From Mae Chaem and back to Chiang Mai

I didn’t actually take great notes during this period and I’m writing months later, so I’m just going to summarize what I remember about the rest of the trip.

When my back was manageable we left for Mae Chaem on the scooter. I thought this was the best option as while I could have taken a bus, they’re honestly super crammed and not very comfortable. Plus, you are stuck! No stops. With this arrangement I was able to take breaks  when I needed them to stretch or walk around for a bit. I don’t remember much about the journey but I do recall a little about Mae Chaem.

Mae Chaem is small town and unlike most everywhere else in Thailand there wasn’t the plethora of ready restaurants to greet us. We ended up staying at the Mae Chaem Hotel and eating both dinner and breakfast at the restaurant there. The hotel itself was a little bit run down. They have both a main hotel with rooms, and some private cabins in the back. The room they showed us in the hotel was horrible. It was moldy smelling and visibly dirty. We were both horrified and unsure about staying here, but the cabins in the back were much cleaner and nicer looking. Eric decided he’d had enough of looking and just took it.

I remember that I actually ordered something called “fried pork” something or other, only to get a big plate of pork rinds! The server had a good laugh at my expense, lol. Now is probably a good time to mention you should be careful of English translations as they can be pretty fast and loose.

While the cabin was reasonably comfortable it was super cold at night. In addition the pillows were really weird. Twice the size of normal pillows and desperately hard. In the morning I was ready to move on.

I remember looking around on review sights and taking a walk through the downtown, but we just weren’t able to find anything open for breakfast. We ended up eating at the hotel restaurant again to keep things simple.  I was ready to be back in Chiang Mai!

Oh Chiang Mai, how I missed thee. Actually it was pretty stressful getting back. We came back on the exact day that our rented scooters were due and had to pick up some luggage we had left behind at our long term rental place. My back was still hurting a lot too and I couldn’t help out much.

I think we made the rentals by the skin of our teeth and managed to find some Khao Soi Gai. Unfortunately this was probably the worst Khao Soi of the trip! I remember the spices weren’t quite right and they had bits of dry chicken breast instead of the traditional leg. Pretty disappointing for our last time. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant and I don’t feel like it’s really worth looking up.

Next we found an inexpensive hotel called Viraporn’s Place. Why we stayed there is kind of a funny story. Like all of Thailand there was a 1 inch step once you get out of the stairway which I did not see. I totally ate it and busted up my ankle!

The owner was pretty apologetic, but he also made a joke that we had to stay there now, lol! I actually have sort of a dark sense of humor so I thought it was pretty funny. Also true! I didn’t want to walk around looking for another place after that.

Viraporn’s Place was a nice break and I was very comfortable there. Other than that I don’t really remember much about this period. I vaguely recall walking around the downtown backpacker market, and going to eat at this restaurant where I took this picture:

I remember walking down a kind of sketchy alleyway, only to find the restaurant at the end of it.  There was a sign above the door with a weird name. It specialized it a certain type of Thai food but I don’t remember what was special about it (Isaan? Northern Thai?).

After some googling I’m pretty sure that it was at Lert Ros. Even the tabletops look similar to some of the other pictures on tripadvisor. It specializes in Northeastern Thai cuisine and is recommended on the Lonely Planet website.

I remember that we were seated right away and the food was amazing. We ordered the grilled fish, a curry in banana leaf dish, and a clay pot soup. The fish was my favorite and it was especially delicious with the red dipping sauce. Ask for seconds because you will need a lot!

After a few days of relaxation in Chiang Mai we took the sleeper train to Bangkok in order to catch our flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia! On to our next adventure!

Disaster! Pulled a muscle in my back at the falls

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Last Sunday started out fine, we got a chilly breakfast in Ban Rak Thai, walked around a little then left for Mae Hong Son. We decided to stop at the Pha Sua waterfall, which while it was beautiful I now kind of wish we skipped as I ended up pulling a muscle in my back while walking down the stairs. They were quite uneven and I think that walking downstairs first probably was worse than the other way around. Downhill is more stress on your body and we usually have to walk uphill first which I think warms up your muscles. My boyfriend actually twisted his ankle too, but he was able to walk on it. Downhill first is definitely not for us!

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It got progressively worse during the day to the point that I had to sit out Su Tong Pae, the longest Bamboo bridge in Thailand. There’s a cool temple on the other side and some buildings to check out.

The next two days I spent laid up in bed at the Piya Guesthouse. It was a nice place though I definitely didn’t enjoy being stuck there for two days. It might have been better to go to the hospital but we weren’t sure about the sort of medical care we would receive in Mae Hong Son, plus I was pretty sure that it was just a pulled muscle and I needed to rest it.

The guys were able to rent some mountain bikes and go on a ride through some of the trails near town. They said it was fun but exhausting! They were also able to try the Banpleg restaurant, which according to the Lonely Planet has the best Nam Prik Orng in Thailand. My boyfriend brought me back some and it was so good, especially with the pork rinds. Spicy though!

After two days I was able to get on the scooter and we left for Mae Chaem.

Coffin Caves and Ban Rak Thai

Last Saturday we woke up late and went to the Seven Elephants cafe. The cafe is located at the Soppong River Inn. The dishes that we got were the oop gai, shan meatballs and the nam prik om. The shan meatballs were especially good and the nam prik om was probably the best version of the dish that I’ve had in Thailand so far. My dish was pretty good too, but I feel like it was very similar to other dishes that I have had recently. Afterward I had mango a sticky rice. The mango was not completely ripe but it was still very good. The rice really stood out. Instead of the normal white sticky rice it was black. A little bit chewy and very tasty.

