After a very intense day in Chiang Mai, it was time to chill and enjoy nature. The best way to enjoy Thailand’s national parks and nice scenery is by car, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that without the guide of a local or a long-term visitor. We met in Chiang Mai with one of my childhood friends, Santi, and his amazing Thai girlfriend Kiiz. We went on a roadtrip for 3 days, driving from Chiang Mai to Pai, then from Pai to Chiang Rai, and finally back to Chiang Mai. Santi did all the driving and Kiikz did the guiding, while Victor and I just sat down behind and slept through most of the journey.
Our first ride was from Chiang Mai to pai, 150 km, a bit longer than 3h, but about 7h with all the stops we did in between to sightsee, bathe, and eat. The road was a mountain road, so we began to feel dizzy very soon and decided to fall asleep, which was fortunate because we entered the Huai Nam Dang national park as local thai (remember there’s usually 2 prices for things in Thailand?).
In the national park we saw several cows roaming freely around the roads, beautiful scenery that reminded me of Hobbiton, etc. We stretched our legs and took some deep breathes of fresh air at one sightseeing stop and then left the park. However, when we were approaching Pai, we did a small detour to visit some hotsprings, and they turned out to be in the same park we had been before!~
The hotsprings were quite fun, specially since there were not many people there, just us and maybe 2 more small groups. The water was really warm, warmer the further you went (closer to the mountain). It took some time to get used to the temperature, but once inside it was a nice feeling. A couple pictures and bathes more, and then we drove off to the Memorial Bridge of Pai, a bridge.
The Memorial Bridge was made of iron and was built in 1942 by the Japanese to transport weapons and provisions to Myanmar (Burma) during World War II. To us it felt like a normal (old looking) bridge, but it is pretty popular and there are some tourist activities there, such as a bamboo rafting and a Captain Sparrow running around taking crazy pictures with tourists.
After walking on the bridge we had lunch in a big restaurant right in front of the bridge, which had a lot of interesting decorations (like a retro car) and most importantly, a great terrace. Food wasn’t great and it started sparkling, but we still felt so relaxed, exactly how you’re supposed to feel when you’re on holidays!
Once done with lunch we drove to Pai and rested a little bit in the hotel (en medio de Pai), as Victor was starting to have some fever.
By sunset we were rushing to visit the big temple with the white Buddha (Chedi Phra That Mae Yen), which was nice, but just another temple. However, the views from there are stunning. We turned around and saw Pai with the mountains behind and a sea of clouds in between.
Some more cool pics with Santi’s gopro:
Last but not least, we had a nice dinner at the Silhouette Restaurant from Hotel Reverie Siam. Food was nice, atmosphere was unbeatable with some live music playing in the background, and prices were really cheap compared to what you would pay for the same place in Europe or Korea. On the way back to the hotel we visited the Chinese village, but it was really late and dark so we didn’t see much at that time.
The second day of our road trip started with a great breakfast buffet at the hotel, followed by a visit to Pai canyon. The canyon was quite breathtaking and curiously not very touristy. Victor was brave enough to walk to the edge and take a couple pictures while I almost had a heart attack seeing him walk there.
For lunch we had a delicious chicken on rice, preparing for the long ride to Chiang Rai (more than 300km.). We did a small stop at a cafe afterwards and played with a little kitty (with a weird love for Kiiz’ feet). The coffee shop was empty (it was kind of in the middle of nowhere), but it had such cool decoration! I’m starting to think most places in Thailand put a lot of thought on looking good.
After some more driving, we finally arrived to Chiang Rai and “The Hug hotel” (great hotel with huge rooms and good breakfast). It looked really nice, with the theme of “hugs”. I was really falling in love with Thailand’s obsession over bear decorations x)
Our dinner this day was at 71 degrees Celsius, a restaurant specializing in American style ribs. They were really good, and cheap cheap as usual (319 baht/$9 for a big plate feeding 2,5 people).
To end the night, we went to the night market and to the Clock Tower, right in time to see the color & music show. I would not go back to the show… it was just the lights changing colors all the time, but nothing very special, or at least not worth unless you’re around at the right time.
On our last day of road trip, we woke up early in order to visit 2 important places in Chiang Rai, both of them a bit out of the main city. First was the Black House, quite an interesting place. It used to be the private residence of an eccentric artist, but after he died, it was opened to the public. You will see weird and obscure paintings, crocodile skins, and even a snake (that of course I did not see because I have a phobia).
After touring around the Black House for free, we drove back down South to see the White temple before we left Pai.
The White temple is probably one of the most famous ones in Thailand, and in my opinion it is not to miss.
It is so different from any other temple, probably because it is not really much of a temple (no monks come here to pray, it is so full of tourist anyway I doubt anyone could focus here) but more of a modern piece of architectonical art.
We were lucky enough to see the Architect in the grounds of the temple, where he is still supervising the works to be finished. Some people criticize the temple for having some mural paintings regarding 9/11, while other admire his genius. One thing I liked a lot were the “no smoking” and “no drinking” signs, very creative.
We said good bye to Chiang Rai eating some delicious grilled chicken on the side of the road, and this time finally Victor was feeling well enough to drive. In Thailand, people drive on the right (like in the UK or Japan), so it was a bit scary at first. With this, we finished our road trip in Chiang Mai, where Victor and Santi attended a Muay Thai class. Find out more about that class in the next post!
By the way, what does the King have to do with all this? When we were driving, Kiikz and Santi explained to us the importance of the Royal family in Thailand. Turns out that Kiiz had just come back from her University graduation, and it was a very big deal because the King’s son was there to distribute the diplomas. The grads had to participate in a full week training to learn how to nod when taking it, not to look into his eyes, etc. They also need to have their hair black (Kiiz had it dyed brown so she had to return it to black) and ladyboys have to dress up like men rather than women. In addition, on their big day, they had to sit outdoors under the strong Thai sun for the whole day just to be called to the stage for a few seconds (literally, around 30 people are called per minute).
Here you can have a glance at how it works and the speed to retrieve your diploma. There were 9 universities present, we estimate almost 10,000 students, in a 3-day graduation.
Still, it is a pride for Thai people to grab their diplomas directly from the Royal Family. I found this very amazing because if the same happened in Spain, I think I would just find an excuse to skip and use my time better. But Thai people have a huge respect for the Royal family, since they did a lot for the country in the past until now.