Showing posts with label Pictures. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pictures. Show all posts

To Pai, Mae Chaem, Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai and Home …

As I said, we came down the mountain in near zero visibility and though it was a relief to be able to see again, my hopes for clear skies and perfect conditions for taking pictures never materialized.  Still I like driving on cloudy days.  The soft muted light which dulls photos is strangely seductive for me when driving long distances.

At the bottom of the mountain we rejoined the 107, following it all the way to Mae Taeng where we turned right onto the 1095 heading toward Pai.  People complain about the many tight turns and rough conditions on the road to Pai, and sure there are accidents every year, but I can’t help but think there would be more if the road were in better shape.  People drive too fast as it is, so a better road surface would only encourage greater speed.  

It is probably a good idea to take a coffee break along the way and there is no shortage of places to stop.  Baan Pa Pae was the place we chose to stop at and it was a lovely place perched on the side of the road.  Looking out near the tops of the trees one got the feeling of being suspended high in the canopy and the wet misty conditions only made it more romantic.

For me the drive is perhaps the greatest attraction on these trips and destinations provide a direction to travel and places to rest up before continuing down the road.  Arriving in Pai we set about searching for a place to stay.  Enquiring at several places, we found some were full and others just a bit overpriced.  My wife, with the aid of her iPhone, kept looking until she found a really nice place right on the river and close enough to the walking street that we had no more need to drive that night.

We enjoyed walking up and down the street, eating, shopping, people watching and topped it off with a massage.  There was even a parade with everyone being invited to a local temple for a traditional Pai celebration of the end of Buddhist Lent.

In the morning, after breakfast, we continued on through Mae Hong Son where the road turned into the 108, headed for Khun Yuam.  We had intended on staying at the same place we stayed last time we were in Khun Yuam but when we drove up, the place looked deserted and not as inviting as before.  We made a quick, yet reluctant, decision to keep driving.

We turned off the 108 onto the 1263, hoping to find a place to stay on the way to Mae Chaem.  This road was the worst of our trip with many potholes, so our progress was slow.  There were roadside signs for a place to stay so we stopped to check it out, finding an Australian biker already there, drying out after a wet cold day on the bike.  I talked with him while my wife inspected the room and found it not to her liking.

Even in the dimming light, there was nothing for it but to continue on to Mae Chaem where we assumed there would be a better selection of rooms.  It was quite dark by the time we made it to Mae Chaem, which made finding a place to stay that much more difficult.  Stopping at a market to eat, we asked one of the vendors for suggestions.  She directed us to what she assured us was the best place in town.

Turns out she was right, but to my wife’s great disappointment, the four lovely bungalows were all taken and we had to look elsewhere.  Just down the road we found a place, not nearly as nice, but it would have to do.  We needed to get some rest before tackling the next section of road.

In the dark the night before, the 1263 had turned into the 1088 and now we were to take on the 1192/1009.  This is twenty kilometers of torturously steep, narrow and twisty road with blind switchbacks and signs warning you to honk your horn before proceeding around these bends.  I have done this road before and know the risks, so I settled in behind a local truck and followed him up the road, allowing him to run interference for me.

You come out just inside the main entrance to Doi Inthanon Park, half way up the mountain, on a road labeled 1284 and turn left to continue up a very nice road to the top of Doi Inthanon, the highest peak in Thailand at 2565 meters above sea level.  I suppose it would be nice to visit the mountain on a perfectly clear day, have great views and take amazing photos but every time I have been on the mountain it has been cold and misty.

So this visit felt very familiar, though a little more wet than usual.  Still by being patient I did get a few pictures when the mist parted momentarily.  My wife got a lot more shots with her iPhone because I was too worried about getting my camera wet.  After taking in the sites we headed down the mountain and turned left onto the 108 for Chiang Mai.

Typically we go to Chiang Mai to visit a good friend when she flies up from Bangkok to visit her parents.  She not only spoils us with a lovely place to stay but she drives us around to interesting places we would never find on our own.  Without her we are a bit lost so thought we would find a hotel close to the weekend walking street.  Somehow I thought it was held on Saturday but I was off by one day so our conveniently located Hotel M on the corner ended up not being quite so convenient.

The room was quite small but we had a very good night’s sleep and a delicious breakfast downstairs at the Coffee Club, on the corner of Rajadamnoen Road.  We were eager to check out the new shopping mall Pramenada on the outskirts of Chiang Mai but in spite of a great meal at Duke’s, we left disappointed with the shopping experience.  Before heading home the next day we had to make a stop at the old Airport Plaza Shopping Mall to look for things my wife couldn’t find at the Pramenada.

