Yesterday we had the most wonderful day exploring the surrounding areas of northern Thailand. We booked a local guide to drive us out into the countryside and up into the mountains, to visit some of the temples and trek through the forests to visit some of the hill tribes.
We started off with a short drive to visit the lost city of Wiang Kumkarm, our guide called Pop gave us a brief history lesson on route, about the Kings of the past, the Lanna kingdom and how the city became hidden, and the architecture of the different periods.
We then traveled across the flat lands covered in rice paddy fields, and strawberry plantations it’s was so green and lush considering the heat of the day. We were traveling towards the Doi Inthanon national park and on the way stopped at a local village market that was selling…well just about everything! We wandered up and down between the busy stalls and Pop showed us all sorts of unusual fruits, vegetables, and snacks! Ant eggs anyone? 😳 🐜🐜 🐜
After picking up some fruit for the journey we continued up into the mountains, it was funny how it began to look more like an English forest as we drove higher. We arrived at the highest point in Thailand, 2,565 meters above sea level mid morning, the air felt cool and fresh, something we’ve not experienced for quite a few months now. It was wonderful!
We took a short walk along the old wooden walkways through the forest, we had to be careful where we stepped to avoid trampling on any of the many furry caterpillars that were crawling around! The sounds of cicadas and birds in the trees were wonderful, and so many different and colourful butterflies.
We then jumped back into the minivan and drove lower down the mountain to see the beautiful twin pagodas, and take in the far reaching views of the National park.
The two pagodas were built to commemorate the King and Queens 60th birthdays. We went inside the Kings pagoda which was decorated in soft golds and pale greys and in the centre was a serene statue of Buddha with silk flowers carpeting where he sat. Pop told us all about the spiritual areas of Buddhism and explained about the different statues used in the artworks. Our knowledge of Buddhism is growing by the day!
Outside there was a lovely colourful garden full of so many flowers we recognised from home, fox gloves, petunias, primroses…I guess they liked the cool mountain air!
Afterwards we drove further down to one of the tribal villages where we were having lunch, but stopped at another handicraft market on the way to pick up some delicious juicy strawberries. They were so sweet and just melted in you mouth!
Following a scrummy lunch of Thai soup, plates of different meat and vegetable dishes, Jasmin rice and fresh fruit we drove into the forest to meet a member of the Karen tribe who would be taking us on our hike to his village.
We changed into trainers and set off into the forest with our bamboo sticks for walking poles! This I think was my favourite part of the day! We trekked deep into the forest along handmade bamboo paths following the river edge to a beautiful waterfall. Our guide showed us many different trees along the way, that his tribe use, a water tree, an antiseptic tree with iodine sap, a tiger balm tree, the cinnamon tree, the poison tree!!!! It was fascinating stuff!
We continued to follow the river down the mountain climbing down the makeshift bamboo ladders, and across the bridges until we reached the lower lands where they grew flowers for Thailand. He explained to us how the last king had visited their village 40 years ago to help them learn and change their usual crop of opium poppies to chrysanthemums, strawberries and coffee beans.
We carried on down to the village through strawberry plantations, rice paddys, past mango trees and coffee plants. It was all so quiet and peaceful with a gentle breeze to keep us cool. On arriving at the village we were met by more tribe members who showed us their coffee and how to grind it before having the smoothest most delicious cup!
We sat for a while in their company and I admired the handcrafted houses and buildings, all made from bamboo and plant leaves expertly crafted together. I could see why they liked living there, it was so chilled and happy.
On the way back to Chiang Mai we stopped at another beautiful waterfall and I marvelled at the diversity of the landscape in one country!
Such a jam packed day, so fascinating and beautiful, the sort of day I dreamed we’d do when we set out on our travels! We arrived back at our hotel dusty and dirty but very happy!