Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Road Tour 2009 - Part 3, Doi Pha Tang & Phu Lan Ka

Leaving Chiang Khong, I chose a route close to the Laotian border towards Phu Chi Fa. A nice place to visit again I thought. However, sign post along the way led me up another peak - Doi Pha Tang. At a height of 1635M, it offers breath taking views too!

Cherry blossoms were here, what a refreshing feeling!

Road snakes up to the car park at the far end where we camped for the night. A Bht50 donkey ride took me up the peak. I must be overweight, it stopped several times to catch its breath. But it was the steepness that encouraged to take a soft option. At one point, a jerk during a turn thrown me off balance and found myself landed on the slope. Lucky me, the landing was on a grass patch without stones!

Skipping Phu Chi Fa to Ban Huak, a border town along the Thai-Laos border, met the same craftsman making coconut string instrument. I decide to patronize him this time.

Journey further south was Phu Lan Ka National Park. Why not check it out? At the park entrance, the ranger cautioned the last 4km could only be reached by 4 wheel drive. We were advised to horn at each bend as it is a single lane for 2-way traffic.

Well, sounds like an adventure awaiting. It was really a steep drive & there were moments the engine was strained even on lowest gear. The gear box oil warning light indicated overheating half way & I had to pull over to let it cool down. Fortunately no other vehicle coming down other way.

Allowing the engine to take some fresh air too!

Cool mountain air and great views around.

It's all pine trees up here at this elevation.

A group of men were resting here, park keepers I presumed. It turned out they were hired porters waiting for a group of para-gliders to arrive. The peak is another 1km walk from here. Hmm.. I was not game enough to go any further.

They were kind enough to phone the other parties to allow us out before driving in. It was a drive I didn't asked for!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Road Tour 2009 - Part 2, Golden Triangle

Not far from Mae Sai along the Mekong river is the Golden Triangle. When I passed through last year, it was so crowded hardly any parking spot available. This time I could enjoy a brief stop & bit of photos taking.

This Golden Buddha sits on the bank of Mekong river looking across.

The river esplanade has a host of other sculptures that resembles a little park.

Back drop is the mighty Mekong & Laos on opposite bank.

Their intricate details are colorful & beautiful.

Typical of places as such, souvenirs vendors abound.

This is a lantern design of northern Thailand.

I followed the road along the Mekong towards Chiang Sean, a riuver port & Chiang Khong, where the 2nd road bride to Laos is under construction. Near Chiang Khong, I stop at Ann's coffee for a break. She's from Bangkok and came here 3 years ago. What a nice retirement lifestyle she's got.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Road Tour 2009 - Part 1, Mae Sai & Tachilek

Touring northern Thailand during the year end festive holidays became an annual event. Last fall I headed up to Mae Sai, a town along Myanmar border in Chiang Rai and traveled toward the eastern part of Chiang Rai bordering Laos.

Long drives are usually boring, but not always. There are occasional moments that kept one entertained. Like watching this dog stood up a human-like in front enjoying the cool breeze!

I arrived Mae Sai just before Christmas, a week ahead of the New Year crowds. The building behind is the Thai immigration check point. I decide to cross to the Myanmar town of Tachilek this time.

Leaving the check point towards Myanmar, this gate marks the "Northern most point of Thailand". From here on is a bridge linking the 2 countries.

This is the small river that serves as the boundary.

I stood at mid point for a while, looking back towards Thailand.

And the side towards Tachilek.

Watching the traffic flow between - a push cart.

Could a food stall cross over to conduct business too?

Many Thais too crossed over to shop across the border.

I was caught by surprise all foreigners were charge Bth500 entry fee even when visa is not required for ASEAN passports. A Bth10 was collected from Thais entering. This was not the practice at Laos & Cambodian border entry points.

My intend was to sample the market alleys on foot and not venture beyond that. Prices are transacted in Baht so there is no need to change money.

Didn't faill to notice these dragons decorating the roof top above.

Space here are at a premium, taking up any corner available.

Push-cart chesnut vendors, pretty common on both side of the border.

However this stall steam pancakes in pan floating on boiling water inside the pots, something not seen in Thailand.

Local transport - pulled my a moto-bike.

Went as far as this round about, beyond I reckon are just ordinary shop houses.

Official messages towards a "Drug free zone", after all this is part of the infamous Golden Triangle.

Returning to Chiang Rai, I headed to spent a night at Mae-Salong. A 30km drive off the main road to this mountain town populated by the decedents of the 5th Division of the defeated KMT army in China. The cherry blossoms had not arrived; may be we were here a bit early this year or the weather wasn't cold enough yet.

Ah Wan's new resort opened just a month earlier. Speaking Mandarin, I learned more about the village life and their past coming to settle here.

It was in far contrast to the crowds & traffic jam in town I've seen during the New Year holidays. Had breakfast and enjoyed the view here before leaving.

This is the largest banana tree I've ever seen!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Road Trip 2008 - Part 7, Mae Rim & back to Bangkok

Passing Chiang Mai on way back from Chiang Rai, my stopover was Mae Rim valley, just 25km north of Chiang Mai city. It is a well visited area with many resorts established up in the mountains.

Proud Phu Fa is touted as a hip resort there so I took opportunity to check it out. It's a stylish blend of simplicity in form with antique wood carvings.

A beautiful wooden 'door way' leading to the pool below.

The public toilet connects to the natural environment outside.

I like the way colored pebbles are arranged into floral patterns.

It's spacious garden setting with beautiful views of the mountains in the backdrop.

A charming village restaurant with overgrown creepers. Its interior decorated with empty wine bottles from the world over - signs of well heeled patrons I suppose.

On the way back to Bangkok, stopped over at this Chiang Mai market for lunch and bought 'fried pig skins' - a popular local snack here for my friends in Ban Laem.

Lampang is an area known for ceramics wares. Stopped by to check what are in stores. Prices are really cheap here - nice coffee mugs going for Bth10!

A whole row of shops to choose from too!

A lady came on a motorbike with vegies, snacks and even cold drink to quench your thirst - a micro "7-eleven" on a bike!

Wood carving of a cowboy out of a single log at a store in Nakon Sawan. The store's security guard obliged to pose with it.

This porridge store in Nakhon Sawan has TV never out of sight - guess won't miss a minute of her favorite soaps.

It turned out the drive was enjoyable with interesting stops. All in covered a distance of 2,500km.

I do look forward coming back to Chiang Mai again.. this is Loy Krathong festival at Mae Jo certainly worth witnessing... 10,000 lanterns launched! Wow, fantastic!