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After lunch we drove a few minutes out of town to the Coffin Caves. The Coffin Caves, also called Tham Pi Maen or “Spirit caves,” are about 30 or so wooden coffins with artifacts from 3000 years ago. The walk up to the Coffin caves is quite steep most of the way is up uneven stairs. My boyfriend and I saw caves 1 and 3. There is a sketchy bridge that the path from Coffin 1 to 2 takes you across. However because the path is a loop you can actually see coffins 2 and 3 without going over it.

After the coffin caves we drove up the winding road to Ban Rak Thai. The road is steep and twisted but in good condition and there was not much traffic. The guys really enjoyed the ride.

Ban Rak Thai was not at all what I thought it would be. It seems to be a total tourist attraction. There are many overpriced resorts and tons of shops selling tea.

After finding some reasonable rooms we went to a nameless restaurant for dinner. It was really weird. We got fried chicken, egg rolls, honey spare ribs and some stir fried vegetables. I did not recognize the veggies, the egg roll was basically a sausage with egg roll coating, which also came with some breaded and fried pork fat, the fried chicken was tasty but actually had black bones and skin. Very weird.

The hotel was ridiculously cold that night and we only had one small blanket. Definitely not enough to keep warm.

Soppong and Cave Lodge

This morning we packed up and left for Soppomg. We actually only had an hour drive ahead of us but we decided to take it slow today. We stopped at this roadside shop for some beverages and to stretch our legs. It had an amazing view!

We also stopped at this market and viewing point. It had a four person human powered Ferris wheel. Eric and Greg tried to get it working with this Norwegian couple. Seemed pretty dangerous so after a few near misses we decided to quit while we were ahead. I took a video of it but I’m tethered to my phone at the train station right now so I will have to upload it later when I get to a wifi spot.

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I thought the Cave Lodge was amazing when we first got there. It’s really up in the trees and has a spectacular view. We got a room with two beds because it was roomier and had a better view. Ate some tasty thai food though they have farang stuff as well. Did some laundry. Communal area with ping pong (guys played after lunch), books (though not a lot of English titles), hammocks and a smoking area. Really looks like a jungle bungalow.

Unfortunately I had a bad time on the only kayaking trip that we booked, the one hour trip through the Tham Lod. The guide pushed a leaky kayak on me and I ended up spending the whole trip in a pool of water unlike the other people in the group that were able to sit on the seats in the kayak. I should have asked for a working kayak but I just didn’t know enough about it to know that something was wrong until I heard air leaking out of it. Also the guide was very evasive when I asked questions about why there was so much water in the bottom of the kayak (unlike the others) or why I couldn’t sit like everyone else. I really felt taken advantage of and I can no longer recommend Cave Lodge as a place to stay or book trips.

We did end up staying the night there and eating dinner at their restaurant. Because it was raining we didn’t feel comfortable riding the scooters but I didn’t feel right about staying there after what happened. We left the next day.

Leaving Chiang Mai and heading to Pai

On Tuesday we said good bye to our apartment and left for Pai. I was sad to go but excited about our trip. I’ve heard a lot about Pai from other travelers things like its so amazing you end up staying longer than you planned and there’s so many incredible things to do there.

We decided to travel to Pai using our scooters. Right now there is a lot of construction and the roads are slippery with lose gravel and wet from whatever work they’re doing.

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We stopped at the Royal Botanical Gardens along the way. Very big complex and lots of amazing green houses, plus a very cool canopy walk way.

We made it to Pai around 5 pm. We were all exhausted and booked the first rooms we found for 400 baht a night. Kind of a bad location but we fell asleep right away.

After our naps we woke up to a completely different downtown. The street was closed off and thick with shops. Clothes food, everything you could think of. We ate some dinner at place down the street from our hotel then got an hour long foot massage. Then we went to a bar where to guys played billiards against some Thai guys.

Next day we went to Pam bok waterfall. Beautiful but really cold. Had to cross rickety old bridge that looked like something out of Tomb Raider. Cliff jump that was mentioned in the article I read was not that impressive.

For lunch we went to this cool Treehouse restaurant and guesthouse. I really liked the ambience of the place. Food was okay.

Because we were in the area we stopped at the Noi elephant camp. Riding the elephant bareback really hurt my butt. I guess that I was sitting the wrong way. If you sit on the back of the elephant over it’s spine you need to sit on your legs. I wish that someone had told me! After 15 minutes I couldn’t take anymore and had to get off. Because we were far away from the normal place you mount the elephant they had her sit in water and then I jumped off. Then the guide had the elephant shake off the guys, like in a rodeo. At first we thought the elephant was just upset, but it turns out the guide was giving her a command to do that. Glad I wasn’t on it, lol. I went back on one of the guides motorbikes.

Afterward we went to the Pai hot springs . Amazing location, you really feel as though you are sitting in a hot spring river. If that’s not entertaining enough you can also buy eggs and cook them at the head of the stream where it’s 80 degrees celsius. We just stuck to relaxing in the warm water. The hottest pool you’d actually want to get into was 36 degree celsius. Little waterfalls separate each pool. We started in 33 degrees, then 32, and last 31 degrees.

Back in Pai we had dinner by picking up street food while strolling along Walking Street. I had a fresh coconut, an eggroll and a curry chicken bao almost as big as my face. Great way to enjoy downtown and have dinner.