The drive home from Chiang Mai on the 118 was uneventful but pleasant and we got home just before dark.  It had been a wonderful trip and a great break from our routines but it was really great to be back home, to see Cookie and sleep in our own bed.

Baan Pa Pae for coffee on the way to Pai.

The Pai River next to our hotel.

Hotel in Pai.

View from our balcony.

Inside our room.

The road to Mae Chaem.

The road to Mae Chaem.

The highest point on Doi Inthanon.

A shot of the gardens on Doi Inthanon.

Classic shot of one pavilion taken from the other.

Closeup of the other pavilion. 

The Coffee Club.

Our room in Chiang Mai.

Driving Mountain Roads in Northern Thailand …

Chiang Rai is a great staging point for exploring Northern Thailand.  The options for day trips are many and include places like Mae Salong, Doi Tung, Mae Sai, Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong, Pha Tang, Phu Chi Fa, Phu Sang Waterfall, Phayao, and many other interesting destinations in and around Chiang Rai.

Occasionally one feels the need to travel further afield, as we did this last week.  Taking advantage of my wife being on holiday from her university studies, we decided it had been too long since we had been to Pai and beyond.  So we arranged for family to watch the house and dogs, packed up the Fortuner and off we went.  We covered a total of 1167 torturous but beautiful kilometers and went from 365 meters at home to 2565 meters above sea level on top of Doi Inthanon.

First we headed to town and then off in the direction of Chiang Mai.  At Mae Suai we turned right onto the 109 headed for Fang.  Our first stop was to visit friends in Fang on the 107.  Visit complete, we continued on the 107 to our first destination, Doi Angkhang high in the mountains.

It is quite a steep and twisty climb up the mountain but that is exactly what I was looking for on this trip.  We arrived in time to search around for a place to stay.  Things had changed a lot since the last time I had been up there so we needed to checkout the options.  The cottages located inside the park were full and we didn’t feel like staying in budget accommodation, so fortunately we found a room at the Angkhang Nature Resort.

There were a surprising number of people with the same idea we had of missing the winter crowds, but we were fortunate enough to get a very nice room for 1600 baht.  Most of the visitors were Thai families but the second day a number of French tourists checked into our hotel.  When the temperature dropped to 10 at night we were glad to find the switch for the thermal pad built into the bed, and were soon all toasty and comfortable for the rest of the night.  We liked the place so much we extended our stay one more day.

We got up early the first morning, to try our luck at catching the sunrise from a popular mountain top viewing point.  The sunrise was not great but it was still and interesting experience with all the people milling around and my wife bought some small gifts from the girls selling handicrafts.

After a wonderful breakfast back at the hotel, we walked the three kilometer loop through the park exploring every display and side trail.  They were busy getting things ready for the winter rush, planting strawberries and flowers.  Still it was very lush and green after all the rain we have had this year.  The fruit trees were eerie looking stick figures, far bigger than I remember from my last visit.

Later in the day we drove to Ban Nor-Lae to look from the Thai military camp over into the Burmese encampment on the opposite hilltop.  Later we went to Ban Khop Dong which turns out to be a very appropriate name for the village, with their little shacks perch on the cliff edge above the basket like valley and their terraced farms.

After our second night at Angkhang Nature Resort, we got up early and hit the road for Pai.  Overnight the remnants of a tropical storm had settled over Thailand and we found ourselves shrouded in cloud and mist as we headed down with nearly zero visibility, at least until we were better than halfway down the mountain.

As it turned out the sun didn’t come out for the rest of our trip but somehow I enjoyed the misty forests and cool weather.  Even with limited photographic opportunities, I still came home with a couple hundred shots.  I was merciless and soon pared that down by half when I returned home.

In part two I will cover Pai and beyond but for now I want to share some photos from Doi Angkhang.
Angkhang Nature Resort

Our accommodation.

Enjoying the view from the balcony.
The sunrise scene.

Our view during breakfast.

Planting the terraces for the peak winter season.

Budget accommodation back on the hillside.

Flowers.
In the peach grove.

Vegetables in front and peach trees across the road.



Time for a lunch break.

More flowers.


Looking across into Burma.

Weaving scarves for sale.

I think you can guess which one I would choose.

