Showing posts with label Chiang Rai. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chiang Rai. Show all posts

Chiang Rai's Top Sites

I have updated my Google Map to reflect my favorite places in Chiang Rai.  Take a look.

Speculation In Chiang Rai…

There is talk and speculation everywhere, as to what the future holds for Chiang Rai.  People seem to hold strong opinions on what will be built, when, where, by whom and what effect it will have on the future of Chiang Rai.  There are reports of the Chinese buying up land and driving up prices.  Our newest golf course, Happy City, was apparently developed by Koreans. 

Chiang Mai is still the primary destination for Thais escaping Bangkok but Chiang Rai is coming into its own.  Several Thai celebrities have properties in the area and we even have a few royals from Europe who spend at least part of the year on their own private estates, with one of them sponsoring football in the area.  We are slowly becoming a destination, not just a day trip or a stopover, on the way from Chiang Mai to Laos.

The new bridge over the Mekong near Chiang Khong is supposed to bring big changes.  There is talk of a rail line or two being built, from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and perhaps more likely from Chiang Khong to Denchai, but that talk has been with us for a longtime.  No doubt it will happen one day but I think it is still far in the future.  All this talk and speculation has got me looking back, not forward.  It started me thinking about how much has changed in the relatively short time we have been living in Chiang Rai, or Phaya Mengrai to be more precise.

Other than the bridge over the Mekong there have been two new bridges opened over the Kok River to facilitate traffic flow.  The bypass road which extends from the airport has opened two sections and it looks like a third is getting near completion.  I have heard another bypass road, on the other side of town, has begun construction but we don’t often get over that way, so I have not seen it myself.

Closer to home they have been widening the 1020 road from Chiang Khong to Thoeng and there is talk of another, yet to be built, road that may pass to the east of our village.  Landfill and roadwork seems to be constant and the roads to town are marked by the slow progress of heavily laden trucks hauling gravel from the quarries and dirt excavated from the hills.

The opening of Chiang Rai’s Central Plaza shopping mall has changed the shopping landscape and spurred other retailers to renovate and upgrade in order to keep pace.  New schools and restaurants have been added.  New housing developments are everywhere and now there is flurry of condo building.  I am not a football fan but I hear there are a couple of new stadiums in the area.  When we began our house they were still in the process of installing telephone lines, so the adsl high-speed internet I depend on, didn’t arrive until around the time our house was finished.

Living to the east of Chiang Rai we have perhaps been spared the most negative effects of development.  We enjoy the modernization in town but live far enough away, we only see it when we want to.  Close to us the biggest development has been the purchase of some 8000 rai of land between our village and the Ing River which has been planted with rubber trees.  Some rice land was lost but much of the purchase was scrub and prone to flooding, so the trees are a marked improvement.  Riding my mountain bike in the area, before, was a struggle and limited to the dry season.  Now the trees are getting bigger, there are trails everywhere and there is an interesting new embankment I rode on recently that helps to keep the river at bay.  The trees are tall enough to block views of landmarks, leaving me wondering where I am part of the time but with the trees boasting fresh young leaves it is a joy to ride through the plantation on the way home and I see real potential as a recreation area.

I have no idea how much of the new development and speculation will prove profitable for the investors.  Some think there will be increased traffic from China, while others think it will only be cargo trucks passing through as they head south, thus providing little benefit to the local economy.  I still stumble upon the ruins of old dreams from time to time on my rides.  Great ideas sometime lead to great folly and make for an eerie view of the gap between what could have been and what is.  I love riding through these resorts turned ghost-town but I am sure they represent a very painful chapter in the lives of others.

Since I began this post a while back, the smoke has become overwhelming and I have stopped all outdoor exercise until it clears.  My post about the burning from last year was republished by Asiancorrespondent.com, with more people reading the post this year than last. 

I moved the mountain bike indoors and mounted it on the training stand.  Besides getting a little exercise while watching TV, I am playing with adjustments, trying to find the most comfortable and efficient riding position.  Now I know what I want for my next upgrade.  Here are a few pictures from my last couple of rides before things got bad.
Kok River near Chiang Rai.

