Finally, a day on our own, outside the city! Chris and Dad went to a 100B buffet breakfast at another guest house, while Mom and I waited for the rental car to come (and had pancakes).
We drove to Doi Inthanon National Park, which is the highest point in Thailand and technically in the Himalayas! It’s about 8000 ft high, which seems a bit low but I certainly felt it at the top. It was cold and windy, but the sun was warm. And I got winded walking up a staircase. Yeesh.
We took a short walk before lunch, through a forest. There were a few rhodies (they say there are 3 species) and several birds, though there were too many loud noisy people on the trail to see any. The path ended at a shrine for a helicopter crash.
We had lunch near two big temples (full of tourists), and by that time I was quite chilled through. We bought 4 chicken legs/thighs, drinks, chips, and some sticky rice – along with some spicy sauce – and devoured it all rapidly.
Next was a 3-km hike, through cloud forest. We were a bit miffed that we HAD to hire a ‘guide’ for 200B – who didn’t even speak English! But he picked up trash on the way, restored signs, and the trail was very well maintained. The guide was very quiet, but he showed us the way when there were several routes to take, waited for us when Mom had to photograph a rhody, and didn’t mind at all if we didn’t have to stop when we reached a bench.
The hike went through cloud forest for the first bit, over streams, through ferns and fir trees. Then, quite abruptly, we were out on the alpine savannah – I almost expected to see Indian paintbrush! (That’s a plant we see growing where we hike in the US) And then, just as abruptly, we were on a scrubby ridge with a delightful breeze and a view overlooking a rather hazy valley.
At the end of the ridge, just before we ducked back into the o-so-northwest forest, we got a perfect view of the two wats, with monks walking around the flowered grounds. Between the tourists.
After stopping to see a waterfall or two, we drove back to Chiang Mai – just in time to return the car (and a misplaced cell phone) to the rental place. Then to dinner (with ice cream and brownie for dessert) before wandering off to the night market.
Every Sunday night, two blocks of a main street are closed to vehicles and venders of every shape and size open their stalls. It put Bangkok to shame. There was food (kebabs, ice cream, waffles, fresh juice), bags, paintings, aluminum (NOT aluminium) embossing, trinkets, buskers (some quite good, others school-kid quality), dance shows, jewelery, wood carvings… the list goes on and on. Mom was disgusted by shopkeepers who didn’t know what hilltribe their wares came from, and we ended up only buying a CD and a few waffle fish. Chris bought a painting to hang in his dorm, which is quite nice.
Back at the guesthouse, we had backpacks hanging on our door handles, ready for tomorrow. Time to get packing!
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