This is part 2 of our trip report, continuation to the 1st part in Chiang Mai forum:
We started our 2D1N trip to Chiang Rai at 8:30am. It was Cha who was supposed to bring us as Jermsak was not available, however we were pleasantly surprised to see Jermsak greeting us in the early morning. He said there was some turn of events and he swopped with Cha for the day.
Breakfast was buns and canned drinks in the van. We arrived at Nampuron Tavieesin hotspring an hour later. It is the highest hotspring in Thailand. You can buy eggs to boil in the hotspring at 20B per small basket of 3 eggs or a few quail eggs. It takes only 5 min to cook them. The 10-year old kid was very thrilled! You can also have foot spa in a hotpsring stream. Not to worry, it's a different place from where you boil your eggs! : ) For the nature lovers, it's quite therapeutic to watch how the water would gush out every regular interval from the ground and shot up high in the sky (we counted, every 8 sec)!
It was a short drive the next stop, cashew nuts factory. It was interesting to see cashew nuts as seeds growing outside its fruits on the trees. The factory was not in operation that day, however the staff was very kind to brief us the tedious process involved in processing of the nuts.
We arrived at White Temple (Wat Rong Khun, named after the village it resides in) at noon. it is an unconventional functional temple located south of Chiang Rai, designed by renowned artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. It is his life time project, started in 1997. When we were there, we saw that construction work was still in progress in various parts of the compound. The much pictured main building is impressive, white with pieces of mirrors embedded making it glitters under the sun, simply beautiful. What I can't appreciate are the hands reaching out from the ground on the sides of walkway leading to the main temple, eerie! The kids had a fun time trying to look out for drawings of familiar characters on the temple mural, they found Doraemon, Angry Bird, Spiderman, Keanu Reeves from Matrix, Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp from POTC etc. It's a pity that photography is not allowed. Besides the main building, what's worth checking out are:
- the hall exhibiting the artist's work
- gift shop with reasonably priced souvenirs.
- the work area with work in progress of additions to the temple, you could see how the mirrors are being embedded into the cement to form what you see in the temple.
There were nice clean toilets in the compound, they even provide slippers for you to change into before entering. We grabbed quick lunch at an eatery nearby. Decent Thai food & drinks for 4 at 235B only.
When we were leaving the place, we saw some locals being blessed by a monk beside a vehicle. Jermsak explained that the monk was blessing the owners of the new vehicle for safe travel. You can see some pictures here: tripadvisor.com.sg/ShowUserReviews-g297920-d…
Enroute our next destination, we saw King Mengrai Statue at the beginning of the highway. Wished we had more time so that we can make a stop at this place to find out more about the founder of Lanna Kingdom.
We arrived at Wat Thampla (Fish & Monkey Cave) at 2:30pm. There were monkeys running freely in the compound, snatching bananas offered by the visitors. The fish were found in a stream that flows out from the cave. My main objective of visiting is to visit the cave and sights behind the temple. The cave is sitting on a steep hill behind the temple. Climb up some 200 stone steps (read: tired legs!), you will be greeted by the sight of towering limestone walls, magnificent! The cave is pitch dark, luckily we brought torch lights. There is a shrine with Buddha statue sitting in the serene cave. Take another small detour outside the cave, you will be pleasantly surprised with the inspiring panoramic view of the jungle bordering Thailand, Myanmar and Laos (Golden Triangle). It is a perfect place to rest your tired feet and take some pictures before you make your way back to the foot of the hill. You can see some pictures here:
After another hour drive, we arrived at Doi Tung, Switzerland of Thailand. It definitely didn't disappoint! I will highly recommend this place for travellers to Chiang Rai. Lots of beautiful flowers in nicely landscaped gardens, clear air. Even the admission tickets are so beautifully presented! We bought the combo tickets for 190B per adult which covers Doi Tung Royal Villa, Mae Fa Luang Garden and Hall of Inspiration, students charged half price (90B). We had to plan carefully as we arrived at 4pm and the attractions start to close from 5pm (Hall of Inspiration). Royal Villa at 5:30pm and the Garden at 6pm.
Hall of Inspiration is a museum showing the story of the Royal family and their effort in improving the livelihood of Thai people.
Doi Tong is the former summer residence of the Late Mother of the Thailand King. After she passed away, it has been converted into a museum which has been preserved very nicely, visitors have to remove their footwear (and carry them in plastic carrier provided) before you enter the villa. What not to be missed is the breathtaking view from the large balcony overlooking the forest area below the villa. I am currently using a picture taken there as my TA profile picture. You can see some pictures here:
Mae Fae Luang is a botanical garden located on the slope below Doi Tung Royal Villa, with hundreds of colourful flowers blooming. The statue named "Continuity" standing in the middle of the garden, is built in memory of the continuous effort of the Late Mother of Thailand King in improving life of Thai people. We spent a very pleasant hour walking around, snapping pictures and enjoying the fresh air.