Flowering tree spotted from the trail.
Ing River near the rubber plantation.

Nice road through the rubber trees.

Flood prevention embankment between the river and the trees.

One of the lesser used trails in the plantation.
With all the holes, not sure how long this embankment will last.

300 Posts and Still Blogging…

Typically reaching a milestone, even one a trivial as 300 posts, would have me examining the blog and moaning about my lack of motivation or direction.  As fate would have it, I have already done that quite recently.  So clearly I need to find some other way of marking the occasion.

Today I find myself at home again, playing househusband and servant to Cookie and our other four legged family members.  My wife is taking that last of her final exams and will no doubt go out for lunch to celebrate with her classmates.  Now that we both have iPhones, she is texting me more often using her favorite apps.  “I arrived safely.” or “Going in to take my test now.”, things of that nature pop up on the screen from time to time.

Speaking of iPhones, I only kept the iPhone 4 roughly a week.  One of my wife’s classmates jokingly suggested she sell the old phone her and get me a new one.  Well, to make a short story even shorter, that is what we did in the end.  Now we both have a new iPhone 5.

I am pretty sure we are taking a road trip later this week but with my wife cramming for finals we have put off any detailed planning.

Pause ll,

Writing of this post was interrupted yesterday, by a call and invitation to join my wife and a few of her friends for a movie in Chiang Rai.  This was one of those few occasions when it was convenient to have my own transportation since she had the car.  (I am still considering selling the Ninja 650, however, since it hardly gets ridden.)  After a shower, closing up the house and seeing to Cookie’s needs, putting on my gear and inspecting the seldom used Ninja 650, I zipped into town and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon with wife and friends.

Of course I could have opted to stay at home but I have learned to read the signs and usually know when to accept an invitation and when to decline.  Sometimes you are invited because you are there and it would be considered rude not to extend an invitation.  On those occasions it is perhaps best to decline by offering a polite excuse. 

Whether my wife really wanted me there or simply wanted to do something nice for me, to make up for the time she spends away from me, I don’t know.  I do know that when she makes the effort to mention something, even in passing, there is often more to it than idle chitchat.  So I pay attention to the signs, understanding that ignoring them comes at some peril.

I now have an idea where my wife wants to go on our pending road trip and it looks like I will have the opportunity to drive some of the same amazing backcountry roads we found a couple years ago, Road Trip, as well as pickup a few we missed.  I’m thinking of reversing the previous route and heading first to Nan, then taking the scenic route all the way to Chiang Khan before continuing on to a few other places she wants to go.  Sounds like a very long drive but it also sounds like my kind of fun and a great test for the new SUV.

As an afterthought I have decided to include a few shots from my last Mt. bike ride.
Under the bridge next to the Ing River.

The first bridge of the day.

Rice ready for harvest.

Rice just planted in the next field over.

Adding a little color and perspective.

Blocking the flow to make fishing easier.

The second bridge of the day.

Irrigating the rice fields.

Young rubber wood trees near home.

The Long Road Home ...


*Hawaii*

I had visions of saying goodbye to my father, running a couple quick errands and heading home early in the afternoon, in order to pack, rest a little and perhaps take one last walk on the beach.  Well, that was the plan anyway.  It turned out to be a blustery day with frequent squalls and I didn’t get my walk.  So my visit ended as it began, with grey skies and strong winds.  On the whole the weather during my stay had been very cooperative with sunny skies and cool trade-winds, so no real complaints.

All things considered it was a good trip.  I got more done than I had expected.  Two weeks was just right, allowing enough time to accomplish what I needed to, without dragging it out too long.  I didn’t manage to see everyone, but I am not as social as my better half when left to my own devices.  Shopping got off to a slow start but in the end I found almost everything I was looking for.  One highlight was being there to mark my mother’s ninetieth birthday, even if she wouldn’t look at me and didn’t know who I was.  The paperwork and legal stuff went pretty smoothly considering I dread that kind of thing.  After I left, my father said he really missed me and that made me feel good and bad at the same time.

