All of a sudden the days are flying past. Although we’ve visited Chiang Mai before, there is plenty that we haven’t done – and still plenty that we won’t get to do this visit. Oh well, we’ll just have to force ourselves to come back again one day!
Adisak arranged for Mr Veera to take us out for the day to see some of the surrounding areas. On our way out of the old city we passed all these gleaming new bicycles in rows in a central square. There were also lots of kids there in uniform. Mr Veera told us that it was the 100 day anniversary of the King’s death, so we put two and two together and came up with a theory that the new bikes were gifts for the children who were present, in honour and recognition of the King. As it turned out there were also a number of ceremonies taking place in town last night as well.
We headed out of town (in Mr Veera’s lovely air-conditioned twin cab ute) into the mountains toward the Mae On District. The girls and I treated (?) everyone to improvised songs and harmonies on the way there as the car radio wasn’t working. It was actually very special, singing together! After a little over an hour of driving through what were eventually narrow, steep and winding roads we arrived at The Giant. We were very grateful for our driver’s expertise!
The Giant is a cafe set in a massive tree. You need to cross a bamboo and rope bridge to get to the elevated cafe platforms, and to get back off again! From their website:
Formerly Baan Pok village was a cultivated area of coffee, tea leaves (Bai Miang) and persimmons. More than 10 years living in this area simultaneously with the village development project, the owner of this land decided to establish “the Giant” to support this campaign. It was built by the cooperation of the viilagers and formally opened on March 1, 2014.
The objectives are
1. To develop public utility in the village such as road and phone signal service
2. To support agricultural community by being the center to distribute and promote the coffee of the village
3. To create awareness of natural conservation (no deforestation, no hunting and no forest fire).
We enjoyed coffee and cake, but then quickly moved to what was the main attraction for the girls – the zipline! There was just the one zipline, to a platform on a tree a little way across the valley, and then back again. Perfect for a zipline introduction (although Clare has done these before). Both girls were set up in harnesses and other safety equipment, then off they went!
I did manage to get a bit of video of them in action – Stella chose to fly with her hands in the air for quite a bit of the zip. She’s our little adrenaline junkie! Both girls loved it, and weren’t at all fazed by the height above the forest floor. They said that they were all strapped in so there was nothing to worry about. I suppose that they were right! Loads of fun.
Our next destination was Maekampong Eco-Village and Waterfall. We drove through the relatively busy lower village – it was Saturday, so there were plenty of tourists around (although we seemed to be the only Western looking ones) and parked further up the hill then walked to the waterfall.
The waterfall actually goes over seven levels. We walked up over 150 steps until we reached an area where the stairway had been blocked off. The falls were impressive and beautiful now in the dry winter season – I imagine that they would absolutely roar down during the wet. In areas the rocks were all smooth and funnel like, much like a water slide ride at a park – except much more dangerous!
At the base of the waterfall was a group of cyclists having a rest stop and coffee after working their calf and thigh muscles extremely hard to get up the extremely steep roads. Nothing like a weekend ride with mates. The river flowed over the road at that point but wasn’t very deep.
A narrow path led alongside the river, and we followed it down into the village of Mae Kampong. The vegetation altered as we lost altitude, and according to Clare it felt rather reminiscent of Queensland.
It really was beautifully peaceful and tranquil. The village is built around the stream, we walked between houses, so close that you could look inside windows. This part of the village was actually rather quiet, unlike the lower part we’d driven through on the way up.
The fenced area in the below photo was a little plant nursery. I’d noticed many plant nurseries alongside the route when we travelled to the valley, selling plants of a variety of types and sizes.
We are pretty certain that these are coffee beans, out to dry in the sun after picking, before being roasted.
We ordered some soup for lunch from the menu above – yes, with a fair bit of pointing, although Mr Veera was able to assist us. Across from the cafe was a vendor cooking the ubiquitous “meat on a stick” over hot coals. In this case she was cooking chicken’s intestines – they are on the left in the photo, nicely coiled onto a stick – parson’s noses (that were described as chicken bottoms) and chicken drumsticks. The chicken here is super tasty, as it’s all extremely free range, but I still can’t quite come at eating the intestines.
These crispy crackers were not only pretty but tasty – Stella had remembered them from our last visit and was very keen to eat more. I’ll need to track some more down at the market later.
According to this website : Originally hailing from the area of Doi Saket, the ancestors of today’s villagers came to the area in search of more fertile lands which would assist them with improving their native tea growing and cultivation practices.
Located just a short distance from the “Rose of the North” – the city of Chiang Mai – visitors to Mae Kampong will instantly feel like that have stepped back in time, with traditional teak homes dotting the nearby mountains and ranges, and where the local folk go about their daily lives just as their ancestors before them have done for hundreds of years.
Fruit, coffee and tea trees pepper the naturally green and fertile landscape, and these tasty treats not only serve to help to provide sustenance for the village people who reside in Mae Kampong, it is also a source of income for them as they choose to work on the land.
As a visitor to Mae Kampong you can witness the locals go about their lives as they bring in the seasonal harvest, and the native people of the area are only too happy to show you their farming skills and let you partake in a little bit yourself, should you wish to do so.
This is a town that now specialises in eco-tourism and in home stays, in simple rooms like the one above. There is a terrific review of the area and the home stay experience here. We encouraged Clare to keep this in mind when she’s a backpacker in a few year’s time.
That was actually enough activity for one day for us! We headed back to Chiang Mai, despite the number of other attractions in the area. We’ve found that life is better for all of us if we pace ourselves a little (although on reflection it seems like we’ve done loads of things this holiday). We do have another drive out of town planned for Monday.
As well as his car, Mr Veera has a lovely shiny new tuk tuk. Tuk tuks are registered and Mr Veera has a commercial licence. I figure this is much like the system we have for taxi drivers in Victoria. He had his name and photo on display in it along with relevant numbers. It’s a good way to weed out the dodgy drivers and operators. There are also plenty of songtaews around to take people from place to place. They are small red trucks with bench seats in the back that head in a general direction and drop off and pick up as required. Apparently Uber recently came to Chiang Mai as well though!
I had a good long soak in the tub before dinner. Perfect ambient temperature – the air and bath water pretty much matched! And you can’t fault that view.
The kids were very keen to return to Hanging Feet for dinner – this time to take advantage of a table where they could definitely hang their feet down! I have to admit that it made me feel slightly nervous that I was going to either drop something down the foot area or else slide something off the raised table.
Once again the food was great, and the total bill was around A$27. Not bad for a family of four – although my girls don’t eat much, so don’t think that most groups of four people would get away with paying quite so little!
We had another fish spa on our way back to Baanbooloo. Stella was very keen to try it, yet also terrified to try it. She gave it a red hot go, sitting beside me on the bench before dipping her feet into the water then pulling them out again straight away before the fish had a chance to latch on. Poor little thing – there were lot of tears as she grappled with her desire to have a fish spa yet her fear of it at the same time. I reassured her that it wouldn’t hurt but that she didn’t have to do it. In the end she decided that she couldn’t do it – but still wants to try again later! It’s hard to overcome our fears sometimes isn’t it!