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April 24/23 -White Temple in Chiang Rai

Ever since I saw a picture of this temple, it has been on my bucket list. Enjoy this amazing site!

April 24/23….Chiang Rai to Chiang Mae and Bangkok

First stop…the Blue Temple “Wat Rong Seur Ten”- is painted blue cuz the artist got the idea from churches of Europe. Its meaning is to show the “kindness” of God and all things of world. He was student of the artist that did the White Temple. This temple had been abandoned. He only decorated and painted it but he did created the outside structures. The village of Rong Suea Ten meaning “canal tiger jump over” where this temple is located was basically abandon because of exactly that…tigers jumped over the canal.

Japanese rice growing in field… is shorter than Thai rice which grows to a metre and half high. Japanese rice is grown for making sushi.

Next on the agenda is the White Temple (Wat Rong Kuhn)… student of the “Grand Master”… is all white to show the “purity” of BUDDHA. It was started 10-15 ears before COVID. Built by a national Thai artist. ChalermChai. OMG! Brought tears to my eyes. Also went into the gallery to see other works of art by this man. No pictures allowed. Such an amazing artist….some wood carving pictures that looked like paintings. Also he must have been a bit of a satirist cuz some pictures were of Osama holding George W around the waist as the two ride a bomb/rocket. I took away too many pictures of this amazing temple and grounds, than I will send separately.

Sankampaeng Hot Springs…. Beautiful and shaded with steam coming out as well a couple of small geysers. Temperature of the water according to Joe is 90 C (but the sign says 105) so what did I do but stick my fingers in…… very briefly. Yup it was f..n hot!!! And stink…. Pee 😷 from the sulphur!!! A ways away from the source you could soak your feet in it. It was only 40-45C. It only makes sense that the closer you are to the source the higher the temp….45-55. Much closer the signs warn you that the water is “Hot”. No kidding!

On the way to the airport for our flight to Bangkok, we stopped at a silk factory and a silversmith’s shop. Some very nice stuff but I resisted. For one thing I might mention especially to the gals that travelled with me to India a few years back, India’s prices are definitely more reasonable..

Joe delivered us to the airport in plenty of time for the flight to Bangkok. If anyone is planning on travelling to northern Thailand, I would totally recommend “Go with Joe” as a guide whether it’s touring most of the north like we did or day trips out of Chiang Mai and some of the other northern cities, especially if you don’t want to feel like cattle being herded. There was just the two of us and him in a private car. Besides that he also looks after all entrance fees, lunches and very nice hotels that include breakfasts. The only thing you have to pay out of pocket for is whatever you want to drink and dinners.

We arrived back at our lovely hotel “Park Nine” in Bangkok in time to grab something to eat and drink in the air conditioned bar. Again it is crazy hot outside….you just can’t imagine it 😓💦 !!! Off to bed … pool tonight.

Update from April 21/23

Hi everyone, I apologize that I was not able to finish the my blogs for Thailand until now that I am home. I had run out of the space that I had paid for. So….here is the rest… day.

These are pictures from April 21 that had failed

More to come…..

April 23/23-Black House and the Golden Triangle from Chiang Rai

Population of Chiang Rai is only 120,000…. Quite small.

First we are going to the Baandam Museum (Black House in Thai). The grand master, Thalang Duchanee, taught one of his students that was responsible for building the White Temple (which we will see tomorrow) and that student in turn taught one of his students that designed and built the Blue Temple (also seen tomorrow). He showed in his art the dark side of people, of their spirit. His art (paintings) are really quite “black” or evil looking never mind the use of crocodiles and water buffalo horns in his art. This building was built in his honour with his own money. Its quite a large property with lots of buildings , some in the northernThai style….built on stilts (even the stairs can be lifted up into the buildings) to protect the family from marauding animals and flooding. Last night at the hotel…shortly after coming back from dinner, the skies opened up as it did the day before. This morning on the way to the Black House, we saw political signs along the highway blown to smithereens and here, the amount of storm damage was quite severe….broken trunks and branches and a hole in the roof. They must have had it worse than where we were.

To calculate BE, if it says 2565 BE on the “eastern” calendar to get the date in our calendar you have to minus 543 (would be 2022 AD)

Now to “Golden Triangle” where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet. It used to be “the” trading centre for opium. Now it’s the casino centre…. Lol! We see the huge Mekong River. Other side is Laos. The land that the huge casino and hotel complexes is leased by Chinese businessmen, led by gangster-tycoon (according to “The Diplomat”) Zhao Wei, is trying to make it the World’s largest casino complex. Apparently, according to that story, he has been involved with human trafficking, wildlife smuggling and drug production. Nice person, huh???

