After an early start, we said goodbye to Mae Wang and hit the road. Tony told us it was going to be quite a long drive but there would be plenty of stops to stretch our legs.
After forty minutes, we drew up on the side of the road to a lovely little coffee shop which overlooked a jasmine plantation and an avenue of mulberry bushes. We ate the mulberries – they were delicious. The coffee was lovely and Tom tried some of Tony’s M150 – a very sugary drink, which he loved!
We then hit the road with Mr Tony and Tom up at the front and Graham at the rear. We all had walkie-talkies to keep in touch. We soon left the touristy area and started climbing. Amazingly, the road was very well laid and in great condition. Much better than in England!
We stopped halfway and Tony explained that we were entering into the national park. The last King had made great efforts to encourage the local people to stop growing opium and to grow other crops such as coffee, strawberries and chrysanthemums.
We then arrived at the National Agricultural Centre where they experiment, growing new products to see if the local conditions are right. On the way, we passed through many villages with the locals working, selling or sleeping!
The countryside was very lush and as we climbed higher, the trees changed into beautiful scented spruces. All along the roadside there were many plantations. We could also see a number of natural forest fires.
By 1pm, we stopped for lunch at the National Park centre. Tom was absolutely delighted to be able to eat chicken and chips and Mads enjoyed another Pad Thai! After lunch we arrived at our accomodation, in one of the villages of the Karen Tribe. This tribe came to the area about 100 years ago and were given the land by the then King of Chiang Mai. They are not permitted to sell this land but they now farm the area. Our rooms were basic but in a stunning location, looking over the paddy fields. It was not the right season for rice but they were growing marigolds.
Once we had settled in, we got a lift on a truck up to the Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand. We saw the shrine of the King of Chiang Mai. In the early 20th Century, when Thailand was united, the King’s daughter married the King of Bangkok.
We walked through the forest, near the mountain, seeing some beautiful birds.
We then drove to another temple with two Pagodas. One for the King and one for the Queen of Thailand. They had the most stunning gardens – so colourful. On the way back, we visited a local market and bought fresh strawberries, nuts and dried mango.
After a pre-dinner rum and coke with Pam & Geoff, we walked down the road and had a fabulous BBQ, Thai style. We grilled chicken, pork and seafood on the top of the bucket. There was also a ridge round the edge where you could make a broth of vegetables. It was great fun!