And more from Ella as she describes day 3 – when we start heading high up into the mountains
My diary of a Tuk Tuk Adventure – Day 3
Today was the day we really headed way into the countryside as we headed towards the highest mountain in Thailand – Doi Inthanon.
We said goodbye to Mae Wang, our base for the last two days and set out along very pretty roads in our now familiar convoy with Tony leading the Tuk Tuks and Ya Ya and Oa (another member of our support team) driving a truck behind with all our bags, huge supplies of water and even a few treats for stops along the way.
Stunning roads at the start of the day – before we hit the clouds..
As most of our time so far had been pretty warm, to say the least, it was hard to believe our guides when they said we would actually be cold on the way to Doi Inthanon but, to everyone’s surprise, as we headed further into the hills it did start to get chilly (never thought that I’d be cold in this part of the world!).
Thankfully the team had prepared for this and bought everyone blankets to wrap around themselves which were well received even if we all looked a little strange in our bright orange Tuk Tuks with brightly coloured blankets wrapped around us!
It was a really interesting drive up into the hills and seeing all the small Karen ‘hill tribe’ villages living in and around the forest. Cue lots of smiles and waves as our brightly coloured procession drove past – and that was just from us….
Our first proper stop was a Royal Project high up in the mountains. When we arrived it was shrouded in cloud and genuinely chilly but the gardens were stunning – full of flowers and there was even the prior King’s personal Land Rover that he used on many journeys in the North of the country.
People we meet are constantly surprised at how far up into the mountains these Tuk Tuks can make it – usually they are only based in the cities – but our Tuk Tuks were specially built for these trips with more powerful engines and very sturdy chassis to cope with everything the hills could put in our way. And lots of locals really enjoyed having a good peek at the engines and even a sit in the drivers seat to see what they were like.
We had a great lunch at a roadside restaurant – Thai food seems to be delicious in even the most out of the way places – and then, after a few more coffee and snack stops we arrived at our accommodation for the night in the secluded village of Mae Khlang Luang, home to a Karen HilL Tribe community.
Each one of our bungalows had amazing panoramic views of the endless rice fields and mountains and it almost felt like we were in a different country. Amazing.
After a little time to rest up we then all piled into a local taxi, called a songtaew, that took us up to the very top of Doi Inthanon at over 2,500 metres. Once we arrived to the top of Doi Inthanon we all got a photo in front of the sign saying highest spot in Thailand (if you don’t get a photo does it really count?) and our guide team explained some of the history of this significant point in Thailand. He then took us along a nature trail exploring some of the forest near the peak which was fascinating – lots of flora and fauna that only exists at this altitude due to the climate being so different from lower down.
Out next stop was two chedi’s built in honour of King Rama 9 and his wife – lots of steps (there is a walkway but that didn’t really feel like an adventure!) but simply amazing views all round. Or at least we’re assured there are but on the day we visited we were right in the middle of the clouds, swirling around us with their chill and rain. Nevermind – all part of the adventure and still definitely worth the visit.
What the chedi’s look like on a clear day!
By late afternoon it was time to head back to our village – with a stop to pick up some local home brewed strawberry wine (!) and a quick sample of the local whisky (an acquired taste…) – and then dinner in a private ‘sala’ perched over the fields. But that doesn’t quite do it justice – it was a traditional Thai style BBQ where we all go to cook our meat and vegetables with fantastic dips and soaking up the delicious ‘soup’ that gathered around the edge of the pot. This was so much fun some of us even bought some of the BBQ ‘pots’ to take home and try to re-create the magic in distant lands.
A fantastic end to a fantastic day and a sense of real adventure was lying over me as I settled into my huge bed overlooking the rice fields. If the rest of the trip is going to be like this then I’m not sure I’m going to want it to end.