Another Neat Town in Thailand! Chiang Rai…

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Just a couple hours north of Chiang Mai is a town called Chiang Rai. Majority of tourists are attracted to this town because of the beautiful White and Blue Temples as well as the Baan Dam (Black House) Museum. Others are also drawn here because it serves as a gateway to Laos (a common trip for visa runs) as most buses go through Chiang Rai to get to the border.

We hopped on an air-conditioned green bus from the Arcade Bus Station in Chiang Mai for just 129 baht per person (just under $4 usd). The ride took about three and a half hours, a little curvy but not as winding as the road to Pai was.

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Our hostel (Bus Station 1 Hostel) was situated a whopping 100ft or so from the bus station, and on the other side of the hostel the night market welcomed us each night with live music, dancing and wonderful fresh cooked food! Lucas FINALLY found some reasonably priced chicken wings he’d be looking for since we left Hawaii!

Our first night as we settled into our hostel, we made a plan for the next couple days which would consist of visiting a monkey cave, the Black House Museum, the Blue Temple, Pong Phra Bat hot spring, the White Temple and lastly Khun Korn Waterfall. We had our route now all we needed was a motorbike to get us there. We woke the next morning and ventured out to find our wheels for the next few days. The cheapest rental we could find ended up being 150 baht for 24 hours ($4.50). We signed our rental agreement, filled up our fuel tank and off we went on a scenic drive up to our first stop, Monkey Cave!

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Typing in Monkey Cave on maps.me (a offline maps app) sent us way north towards the border of Myanmar. As we pulled into what we thought was “Monkey Cave” it started pouring down rain and there were no monkeys at all to be found! We thought for sure we had driven to the wrong place (later we found out it was the wrong place!). Although there was a cave, called Wat Tham Phra, the entire complex seemed to be completely empty, no monkeys, no monks, no people at all. Kind of strange and eery but Lucas went in the cave  anyways and explored for quite a while as the cave was fairly extensive and was pitch black (I opted out of this little cave exploration part). This area had some amazing scenery and in our opinion is worth the drive up from Chiang Rai. On the way back to find the actual “Monkey Cave” maps.me took us on a back road that was supposed to be shorter and more scenic. It took us through some beautiful farmlands, past some amazing limestone cliffs and down a incredibly muddy dirt road. With two people on one motorbike it was quite the adventure for sure!

We finally made it to our original destination that was actually called Wat Tham Pla (Fish Tail Cave/Monkey Temple) not Monkey Cave…. oops! There were tons of Monkeys here, tons of fish, and Monks in there traditional orange attire! A wonderful short trip from Chiang Rai! Here you could feed the hundreds of fish in the pond or feed the Macaque monkeys! This was our first time being up close and personal to monkeys, at first we were very intimidated by them but after spending some time in one area they seemed to get used to us a little. There were baby Macaque’s that were only a couple weeks old and were SUPER CUTE! 🙂 After spending some time with the monkeys we headed up the winding steep stairs to a nice little cave and a viewing platform. Lucas and I were the only people up there which at one point got a little scary because as we looked up there were about a dozen monkeys climbing down the rock walls towards the cave entrance. Some of which were very sizable and soon we felt like we were being held hostage in the cave with the wild monkeys stopping us from leaving. We waited for several minutes and soon they lost interest and made there way down to the fish ponds where everyone else was situated. Bare in mind this type of monkey has large sharp teeth and at times can be aggressive. We read a few stories online where when feeding them they get aggressive and will actually sometimes bite you so I would suggest grabbing one of the sticks they offer you at the entrance and walk around with it like most other people had.

As we finished up at the Wat Tham Pla we made our way down to Pong Phra Bat Hot Springs. We had plans to stop at the Black House Museum but since we lost a few hours going to the wrong cave we decided to opt out of stopping there and head straight to the Hot Springs to save us a little time. For just 20 baht (.60 cents usd per person) we had a nice relaxing stop, soaking in the natural hot springs and enjoying a break from riding the motorbike.

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Next on our loop that day we drove to the amazing Blue Temple (free admission) and White temple (50 baht admission) Both were incredibly beautiful. Its amazing how much detail goes into the design of these temples. Both of these are must do’s if your in Chiang Rai!

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Last on our list for Chiang Rai was to see the Khun Korn Waterfall. We have seen so many beautiful waterfalls on our travels, but we are so glad that we made the long drive to this one as it was so much nicer than we had anticipated it being! We had a short hike from the parking lot (about 1400m hike) in which we got stuck in a complete unexpected downpour! As we made it to the waterfall the rain let up allowing for a few quick pictures. The waterfall was incredible, I’m sure all the recent rain helped with the size of it but it was still a wonderful adventure and for just the cost of a motorbike rental and fuel it was a cheap day trip outside of Chiang Rai!

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Chiang Rai has plenty to offer for anyone! Great food, beautifully designed temples, amazing waterfalls, hot springs and Monkeys! We thoroughly enjoyed our excursion up to this small town and highly suggest others to make a trip up as well if your time allows it.

A beautiful drive to Mae Hong Son

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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).

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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!

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!