While at the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak Rivers we also stopped in on the Opium Museum.

April 22-Pai to Wat Thaton and ChiangRai

First stop is Pai Canyon. More steps up, up,up. …. My first sweat of the day getting up to the canyon. Absolutely spectacular. No one besides me walked across a narrow strip. Joe said to me be careful, no one can help you.

Next stop, WW2 memorial bridge. Built in 1912 but partially moved in ‘67 from Chiang Mai when they were building a new cement bridge there. Originally there was one built here by forced labour of the Thai people by the Japanese and then burnt down as they were retreating. Part of the span from Chiang Mai was a replacement for the one that the Japanese burnt down. The story on this and the connection to Japanese is a different slant on their friendship.

Unbelievable road, twisting and turning, switch-backs like crazy. I don’t get motion sick but this was having a bit of an effect… a little nausea with headache. Being a passenger in the backseat is not the same as being the driver.

Lunch at Fang. This “city” used to benefit from petroleum but that all dried up. Now it’s mandarin oranges and vegetables. It’s not a place that tourists stop but we had Joe to order for us.

Next is Wat Thaton. We didn’t go in this temple but to look at the outside off it, the view… to the military base in Myanmar and the twin city of Thaton… in Myanmar. A few years ago this Thaton was a very “dangerous” place to be before Thailand built a military base here too. Just after leaving Joe pointed out the 1000 acres mandarin orange groves & 10,000 acres of dragon fruit trees.

It’s cooler today…. Only 35 but feels like 36 cuz it rained last night for about 1 hour. I think all of Thailand is looking forward to rainy season. That’s when for next 2 months it rains but only at night. Monsoons come in August/September when it rains constantly. We also passed by what used to be rice paddies. It will once again, once the rains come. On the hillside there lots of lychee trees. The fruit hanging down reminds me of cherries hanging. They will be ready about July. I also noticed some plants with bags hanging off…. apparently they are guava.

It was a very, very long day for us but also for Joe. He drove probably 6 hours plus our stops. We got to stay in a 4 star hotel called Laluna. Its too expensive for Joe to stay too. It might be a very nice place but there is no dining room/bar, not many customers….none at the pool and their wifi sucks (I realize now that it wasn’t their wifi) so I cannot add pictures until I get where they a larger bandwidth???

April 21-Maesarieng to Pai

The weather app said that by noon it will be 37 but will feel like 41. That is a bit cooler than yesterday…. phew!

20 years ago there were no traffic lights, now 4, nice town large govt buildings and a airport.

The city is called smog capital. Winter smog is caused by fog, rainy season is smog, hot season is from fires. Small airport… 2 flights a week but many times cancelled because of smog.

Chedi are the small structures around edge of temple. Pagoda style… rings on main indicate it is Burmese style, no ring lines are Thai.

I forgot to mention yesterday that the Hmong hill tribe don’t want to keep the tradition of the rings to make necks long because they don’t want the younger generations to be ostracized.

Fish Cave (Tham Pla) the water is said to be holy. The water was used in the coronation of the king (in 2019). The fish are Mahseer, a type of barb or carp. The Thai people have different names that translates to “crazy fish” cuz it causes you to be sick and/or crazy. They are poisonous. The largest ever caught was 1.5 metres long. They are said to be green/brown and black but to us they looked blue…. Depends on surrounding environment apparently. In the rainy season the Pai River becomes very muddy and water from the Fish cave is clear so have a distinct separation of colour.

Tham Lod Cave was spectacular with huge rooms of limestone stalagmites and stalagmites. Went for a ride through part of the cave on bamboo rafts. You sit on a stool that is no more than 4 inches of the deck…. and then had to turn around when we changed direction. I would say most difficult. While in there we could see thousands of bats. One pooped Helen which she didn’t exactly appreciate.

Walked up 304 step up and 304 steps down to see the sunset from Wat Phrat Mae Yen Buddha temple in Pai.

We are in a most gorgeous hotel in Chiang Rai right now called Laguna. I am trying to catch up with my blog from yesterday and today but unfortunately this place only allows one device on wifi at a time. That is difficult to coordinate pictures snd my notes that are on two different devices. So, I will send the pictures from my other device 🤬

April 20…3rd day with Joe-Maesarieng to Mae Hong Son

First stop is Wat Phra That Jomjang…..a temple that is 400 years old built in style of lanna… different than we have seem. It is the northern Thailand style. Many in the area are in style of Myanmar because close proximity to the border and consequently influence. I asked about the different style of Buddhas particularly most here are slim but occasionally we see a fat one. The fat one is Chinese style. It’s called “Happy Buddha” for happy, healthy & wealthy.

