A beautiful drive to Mae Hong Son

DSC01795

After 5 days in Pai, we decided to take a short trip over and through the mountains to a small town called Mae Hong Son near the border of Myanmar. We rented a motorbike and made our way through the beautiful mountains towards Mae Hong Son. We made the drive without any plans arranged. Usually I am all about having a plan set out (with a bit of leeway of course) but for this trip we decided to “just go with it” ( Lucas’s favorite way to travel).

IMG_7654

We spent three hours driving up and down the winding forest roads. Around each curve and over each mountain top we were rewarded with views for miles and miles. Its amazing how much Thailand’s mountainous terrain reminds us of our Appalachian Mountains back in North Carolina. Think of Appalachian meets tropical paradise and BAM you have Thailand! We have already talked about possible retirement over here, thats how much we have fallen in love with it!

19349655_10212345891617809_529174842_o

Anyway…. as we made our way through multiple checkpoints, passing by small villages and taking a few breaks along the way we finally make it to Mae Hong Son. A small quaint town, with a beautiful lake right in the center. Lucky for us our hotel had a view of that lake with the Wat Jong Klang & Wat Jong Kham Pagodas behind it, it was breathtaking and made our walks at night to the market very rewarding as it too was right on the lake in walking distance to our hotel.

The two days we spent in this small town, we ventured off onto the backroads finding hot springs, waterfalls, and enjoying all the beautiful pagodas along the roadways.

One of the hot springs we went to was closed for cleaning since it was the off season, but they still had there foot soak hot baths open so we took advantage of that, and as we were fixing to leave the owner stopped us and offered us a discount on their thai full body massage. 130 baht per person ($4 usd) of course we were not going to pass that up so we indulged in our second thai massage and absolutely enjoyed each minute of it. We finished off the day with Pad Thai and thai iced teas 🙂 Feeling spoiled would definitely be an understatement! During our last night there we took a small hike to the temple on the hill (Wat Phrathat Doi Kong Mu) for sunset. Although we did not get a colorful sunset we saw some amazing views of the town from above and got to see a huge storm brewing from afar.

The town of Mae Hong Son is not very big, but it still has plenty of attractions to keep you busy for a few days or if your just looking for a quiet getaway it can definitely offer you that as well.

On our drive back to Pai, we made a pit stop to visit Mae Lana Cave, Thailands longest navigable cave, unfortunately there was not a tour going out that day because of the rain. But on the road out we stopped at a little cafe that had an amazing lookout so we enjoyed a quick bite, with our feet hanging over the ledge, overlooking where the cave was. A perfect ending to a amazing side trip out of Pai.

 

A Piece of Pai, Northern Thailand

DSC01701

Flying from Hanoi, Vietnam to Bangkok, Thailand we had a bit of a bumpy flight as I experienced my first mild turbulence. The last half hour before landing in Thailand I gripped the seat tightly not letting go for anything. During the landing I let out a big yelp as it felt we were landed wrong, but we made it! Later that day we had a second flight  from Bangkok to Chiang Mai which was a breeze! It felt so nice to finally be done with flying for a few weeks!

We landed in Thailand 9 days ago (can’t believe its already been that long!) and we are ready to take on ALL the adventures the country has to offer. First up is Pai, Thailand!

DSC01565

After spending a few days in Chiang Mai and meeting back up with some friends we had made in Vietnam (Fin and Emily from England). We all hopped on a mini bus to the highly talked about town of Pai. The seats cost us 150 baht each (around $5 usd) and it took the curves much nicer than a big commercial bus, plus it got us there a lot faster too. When we arrived, the small town welcomed us with…. A BIG RAIN STORM! Quickly reminding us that we have landed with rainy season upon us, but of course we did not let that ruin our day!

As the rain let up a bit we walked down the street from the bus station, settled into our cute hostel/hotel (Hommy Camping Room) and began walking around town scouting out some eateries. We found a nice small local shop, ordered some curry and Pad Thai and chatted the rest of the day away. This was our first real Thai food that we had ordered since arriving in Thailand, and boy was it amazing!! After spending 5 weeks in Vietnam, the thought of Thai food made our mouths water, we sure were ready for some new dishes to try. For just 40 baht each (around $1.21 usd) our taste buds were thanking us!

Our second day in Pai, we woke up, enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and complimentary breakfast from our hotel. Our plan was to rent a motorbike for the day and visit Lod Cave and Sai Ngam Hot Springs. Lod cave was a bit of a drive from Pai, about an hour one way so we headed there first. Lucas, Emily and Fin all went into the cave, but I sat out as my fear of caves got the best of me. There are entrance fees to go into the caves (three caves total) You can just go into the first cave with a guide for 150 baht for up to 3 people. If you want to do the first and second caves with the guide it is 200 baht for up to 3 people. And lastly if you desire to do all 3 caves with a ride on the bamboo raft coming out of the caves it is 450 baht for up to 3 people.

