively, the service was excellent , and the food divine. We had Wild Boar with red curry (medium spice) and crisp veggies and Roast duck in honey sauce w/pickled ginger. Two bottles of soda water and one large dish of ice cream completed the meal. The cost was $13US and we felt we received a great value. Do remember this restaurant if you find yourself in MHS. A relaxed walk through the Night Bazaar and the Wats nearby definitely wore off ten calories. It was interesting to see the rituals Thai locals and tourists were engaged in to bring them health and good fortune.

Sunday Dec 4 At 8 AM the three of us were in the car and on our way to Chiang Mai. We did stop for coffee outside of Pai and in the light of day one can say the countryside IS delightful. If Thailand had been our only destination, we may have scheduled a 2 night trek around the hills of Pai. Ohhhhhhhhh, those winding roads! The curves were never ending, but J took them all in stride.While there are spots of great beauty along the MHS loop.there are few safe places to stop and savor the experience. Outside of CM we made a stop at an Orchid Farm: short and sweet.

We then let J take us to Doi Suthep. The King’s Holiday traffic resulted in gridlock and throngs of people. We got to the top and turned around without getting out of the car. We wanted to get to the Sunday Walking Street in CM early.

We arrived at the 3 Sis B&B around 3PM. Thank you Caroline for suggesting it in several of your posts. I did a review.”An Oasis in the Old City” 5/5. For us, the location was perfect and everything about our stay was excellent. After some unpacking, we ventured out while booths were setting up for the Sunday Walking Street. Early wandering was best. By 6 PM there were so many people you couldn’t move. The street food we tried was mostly disappointing ,but it didn’t matter. The vendors had interesting items of excellent quality and in honor of the King’s Birthday there was music and fireworks. Even an outdoor foot massage was terrific. I was the only Caucasian in the lineup.

Monday Dec 5 It was our last day with Jermsak. (sigh). We had arranged with J to go to Lamphun. By this time one would have thought we’d be “templed out”, but we loved Wat Prathat Haripunchai and also Wat Chamaderi. Definitely worthwhile. For a change of pace, J headed to Baan Tawaii and the wood carvers. SanKampaeng district followed with a visit to a furniture factory, umbrella factory, and a lacquer factory. The umbrella factory pushed our button: HOW INTERESTING. The women, young and old, involved in the process seemed happy to show us what they were up to.What beautiful umbrellas.!!!

J got us back to 3 Sis by 2:30 PM and it was time to say good-bye to an “old friend”. Our 7 days with Jermsak will never be forgotten. Whenever I think of the time spent with him, it’s always with a smile and affection. We had some pretty interesting discussions along the way and there was always give and take with mutual respect and learning. Jermsak and family are welcome at our house any time.!!!!

This ends Thai Tidbits Part 1. Look for Thai Tidbits Part 2 Chiang Mai forum.and Thai Tidbits Part 3 Bangkok forum.

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1. Re: Thai Tidbits #1 & the Joys of Jermsak

I had planned a 6 day trip with a guide from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai to Mae Salong, Doi Tung, Techilek, Pai, Soppong, Mae Hong Son and Doi Inthanon before returning to Chiang Mai but had to cancel it due to illness, so I was very interested in your experiences - I would have been travelling the same route pretty much, but a couple of weeks later in December... So now I am looking at next Nov/Dec/Jan for my 2 month trip (Thailand, Laos and Cambodia).

It's always interesting to get someone else's perspective on the routes I intend to travel. All the best, and many more years of travelling!

Wyong, Australia
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2. Re: Thai Tidbits #1 & the Joys of Jermsak

Hey G-Day Ronnie G

I've enjoyed all three of your posts. That trip you had with JL, the one on the raft sounds like something my wife and I would like to do. :)

We too have spent the night in a central Chiang Rai hotel only to leave for greener pastures in the morning.

Mae Hong Son Loop

Now this one in particular has my attention, as you know I'm trying to decide on the best way to approach this.

Looking through all of your posts I've found a lot of useful information.



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3. Re: Thai Tidbits #1 & the Joys of Jermsak

Thanks so much. A wonderful detailed account of your journey.