“Jungle” mushroom that the locals want to grow (why they burn) fetches 1500 baht per kilo. Apparently they look like black button. It’s so dry here. Lots of teak trees along the road.

Tham Kael Ko Mon Cave-(only calcite cave in SE Asia. Oh my! Got a ride up the mountain in the back of a truck …… way way too steep to even consider walking up. There are 5 chambers to the cave. I made it down to see the whole of number 3 chamber. Even at that I was like descending multiple decks on a ship….backwards. And…..what goes down must come back up. Talk about my head sweating. Even my feet sweat. Not good when you are in flip flops!

Kuhn Yuam area where we stopped to see WW2 friendship museum Kuhn Yuam Museum & lunch. Joe told us that in Myanmar there are three groups fighting….Tai (not Thai. The Hmong are part of Tai), Shan and the military. Years ago they were promised independence then promise was reneged so are fighting for it now. The “Opium king” trades in opium, jade, ivory and other precious stones to finance against military.

Mountainous! This road is crazy windy….crazy! This tour is covering a lot of territory but would definitely not be for those that get car sick cuz the roads although in very good shape, as so winding

Off to go to long boat trail boat, to the original long Neck tribe village in Thailand. Along the the river kids are enjoying the water, the same everywhere when they are in the water… fun, fun, fun! It took about a half hour on the boat to get to the village over some shallow rapids …scraping the bottom. I am thinking “how the heck are we going to get back if it is this difficult going downriver???” Well don’t you know….. the motor on the boat ceased to function before we got to the Hmong village but the captain did some jigging and made it work. This tribe have been here for over 30 years. It was supposed to be temporary til things settled down in Myanmar. 60-70 people live here but their other half are in original village in Myanmar/Burma. And some moved (during Covid) to look after elephants in the sanctuary in Chiang Mai.

After getting back into the car we checked the temperature. It had cooled down somewhat but it was still 39 but felt like 45….can you believe it!!!

April 19- Chiang Mai-Doi Inthanon-Maesalieng

Doi Inthanon highest mountain in Thailand at 2565 meters (8336’)…… three levels of trees depending on elevation….dry on bottom, mixed in middle and evergreen tropical on the top. Around 1000 metres you notice pine trees…. Imported to reforest. Thai people love to come here cuz is cooler. The Royal Project start by king to have farmers grow flowers (under covers) when they previously grew opium. I don’t know what the grade is getting up here but it was a struggle. (6.4-13.4% …. Looked it up later) Rhododendrons and datura growing wild. Apparently the rhodos attract green-tailed sunbird….. wow! We saw one but unfortunately couldn’t get a picture.

On the way down we stopped at the market run by Hmong hill tribes. We bought at least 4 cups of strawberries for 20 Baht (.80 ). They were soooo good. Got some dried fruit as well.

Next twin pagodas. Wow, so many steps. One for the king, one for the queen marked 6th cycle. It is so high up but looking down you cannot see a thing. Amazingly the smog doesn’t smell or congest me.

Wachiraton waterfall….. another beautiful spot coming down the mountain. Had lunch there too.

Op Luang National Park…. Chiang Mai Grand Canyon,,,kissing mountains. Gorgeous and peaceful with river Mae Chaem River over huge boulders. Bamboo and pink lilies that I think are from the amaryllis family along the walk to the canyon. They have found relics, bones and caving’s estimated at 28,000 years old.

From there we head to Maesalong for the night. Along the way we managed to see a real cloud. Most of the time there is no blue sky so no view of what should be spectacular views. In one place they were burning. I had been told they do that after crops are done… makes for good fertilizer but these were not farms. It was among the trees. Joe told us that they do it so that when the rains come it will grow mushrooms. He said they are selfish because they are ruining the environment.

We arrived at Maesarieng very close to the border with Myanmar. The roads are very windy cuz it is mountainous….. not too unlike many parts of BC. The hotel is quit nice although not in the same category as what we have been staying. It is located along the Yuam River. Interesting…. You take your shoes off before entering… just like all the temples.

Apr. 17-flying to Chiang Mai from Phuket & on 18th our tour begins in Chiang Mai

We had an uneventful trip to airport and flight to Chiang Mai but it is surprising that some reception desk people (in Phuket) cannot seem to be able to divide the bill. It happened in Bangkok as well. The flight was great…. Less than 2 hours. Arrived in Chiang Mai to incredible heat.

Anyway after short taxi ride to our hotel….it was wow, another gorgeous hotel and they gave us gifts as well. It is so stinking hot we went to the pool to cool off and just hung out at the hotel. It was surprising that in this hotel, the lounge and the main dining area had no AC.