Buying avocados.

Handicrafts for sale.

Khop Dong Village

VillageFarang moves to NEX-6, dumping the old S-90


I am presently going through another quiet spell with this blog.  I am still out riding the mt. bike and taking pictures, we even took a lovely day trip around Chiang Rai which included Doi Chaang and Rai Boon Rawd.  The pictures ended up going straight to Google+, instead of stopping by the blog first, however.  I am looking for new direction, or at least new motivation for the blog, but no luck so far.

You can see what I have been up to by going to my Profile Page on Google Plus.

The big news, is that my Canon S-90 was dying on me, and I was getting tired of fixing the dead pixels in my shots, so I recently went out and bought a Sony NEX-6.  The weather was not cooperative yesterday so I only took a couple of test shots around the house and I was blown away by the difference.

It is still grey and wet outside but I am keeping my fingers crossed for this afternoon.  I desperately want to get out on the bike and play with my new toy.

EDIT:
Okay, here are some test shots from my afternoon ride and one view from the house.  As you can see things are very green these days.











Just adding a new shot from the house today.


Something a little more recent.  Fishing.



Chasing Blue Skies …


It rained through the night and I awoke to one of those lazy gray days where one cannot tell time without the aid of some manmade device.  It was a colorless, featureless day, very good for doing nothing at all.  It had been far too many days since my last ride, however, and that had me chomping at the bit, restless to hit the trail but still uncommitted due to the weather.

By the time I managed to overcome my inertia, it was nearing noon and I was still undecided about which direction to take.  My initial plan was to head West but as I paused at the end of our driveway in a light mist, I could see rain in that direction.  To the East though, high above the mountains, I thought I glimpsed a touch of blue and made a quick change of course, in search of those blue skies.  By the time I was crossing the Ing River, I began to feel more confidence in my choice of direction.

The closer I got to the mountains the clearer things got.  That mist like rain which I began my ride in, was gone and the mountains beckoned, promising blue skies and clear views.  It had been some time since I last attempted the two kilometer climb to the mountain reservoir but I felt the call on this day.

Threading my way through tight village lanes, I found my way blocked by a funeral procession as I neared the mountain trailhead.  There was not an inch to spare on either side, and dressed in black as I was, I fit right in with no one offering to make a path for me.  I could see the temple up ahead, but at the processional pace, it was going to take some time to get there.  Taking a chance on a side soi, I eventually found my way to the foot of the mountain and the beginning of the torturous climb to the top.

It quickly became apparent they had done some work on the trail.  I have grown to expect the dramatic changes that one encounters on the trail.  Sometimes they are washed out, burnt out, overgrown, graveled over or excavated by tractor or backhoe.  As usual there were also some newly cleared slopes and felled trees, as the industrious locals seek to add to their meager incomes.

My biggest surprise was yet to greet me.  Heart pounding, lungs searing, panting like Cookie on a hot summer day, I stood in awe at what lay before me.  Usually I have been greeted by water which stretched from dam to forest with no vantage other than from atop the dam itself.  I had been there when the water was low but never like this.

There were massive old tree trunks scattered about and large areas were covered by a moss like growth which helped to keep one from sinking into the muck and mud.  Looking out over this odd terrain, which was usually hidden from view by several meters of water, I saw a few trails where someone or something had trod, leaving deep footprints, highlighted by the angle of the sun.

At first I venture slowly, uncertain of my footing.  Each step was an adventure as I walked my bike over the spongy floor of the lake.  From the tiny plants beneath my feet, to rocks and tree trunks which dotted the area, to the eerie feeling of walking in this giant bowl like space, my senses were overwhelmed.  I spent quite some time wandering about taking pictures and marveling at this magical place.  I really didn’t want to leave but I had spent much longer than usual and still had a long way to ride with the temperature rising and my water running low.

Reluctantly I found my way back to the dam and started home.  That is when it really struck me, how much work they had done on the trail.  Lets just say it was quick ride to the bottom.  It ended up being a 48 kilometer day and I am feeling it today but I still have a smile on my face when I look at the pictures and remember.


Crossing the river.


Clearing the forest.

An improved trail


The dry lakebed. 

Tree stump.

A dried out relic from the bottom of the lake.

A different angle.

Flying close to the ground.

Closeup of the green carpet on the lake floor.

The tiny stream which feeds the lake.

The stream coming down from the mountains.

One last parting glance as I leave.  Blue sky found.