When Beca and I immediately decided we did not enjoy Chiang Rai due to our negative experiences upon arrival, we sought out our next destination. We decided on Mae Salong, a Chinese-influenced village in the mountains of northern Thailand.
We caught a few local buses to Mae Salong and eventually got off to catch a two-benched red taxi. We met two French girls who shared the same destination and age as us. The drive to the village was beautiful. My eyes were fixated outside as we twirled through the green mountains.
We stayed at a cute guesthouse. The owner was a smiley native Thai man and his family. He gave us some suggested walks to take with his handmade map while he consistently refilled our tiny glasses with fresh tea from the local tea plantations. They were so sweet and accommodating for the price of maybe 4 USD a night for a room.
B and I headed for a local temple. We climbed steep roads just to be passed by a bunch of tribal women carrying heavy bags on their backs while we were catching our breath. We looked up – straight up – and saw the temple. It was quite the climb to get there – 718 steps. There were little gazebos along the way so we could rest if we needed it. The climb was well worth it. The view was indescribably beautiful. No pictures can do it justice. In comparison with the 300 something steps to get to touristy and crowded Wat Doi Suthep, this temple was abandoned. I just stood there and enjoyed the view and crisp air (a treat compared to the dense humidity in other cities) while catching up on my thoughts.
I thoroughly enjoyed our two days at Mae Salong. We climbed the 718 steps the following morning with the French girls to watch the sun rise. To our dismay, it was too foggy to see a thing. It was still rewarding to challenge myself and persevere through my screaming calves.
We also walked a few kilometers to the tea plantations. Along the way we saw some tea factories, local restaurants, and lots and lots of ADORABLE school children. We all know kids have little inhibitions and do little to monitor their behavior so they did nothing but stare at us. Sometimes they said “hi!” and “thank you!” . We saw some high school kids on their ‘bus’ ride home which really was a bunch of students standing and squished in the back of a pickup truck. We got a little lost while going to the tea plantations but nothing that a smiling local with a baby (who wai-ed at us with a squishy cute face) couldn’t help us with. That’s one thing that was ubiquitous in Thailand – friendly locals who would bend over backwards to help us lost foreigners. I can’t imagine most Americans being so kind to foreigners.
We finally arrived at the tea plantations after a long walk through the curvy mountains. We were greeted with these huge statues of lions and teapots. After hiding under a teapot for a few minutes while the rain died down, we ventured into the plantations. There were endless fields of green leaves. We saw the hard workers from afar. We walked down wherever the path took us. I couldn’t help but think about The Beach when they ran into the marijuana fields and almost died. The thought popped into my head – what if we run into something like that and die?!
We enjoyed delicious food while in Mae Salong. We frequented two places – one place that was basically a woman’s home who served vegetarian nosh and another home of a young couple – a Thai girl who owns a cooking school and her French boyfriend. The latter was very nice. The boy put on some good tunes for us while we enjoyed our absolutely delicious meals. The girls gave us free Thai deserts – this floury product filled with coconut and wrapped in banana leaves. It’s difficult to describe but it was delectable.
The original plan was to go to Laos the next day via Chiang Khong and taking the slow boat (two days) down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang. However we last minutely decided that we will not have enough time to enjoy Laos and that we should head for the island ASAP. We shared a taxi with the French girls to Chiang Mai to our next adventure.