This is the second year in a row that my father’s friends have offered me the use of one of their properties in the Islands.  I am overwhelmed by their generosity and eagerness to help.  They even went out of there way a couple of years ago to come stay with us in Chiang Rai when they were visiting Thailand.  Good people are good people, regardless of their social standing or fiscal position but I must admit to being attracted to accomplished individuals who have done more than I have, or at least different things which I find interesting.  I can’t overstate my appreciation for the generosity of these friends.

*Bangkok*


Arriving in Bangkok my senses were accosted by a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells, all encased in asphalt and concrete, intersected by pedestrians, cyclists and cagers rushing frantically and perpetually toward some essential yet questionable destination.  Each year when forced to pass through this seething mass of humanity, I find myself pondering how I managed to live in this place called Bangkok for more than thirty years.

Of course I was younger then and not nearly so accustomed to my present level of comfort and pace of life.  More importantly I suppose, I had a life in Bangkok back then.  A place to live, things to do, friends and interests, all of which go a long way toward making any place feel more like home.  Many of the places still remain amidst all the new development but they have been overwhelmed by growth and progress.  Of the many people one once interacted with regularly, only a select few have remained in the inner circle, connected through technology and social networking, even though separated by time and distance.

I seem to remember a singular point in time in the early 1970s, which rapidly expanded outward sending a complex maze of tentacles to seek out and explore every imaginable nook and cranny of this strange new world.  I have no clear recollection of when this amplification slowed to a halt and began to collapse in upon itself.  My gaze became more inward as I focused and centered my life around the things I had discovered to be of greater importance to me.  My random quest for more became a focused search for less, if that makes any sense.

*Chiang Rai*

The flight from Bangkok to Chiang Rai was the most beautiful I can remember.  The patchwork of clouds added accent and texture while not blocking the view of what lay below.  Bangkok soon faded as the image from my window seat changed to that of the geometric layout of industrialized agriculture.  Further north the patchwork of small family worked fields became more chaotic until we reached the lush green mountains that signaled our approach to Chiang Rai.  By then the grey industrial haze of Bangkok was but a memory, replace by clear Chiang Rai skies.  Even the ever-present clouds that had accompanied our flight north, took on an otherworldly glow as we descended toward our destination. 

We flew over a large body of water that I only later realized must have been the lake at Phayao.  I pointed out the White Temple, to a Bangkok tourist sitting next to me, which sparked off a brief but pleasant conversion before we landed.  My wife was waiting for me at the airport and her embrace helped vanquish the stress and fatigue from my long journey home.

As I awoke on my first day back, it eventually came to my attention that it was Thanksgiving Day.  I clearly had much to be thankful for but the traditional celebrations of past years had to take a backseat to the simple joy of being home this year.  By way of celebration I did dust off the Trek in the early afternoon and went for a 41 kilometer ride which left me exhausted but content, despite my lack of fitness after the trip.

Though I do not enjoy these long journeys, I understand they are necessary and even educational to some extent.  Soon enough they will no longer be necessary and I will no doubt lament that fact.  For now I am just very glad to be home.

Home.

Visiting Rai Boon Rawd in Chiang Rai ...

Having made plans for the day, I took it as a none-too-favorable omen, to find first thing in the morning a flat tire on the truck.  I had little option but to get out the bicycle pump and get to work, hoping the tire would hold air long enough to get to a shop.  The first hundred or so strokes seemed to produce no results but as the number exceeded five hundred I knew I was getting close to being able to drive the twelve kilometers into Phaya Mengrai to a repair shop.  Later in the day I found myself wondering why my neck and shoulders were so sore.

Back on target for a family day out, we picked up her younger sister and found her niece had decided to join us as well.  At the tire shop they found a tiny piece of metal that could only be removed from the inside as it was not even visible from the outside.  Patch in place, we were good to go and heading to town.

