Sunday, April 27, 2008

Looking down, looking up and paying up

Our new friend Pon takes us to a traditional Nepalese hill tribe village, but when we arrive we find it very commercialised and over priced. Rather than making these people feeel like they are in a zoo my friends and I decide to skip this camp and rather opt for a hiking trip during the cooler months, when we can pass through and see the real villages.

The drive trough Mae Sa valley is a lush green delight and when we stop at a butterfly and orchid farm, I feel like I am getting colour therapy. We sit down for a Thai buffet lunch in this sensual garden and by the time we leave we are already happy with our day.

However, we paid our driver for the whole day. So we convince him to take us to Doi Suthep, the top of the mountain as opposed to the valley. He didn't feel like the drive and complained about his petrol situation (and even tried to pretend not to understand) but as seasoned travellers we know better than to feel sorry for him and pay more or give in to his sly tactics.

Eventually we make it to the highest point of the mountain where one of the holiest temples in Thailand thrones. It is typically Thai, with elaborate gold towers and colourful decorations. The view should be incredible on a clear day, but on our summers day a heavy mist hangs over the city.

It is indeed the hottest time of year and although Chiang Mai is probably best discovered on foot (preferably hiking through the jungle) that would simply be looking for trouble. So we opt for a boat cruise on our last full day. It is a fantastic way to see the city and the countryside from the lazy comfort of the shallow summer river.

As with most of the boat cruises in this area, we also stop at a botanical garden where the locals show us all the local herbs and offer us fresh fruit and cold drinks to provide some comfort before our midday journey back into the city.

The heat prevents us from moving any more until the sun goes down.

Our short visit ends with a shopping trip to the Night Bazaar, where I find colourful embroidered handbags. The handicrafts in this area is really unique and cheapest in Chiang Mai. My friends discover some mango wood candle holders and soon we are all happy with our treasures and ready to head for some Thai islands.


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