April 18…Joe picked us up right on time. Chiangran… meaning elephant. Used to be just rice fields when Joe grew up and the roads only 3 metres wide. Now no rice fields and the roads are mostly 2-3 lanes in both directions. We drive around “Old ChiangMai”. Most of the old walls are still there, surrounded by moats. Old Chiang Mai is about 4 square kilometres in area. It was built by king in 1296. It is 30 year younger than Chiang Rai but much older than Bangkok which is only 200 yrs old. White elephants are albino’s and are worshipped. Huge hospital… is a teaching hospital. Large university.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep( means temple, bone of Buddha, mountain & the name of hermit) is a temple in Chiang Mai elevation of over 3500 feet ….1300 metres. It is a “Royal” temple built in 1383 …. The road up to the temple was started by a monk that with help of people & no govt help.. in 6 months. You would not believe that it could be built …. By hand, in 6 months. Now is very beautiful road but very winding. Such an amazing temple. Lots of gold but mostly plated except 14 K on top. It was so so hot perspiration running into eyes.

Then went to jade factory. Did not know that jade comes in violet, red, yellow, white as well as black and the many shades of green

Then went to Wat Pha Lat..Buddhist temple a hidden temple and a tunnel. People would stop here (half way up to the temple) to meditate.

I like it here better than Bangkok cuz there is greenery…trees as well as middle of highways have many bougainvillea planted. The highways are not so hectic but still the skies are grey from smog. That probably protects everyone from more extreme sun…. I just cannot imagine.

We stopped for lunch at a place that is also an orchid farm. Strange to see that they don’t have the orchids in any sort of soil/medium at all. They also had a butterfly garden.

Now going to where make Elephant poop into paper. They also make paper from coconut husks, pineapple shells and horse and cow poop. The common thread seems to be the fibre that is in all. Also….. why cut trees down to make paper. I could not continue the tour of the facility cuz the heat got to me. Helen made it but we are both suffering from the same problem…. Caused from who knows what…. Water, heat, malaria pills for me…who knows???

We met up with David, the nephew of the people we stayed with in Guayabitos last February/March. He teaches high school here. We had dinner in a restaurant called Deck 1…. A pretty posh place, right on the Ping River.

April 16/23-Phi Phi Island (sounds like pee pee)

We were supposed to get picked up at our hotel at 6:40 am…. A rush to eat breaky (opens at 6:30) and then there wasn’t anyone here to pick us up. Finally after several notes set to the head guy, they showed about an hour late, apparently delayed because of Songran festival activities.

“Min man tah” is the name of boat. Guide “Coco”

First went to Bamboo Island for a little snorkeling,

Then to Phi Phi Don island to Monkey Beach (macaques). They told us not touch or feed the monkeys or allow them to sit on you because if they bite you have to go to hospital for shots in the belly. For some people, they don’t think the rules apply to them….that they are impervious!

From there we went to lunch on the same island but this place has hotels etc. We were warned to not take any pork or alcohol with us or we could be fined cuz the it is Muslim and you could be fined. It is the only place in the islands that are inhabited… rest of the islands are National Park.

Then went another island, got off the boat and walked to to the other side at Maya Bay…. where the baby sharks are protected. Gorgeous!!! The rangers are always keeping an eye out that you don’t go out too far. If anyone does, they blast a whistle.

From there it was to Pileh Lagoon….. means “small rooms” in Malay. Some people paid to go for a ride on Thai “long boats”, around the inside of the lagoon. It’s very lovely in there. The area kind of reminded me of HaLong Bay in Vietnam with the shear limestone cliffs. I didn’t go cuz I didn’t have money for it. Nobody mentioned bringing any money. It was low tide (but coming in) when we started to enter the lagoon and kept getting stuck on the bottom but finally we got to a deeper spot. No snorkelling here but nice swimming.

Next stop we stopped at Viking Cave to do some snorkelling. Apparently there are carvings inside of the cave that go back 800 years. It is where they collect birds nests for birds nest soup…. Very expensive. You can no longer go in cuz it is now privately owned. Anyway, the snorkelling was amazing with the fish just thick, going between me and my phone…. Some times they were nipping the phone. Of course we didn’t realize that Coco was feeding them from the boat.

I tried to download a video of the feeding frenzy but wasn’t able to so I posted it to FaceBook if you want to see it. It really is something.

We got back to the pier about 5:30, leaving at 6 and arriving back at hotel 3/4 hours later. A long but very enjoyable day although it was off to a rough start. Observation…. So many, many boats, ours carrying about 40 and others (according to the family from NJ) about 75….. not sure if I believe that but it kinda felt like cattle being herded. I will grant you though that they had it all very organized.