Happy Leap Day!
I’ll finish writing about Thailand soon – promise! But it’s quite fun to revisit photos and relive, through these images, some aspects of the trip, even 2 months after the fact. From Chiang Mai, we took a bus to Chiang Rai. It’s not too far of a trip – just a few hours (2-3), and the Green Bus is a good operation. You do need to make a reservation at least a day before (better if you can make the reservation a few days before) and choose the class that you want and also the seat. While I didn’t *love* traveling by bus, it was a great way to see the countryside.
Once we arrived in Chiang Rai, we then hopped in a truck and headed to our destination: Bamboo Nest, a guest house well outside of the city. We actually spent zero time in Chiang Rai, except for the bus station (which was kind of a bummer because there IS a really cool temple to visit – the White Temple – again, we have to come back!). But, we knew that Bamboo Nest, the guest house (hostel) where we were staying, would be the destination for us around Chiang Rai. It is tucked away in the hills outside of Chiang Rai, requires a 4×4 vehicle and a VERY skilled driver, has no internet, and offers its guests plenty of trails and a different experience of Thailand. The owner, Nok, is incredibly nice and very helpful, and it’s amazing what she’s accomplished. From Bamboo Nest, there are tours of the surrounding area – a boat ride, trekking, visiting hilltribes. We were there two days and opted to follow some of the trails (and roads) to explore a bit. After so much coming and going and, especially, depending on others for transportation, it was nice to just use our own two feet!
Bamboo Nest – We stayed in one of the bungalows which was very basic but nice!
On the first day, we hiked to a hilltribe village and then on to a waterfall. Some other people, much braver than we, played around in the waterfall, but we stayed fairly dry. From the waterfall, the trail wound around to a tea plantation and another village, and then we hoofed it back up up up to Bamboo Nest, stopping to rest for lunch and a Singha beer before returning to take a nap and then enjoy the evening.
The second day was similar – get up, eat a good breakfast, and then get out for a walk/hike. One of the guests at Bamboo Nest had departed that morning to another guesthouse in the area, the Thai Apache Guesthouse (we’re not sure where the “Apache” theme comes in), and he recommended the walk there. This particular traveller visits Thailand every year, staying in the same places, so he knew the area well and we were inclined to follow his advice. A few of the other guests and Michael and I headed that way, and it was a great walk/hike – different from the previous day’s excursion in some respects (we wandered along the road from Chiang Rai which heads to… I have no idea. Even though it was a road rather than a trail, it didn’t bother us much – there isn’t a great deal of traffic, so we certainly didn’t feel that we were walking along a highway. The road did take us along the Mae Kok River, and then it opened up onto a lovely valley before we ascended up to the guesthouse. We went to say hello to Evonne, our fellow traveler, and we also wanted to see – a surprise.
And the surprise for us:
So, the Apache Guesthouse had this pair of elephants that welcomed you as you arrived. We expected them, so they weren’t a total surprise, but expecting them and seeing them are two totally different things. I was walking in front of Michael and the other intrepid travelers, and when I saw the elephants, I ran back and shouted something nonsensical about “Elephants!!”. They really were/are wonderful creatures – I think that we watched them, captivated, for about 10 minutes on our arrival and another 10 minutes on our departure. I wanted to pet them – and to free them. Not that they were mistreated in any way, it just made me sad to see them, chained up there. There are a LOT of opportunities to see/experience elephants in Thailand. We felt really torn on the issue, but after seeing them, I was glad that we didn’t go on an elephant ride. I would still like to go to an elephant camp, especially after seeing these two, to learn more about them. As Liz, the woman with us said, they are such “emotive animals”.
The elephant sighting may have been the highlight of that day’s hike, although we also enjoyed the walk. We did take a bit of a shortcut back to the Bamboo Nest, opting to hitch a ride:
And that was our Bamboo Nest, Chiang Rai experience. Not much about Chiang Rai, although there was a good coffee shop where we stopped the next morning as we waited for the bus. And then we headed south to the beaches for the final leg of our journey!