Rai Boon Rawd was to be our first stop for lunch and a little sightseeing.  Boon Rawd Brewery, the maker of all things Singha, is known for purchasing large parcels of land around the country with some of its excess cash.  Since it is not on our route to town, we had not made the side trip necessary to get there, previously.  For us it makes more sense to take the main highway out of town to the White Temple, taking that road across to the old Chiang Mai Road where the entrance is easy to find. 

Though open to the public for less than a year, this property of over 8000 rai, has been around since the early 80s.  Aside from the restaurant, the surrounding tea plantation and reservoirs are the most picturesque, but there is also rubber, rice, strawberries, flowers, barley and tomatoes, depending on the season of course.

The four of us had a lovely lunch with a mix of Western and Thai food, which everyone seemed enjoy.  Before heading to our next stop, we decided to take a drive out through the hills and to inspect the tea plantation up close.  The dirt trails were better suited for a mountain bike but we all survived our bumpy ride in the truck and got some great pictures.  A screaming kid does seem to add to the trill ride effect of an off road track.
The view out front in the parking lot.

Front view.


Inside view of the restaurant.

Back view.

Back view.


The far mountain is Doi Chaang of the coffee fame and visible from the restaurant.


Finding our way to our next stop was not as easy as we had hoped.  It took several phone calls and roadside stops before we found our way to a small resort my wife’s friend is developing, on what turns out to be the fringes of Rai Boon Rawd.  We even found there was a dirt trail that led directly back out to where we had been just minutes before.


After showing us around her place, our friend took us back out into the tea plantation to a hilltop view and a reservoir we had missed.  All the while she explained that the area is also being developed for both argo-tourism and mountain biking, with plans to host and international mountain bike race in the not too distant future.  With a little tweaking of the trails I can see it being a very good venue for such an event.



An inside view of the dining area at our friend's place.

Looking back at her place from their pond.


As a special treat our friend took us to where she works, for a tour of the grounds at Pa Sak Tong, a resort which bills itself as a luxury six star villa with breathtaking views and an all inclusive package that ranges north of 40,000 baht per night for two people.  They have yet to open for the winter season so the buildings were not open but the grounds were impressive enough to keep me busy shooting pictures for some time.  For better images and more complete information on what they provide, please visit their website at http://www.pasaktong.com.








In spite of the inauspicious beginning to the day, we ended up having a lovely time and got to explore even more of this beautiful place we live in.

My Riding Season Comes To An End ...

My riding season seems to have tapered off to an uneventful end as I have completed all my favorite rides around the north of Thailand to date.  The last longish ride was a day trip to Doi Mae Salong with a connection to Doi Tung on the back roads.  I hadn’t been up there on a bike for a couple of years so thought it deserved another go.  Sadly the best views of the year have faded into the smoke that comes with the burning season.








The weather is still nicely cool in the mornings but is getting much warmer in the afternoons.  The oppressive heat of the hot season and the torrential downpours of the wet season take away from my joy of riding so no more long rides for a while I would guess.  There are still lots of easy day rides and I suppose I will have to get over to Chiang Mai for my 18,000 km service after a thousand or so more kilometers.  I will deal with that when the time comes.

Feeling like a ride today but with no real destination in mind, I ended up in town at a lovely little coffee house and day spa call Chivit Thamma Da.  It is a beautiful place right on the river.  Bumped into some friends having lunch there and was greeted by the owner who being a biker wanted to checkout my bike.

Other than great coffee and sweets they offer a limited menu that I have yet to explore.  The only thing I have tried is the Caesar salad and it is delicious.  This is such an unusual place for Chiang Rai that I wanted to share it with you through a selection of images I collected today.



On the way home I stopped by to say hello to my wife and her class of little monsters studying English at a local school.  Their English is not good enough to carry on a conversation with me so it is mostly Thai with a few English words thrown in to keep them on their toes.  They have a million questions on a diverse range of subjects.  Of course the bike gets its share of attention, at least from the little boys.  Here they are grilling the Farang as I prepare for my getaway.