Decision to go to Chiang Dao, wasn’t spontaneous – my friends, who had been there previously, said it was a great place to visit. I was heading in that direction anyway, so was glad to stop on the way.
I need to mention, that I had bought a bicycle the day before, which needed to be taken into consideration, as not all buses allowed to take it onboard. The lady from the hotel suggested, that I took a local minibus, which could be loaded with all sorts of things. I tied my backpack to the bike and headed to Chang Phuek bus station. I was very lucky, as the first minivan I saw, was heading in my direction. I was watching with slight worry how they tied my bike to the roof, along with heaps of other staff. It was in a standing position with one wheel hanging down. Inside the bus was full of passengers, boxes and bags of something. But that wasn’t it. As our journey progressed, the minibus stopped again and again to pick up more people and a motorbike!!!!! I have to say, the driver was very good with ropes and knots, as the motorbike had it’s other half outside, supported only by the ropes. The trip was supposed to take around two hours. Soon enough we had four people, standing outside on the step, as the space inside ran out. Before I knew it, it was my turn to join them, as an elderly gentlemen with a stick got on, and I gave up my sit for him. It was so awesome! Fresh air and pretty views!
I’m so glad, I looked up my hotel on the internet previously. There was no way, I could simply stumble on any of them, as all hotels in Chiang Dao were situated a few miles outside the town centre, in its rural outskirts. They all were located in the same direction. My bike was of a great help. I hopped on and started cycling through rice paddies and cosy country houses, scrawny organic chickens scattering under my wheels. Everyone was smiling and saying hello. Such sweet locals! Mountains on the background and crisp air only contributed to my euphoria.
I chose Black cat, as my hostel. It was a tiny place, with 3 private rooms and 5 dorm beds. I chose a bed in the dorm for 200 baht. It was only me and a Japanese guy. The place was very basic, with a mattress on the floor and a mosquito net.
The lady, who ran it was brilliant and spoke great English, she gave me all the information I needed. There was only a handful of places of interest in the area.I visited Chiang Dao cave, with a temple inside. It was huge and had long tunnels inside. For 200 baht a lady guide took us down the pitch-dark tunnel with a lantern in her hand. The trip took 20 min, and involved a few very tight places, which can be problematic for those with asthma and claustrophobia.
Chiang Dao hot springs attract a lot of visitors, there are a couple of hotels, situated right next to them. The springs offer a few basins, filled with water of different temperatures, but mostly very very hot. I’m sure I could boil an egg in there, as I couldn’t handle two of them. After taking a deep in a hot basin, you are supposed to jump into the cold river nearby. Be careful with silver jewellery, as my chain turned black from sulphur in the water. This sulphur also gave the place characteristic, funny smell.
I was fortunate enough to be in Chiang Dao on Tuesday, when they held their weekly Tuesday market. It was locals oriented, no tourist treats there. I don’t think it could be super interesting for foreigners, as they mainly sold cheap clothes and raw foods. Loads of hill tribe people came down to the market to sell their fresh, organic vegetables. It was a great place to buy fruit, I got a bunch of bananas for 20 baht, as well as some satsumas for 30. I found a delicious, spicy chicken feet salad at one of the few food stalls. I also bought a traditional wide-brimmed hat, that could cover my neck and face, when was cycling.
I was glad I had my bike, as everything of interest was situated a fair distance away form the hotel. But that was the beauty of it. The hotel was so peaceful, that I slept like a baby. My Japanese roomie was, just like their reputation went, very considerate and quiet. In the evenings there was nothing to do, other than to take a seat at the open air hotel bar, grab a beer and read a few chapters of The Games of Thrones. Marvellous!
I met a couple of expatriates there, one from Germany and the other from the USA. They have been living in Asia for ten years. I asked, if they considered going back home, and the American replied: “No, as I would be unhappy again, if I do.” I always thought, that simple life was so much more rewarding, than any stressful, high-flying career.