It was another early start for me as I was playing tourist again today. This time I was off to Doi Inthanon National Park – the highest point in Thailand. Technically it was part of the Himalayan mountain ranges but I must admit after hiking to Everest Base Camp, every other mountain seemed like a small bump in the ground but I put aside my mountain snobbery and was ready to see the view from the top!
The van picked me up from my AirBnb apartment and we headed off. There was about eight other people in my group and we shared small talk as the van scuttled along the busy highway. We drove for about forty-five minutes before stopping for a food break. One thing about these tours, they like to make sure you never go hungry. I was thankful there was somewhere to get coffee because I was still a bit tired from yesterdays efforts to Chiang Rai. We continued on for about an hour, making the steady climb up the mountain to the top. We drove high into the clouds and I could feel the temperature starting to drop. Thankfully one of the girls from my group yesterday warned me that it can get quite chilly up the top of Doi Inthanon so I had dressed appropriately . There were a few people in today's group who would definitely be feeling the cold in their shorts and singlets!
We reached the top and stepped out into the foggy, cool air. Walking through a small information centre about the National Park, where I learnt the highest point in Thailand was 2565 metres above sea level (similar to Lukla, which was only our starting point for Base Camp!) we followed the wooden path that lead us through to the peak. It was hardly a walk to brag about but the chilly air was a refreshing change from the heat of Chiang Mai! Today was a bit more of a 'stop – take a photo – get back in the van' show. I'd barely had a chance to wander around before we were being ushered on to the next spot. Ah the joy of organised day trips!
Our next stop was the two stupas dedicated to the King and Queens's 60th birthday anniversary. These huge purple and gold stupas and their immaculate gardens would have had a brilliant view on a clear day however today was so foggy that sometimes we couldn't even see both temples at the same time! Nonetheless, the beautifully kept gardens were lovely to wander through.
Our next stop was a horticultural project set up by the late king. This beautiful garden was set up to educate hill tribe people about farming and land allocation. There are an abundance of different types of flora in this royal garden. It is beautifully kept with cool-temperature plants, rice terraces, coffee plantations and a strawberry orchard among some of the types of gardens there. I walked through amazed at all the beautiful gardens and flowers! Obviously my mum's love for gardening has rubbed off a little bit!
We were then taken to our spot for lunch near a huge waterfall. It was another buffet-style lunch with some local dishes. After lunch we wandered up to the waterfall and got in line to take photos. As it was the middle of the day, it was packed with tourists. The serene location was sort of ruined by the tourists but I guess nothing can avoid that! We jumped back in the van after a couple of hours and headed to our final stop, another hill tribe village. This one was a little more authentic but it still felt a bit weird to just wander through someone's backyard and peer into their home. I know they are just trying to make some money and give us foreigners an insight into their life but I couldn't help and feel like I was just an intruder. At least this time we weren't being constantly pressured into buying things like the village yesterday.
After the village visit it was time to head back to Chiang Mai. The drive only took about an hour and it was late afternoon by the time I got home. I rode my bike to the night market to visit my favourite two stalls. I discovered them when I first arrived in Chiang Mai and have become quite the frequent visitor! The Pad Thai lady who cooks a mean Pad Thai for AUD$2 and the mango sticky rice lady who serves the biggest portion of mango sticky rice for just AUD$2! For $4 I have a delicious two course meal which I get to take away and eat in my apartment. It's a tough life but someone has to live it I guess! 😛
My days in Chiang Mai are coming to an end! I have two days left which I'm a little sad about. It's been a lovely two weeks here and I feel like i really know my way around the place. This is honestly my favourite way to travel. Slowly and thoroughly! I'll be heading to Bangkok and then onto Malaysia for the second time! Stay tuned!