 

 

On the way back down from the cave we took a pit stop at Sai Ngam Hot Springs. Again an entrance fee is needed to go to the Hot Springs. When you first turn on the road you will be stopped and asked to pay 20 baht for each foreigner and 20 baht per motorbike to enter into the Park, when you arrive at the hot springs further down the road you will then be asked again to pay another 20 baht to actually get in the hot springs. So for 40 baht each person, plus the motorbike fee its a nice cheap way to spend some time relaxing together.

IMG_7321

Pai has tons of activities to do, so instead of spending just a couple days like we had initially planned, we ended up staying a total of one week 🙂 Our favorite thing to do was to take the scooters out and to go up and down the backroads finding villages and sights we would not normally see in walking distance of the town. We spent two days just driving around the outskirts of the town taking in all the beautiful scenery.

Another thing great about the town of Pai is the waterfalls! There are multiple waterfalls to keep you busy although some do have admission fees. We hiked to a beautiful waterfall called Hua Chang (Free). The road getting here was absolutely beautiful and the 1 hour hike after parking the scooters was unforgettable! Don’t miss out on Pam Bok waterfall, it is also Free and is just a short 5 min hike or so once you park.

IMG_7383

A couple other main attractions are Pai canyon and the “Land Split”. The canyon was free  and had great views of the mountains. The “Land Split” on the other hand was a great find not because the big crack that was caused by seismic activity but because of the fresh fruit, tea, wine, and other snacks that were brought out by the owners of the land! It was on a donation basis and throughly enjoyed it, especially the Roselle tea!!!

We had planned to go the other Hot spring in Pai called Tha Pai Hot Springs, but when we arrived we quickly turned away after seeing the price for foreigners to enter, a whopping 300 baht per person ($9 usd)! Thai locals can get in for just 50 baht but the huge price seemed outrageous so we decided to spend our money elsewhere.

On our way back we stopped by Thom’s Elephant Camp and fed the elephants that were outside. Our first time being so close to an Elephant we were in awe of how huge, strong and beautiful they were!

Since we started planning the Thailand portion of our trip months ago we were dying to get a Thai massage which we did later that day. The four of us were walking around main street in Pai when we noticed a little massage place offering a one hour massage for only 150 baht (about $5 usd)! They happened to have four beds available at that time so we all opted for the traditional thai massage which was excellent and very relaxing.

IMG_7471

Our time in Pai has gone by so quickly, we would definitely recommend a trip over here if you are planning to go to Thailand. There are several foreigners and there is a huge night life/party scene if you are into that sort of thing. Most locals seem to know some english which is nice! The population of Pai is only approximately 4,000 with a big percentage being Expats (foreigners residing in an area). The town has so many creative shops, amazing food and cafes, and a great street market each night. I am sure your time in Pai will be wonderful as was ours!

The Not So Little Sa Pa

DSC01402

IMG_6914

After Spending 9 hours on a motorbike to get from Moc Chau to Sa Pa we were ready to settle down and spend some good quality time in one place to let our butts rest! As we drove into Sa Pa ready to get a goods night rest we realized just how large Sa Pa really was. Our first impression of the city from the short drive to our hotel was that tourism has really hit Sa Pa hard! So much construction has completely taken over the city, every corner you turn to there is new buildings going up, sidewalks being reworked, remodels of old hotels & restaurants and so much dirt and debris filling the air and streets. We stayed one night in the city and decided that it was too much for us so we found a homestay about 15km from the city where we could escape the hustle and bustle of the growing center.

Our homestay (Stunning View Homestay) was nestled in the semi quiet area across from Ta Van Village. (It was right off the road which was convenient but a little noisy) For the price we could not beat it as it was $7 USD for a private room with breakfast for both of us included (with coffee too!) One thing to note, we witnessed the housekeeping not changing sheets in between guests. When one guest checked out they simply dusted off the bed folded the blanket and invited the next guests in. After that we used our own sheets and blankets that we brought as we couldn’t trust how many people have slept on the same sheets without being changed in between. They are a newly opened homestay, so of course we mentioned to them some things they could change, which they appreciated.

The best thing about the homestay were the people we met and the food that was cooked.  We finally after a month on the road in Vietnam, met some ladies from America (Lexi from Washington & Jen from Oregon) and a sweet couple from England (Emily and Fin) whom we roamed about with during our 5 days in the village. We had a very eventful few days, exploring around the villages, visiting Silver Falls, walking around Sa Pa trying to find the best deals on outdoor gear for everyone, and eating our fair share of wonderful food and coffee.

DSC01477

We took some time yesterday and stopped for an oil change and a carb clean on the motorbike before settling in for the night ( the shop was right down the road from our homestay) The gentleman was so kind and young, him and Lucas instantly connected and chatted away via google translate. As he finished up our oil change and carb clean he kindly invited us to join him and his family for a home cooked dinner, so of course we accepted. We sat around the table eating a delicious home cooked vietnamese meal laughing the night away with this sweet young couple and there 4 year old son.

IMG_6868

Today we went out for one last trek around the villages and had three young girls help us along the path to our destination, surprisingly they spoke english fairly well they made us crowns out of ferns and horses out of stems from the ferns. They were so sweet and very talented!

Our time in Sapa has come to an end today after 6 total days. We will surely miss our new friends but will forever remember our wonderful adventure in Sa Pa.

IMG_6887IMG_6697