Really enjoyed it.

We are doing the rafting trip with Jermsak when we are there in April and looking forward to it even more after reading your report.


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4. Re: Thai Tidbits #1 & the Joys of Jermsak


I loved your JBR! I was so excited to see it that i had to go make myself a cup of Ulong #17 and sit down to relax for the "excellent read."

I am delighted to hear that you liked Wiang Inn. I might give that a try the next time I am in Chiang Rai. It has had mixed reviews but your feedback is really encouraging and I think that is where Inaspin ended up also. Where did you stay when you started off in Chiang Rai? I know you were looking for a guesthouse type experience but I can't recall what you booked.

The raft day is also my favorite experience in Chiang Rai. I love laying on that raft and drifting down the river for hours while Jermsak, Air or Da is cooking me a perfect meal.

I haven't read the Wall Street Journal from today. I can't believe that Salungkham restaurant was mentioned! Geez, I guess one of the problems in sharing one's secret places, like the raft trip and Salungkham, is that they soon become popular destinations. I might have to keep a few secrets to myself.

I was so sorry to hear about your viewing of the accident that happened in front of you on your way back from Mae Salong. That is a very windy road and one has to be very careful on that drive.

I am delighted that you so enjoyed Jermsak. I thought our travel styles would be similar after all of the pm's we exchanged but it is good to confirm that he was a "good fit' for you. Like you, I am an independent traveler so finding a guide that fits my style is like finding the perfect hat to wear when snowshoeing in the mountains.

Your review of the MHS loop was also fabulous.

I just booked my next trip to Thailand for June 2012 and am excited to start planning. It is so coincidental to find out we live within 30 minutes of each other. I can't wait to meet you and hear more about your trip. Dinner at the Thai Buddha Cafe?


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5. Re: Thai Tidbits #1 & the Joys of Jermsak

I totally agree with all your wonderful comments about Jermsak.

There isn't a better guide out there!!! We've used him twice in our travels and have enjoyed every minute spent with him. He is so sincere, kind, and respectful of all. Our travels would not have been so memorable if it weren't for Jermsak. He added so much knowledge about Thailand and its culture. We are so grateful for all he did to make our trips so special

Boulder, Colorado
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6. Re: Thai Tidbits #1 & the Joys of Jermsak

Broder, my dear.....I don't know HOW I missed your post. I was beginning to get worried about you.

To all, I'm thrilled you appreciate the blurb......as flattery will get you everywhere!!!!

Will PM you so that we can plan a date at Buddha Thai AND I can convince you to do a Thailand presentation at Changes in Latitude. DH and I are scheduled to do "T in China" October 9 2012.

Cheers, Ronnie

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7. Re: Thai Tidbits #1 & the Joys of Jermsak

I read your post with great interest, since I was in Chiang Rai and the Mae Salong area in October. You did many of the same things we did but you had some interesting additions. I would love to go back to this area so it's nice to hear about other travel adventures! We spent time at the orphanage and I'm sorry you didn't get to meet the children. What an experience that was! We all feel in love with them.

You had a wonderful guide in Jermsak. I know the road where you came upon an accident and it is very treacherous. But Jermsak and Air drive it frequently and we felt safe in their hands.

Thanks for sharing your experiences. Travel safe.

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8. Re: Thai Tidbits #1 & the Joys of Jermsak

Jermsak and Air ARE the BEST drivers.

Jermsak does NOT do the Mae Hong Son loop frequently. First...by the time travelers ask him to do it, his time is usually filled. We happened to be fortunate, in that he had the space in time

Secondly, I wouldn't be surprised if he is glad he doesn't have the time more than a few times/yr. The MHS Loop is not for the squeamish and takes GREAT concentration. Not fun.

I am SO glad we had some additions that interested you.

Travel safe, Ronnie

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9. Re: Thai Tidbits #1 & the Joys of Jermsak

I guess I thought the accident happened on the road to Mae Solong, which was very steep with many curves.

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10. Re: Thai Tidbits #1 & the Joys of Jermsak

No. It happened on a straight road, about 30-40 minutes from CR city.

The young man riding the motorcycle was going very fast and not wearing a helmet.