On our way to the restaurant for dinner, we drove pass Clock Tower, another project done by the artist behind White Temple. We had originally planned to see the light and sound show at 7pm but decided to give it a miss as we were hungry and tired after a long day. We managed to catch some shots though: tripadvisor.com.sg/…REVIEWS
Dinner at Salungkham Cuisine is sumptuous, price is reasonable at 1,270B for 7. Jermsak said it's the largest restaurant in Chiang Mai. It's a crowded place but we were lucky, didn't have to wait for a table. Signature dish is Tom Yum Salungkham Plachonna (with fish slices). Another must try is the mixed grill. Food is served fast and tastes good. You can see some pictures here:
We stayed a night at B2 Chiang Rai. Clean and spacious room, good rate and location, would recommend this hotel. You can read more in my review:
It is appropriate at this juncture to write about Jermsak. Our plan was to have him alight us at the restaurant and we would take our own transport back to the hotel. So we asked him about the possible ways to get back. He said that he would find out more from the restaurant, which he did. He then told us that it's not convenient and he offered to wait for us to finish our meal and send us back to the hotel. We were very impressed as we totally didn't expect it. He had started his day at 4+am that day, drove all the way from Chiang Rai to meet us at Chiang Mai, drove us and accompanied us to visit the places mentioned above, including climbing up the 200 steps up to the cave. By the time we arrived at the restaurant, it's already 7:30pm, ie ~15 hours! It took us another hour to finish dinner, so he (and his wife who was with us too) had a 16-hour day. Jermsak is one guide who really puts in his very best to serve his guests. Highly commendable, living up fully to the good comments about him in this forum.
Day 5: Elephant ride, raft ride along Mae Kok River, hotspring, bus back to Chiang Mai
The day has finally come, we have been looking forward to this day trip with Jermsak, riding elephant and cruising down Mae Kok River on his raft.
Breakfast was buns and packet drinks bought from convenience store near B2 Chiang Rai the night before. We started our day at 8am, drove through the foggy villages and arrived at Karen Ruammit Elephant Camp 40 min later. The excitement began! We were given bunches of bananas to feed the big animal along the way and sat 2 to an elephant, with a mahout on each one of them. We rode through the villages, paddy fields, corn fields, jungle and a small section of a stream. It takes some getting used to the bumpy ride. In the beginning of the journey, my 11-year old daughter kept asking me "whose great idea is this?!?!" Later we learnt that the trick is to sway to the sides following the movement of the elephant, that helps a lot. Midway, 1 of the big friends we are riding on decided to answer nature's call and what a sight, a mini waterfall in front of us! We had a good laugh.
It was a 30 min drive to the point to board the raft. Jermsak had made arrangement for 2 rafts to house the group, but a friend didn't return his raft in time and we had to make do with 1. That's ok with us, as the raft is big enough to house all 12 persons: 7 of us, Jermsak and his wife (the cook), his niece who's helping in the cooking and 2 boatmen. Jermsak was very apologetic and later gave us a discount on the fee due to this hiccup, which we returned a large part in form of tips.
We had a stop at a Lahu village after crossing a suspension bridge. A real village, not those put up artificially for tourists. There were children, villagers walking around, we even spotted some wild boars and satellite dishes (for communication purposes). After a brief walk through the village where we got a glimpse of how the tribe lives, we returned to the boat via the bridge, shared with motorbikes passing through the bridge with full passengers load!
The raft ride along the river was smooth, stable and relaxing. Beautiful river and mountain views with nice breeze, with occasional long tail boats passing by. Lunch was BBQ chicken, 2 mixed vegetable dishes freshly prepared on board, served together with green curry, rice and noodles. Mangosteens and papayas were served as dessert. The food were delicious, you could also tell that the wife and niece put in effort in the garnishing and presentation, so beautiful.
You can see some pictures of the elephant ride and raft ride here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/91719162@N02/
After we reluctantly bid farewell to the raft (which we understood will be dismantled so that it can be transported back to get ready for the next guest), we moved on to our last stop in Chiang Rai. We had a dip at the pool at Phasoet hot spring off Mae Kok river bank. There is washroom and bathing facility. 30B entrance fee per person, which is not part of the package but Jermsak has kindly paid for us. We had a nice soak before we headed back to the city to catch 3:15pm Green Bus back to Chiang Mai. You can see some pictures of the hotspring here:
The green bus has comfortable and big seats. Each passenger was given a bun and a bottle of water. A movie was screened to keep us entertained. However most of us slept our way through the 3-hour drive back to Chiang Rai. Ticket price has gone up from what I read, it's 288B now, Jermsak helped us to buy the tickets in advance.
At the end of our Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai trip. everyone in the group voted the elephant ride and raft ride as the top 2 activities we enjoyed best, certainly the most memorable parts of our holiday!
This trip report continues in Chiang Mai forum: tripadvisor.com.sg/ShowTopic-g293917-i9325-k…