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Chiang Mai 2012 Day 3: Downhill to Maesai

This is an ongoing travelogue on my travels in North Thailand. To start at the beginning, go here.

A third day in Thailand, our body clocks are still on Malaysia time, meaning we still woke up at around 6am local time. But its a good time to take photos of the glorious sunrise.

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Dusk to dawn is pretty cold here, altho it isn’t as cold as mid winter. The Lt. Col. told us that this year’s winter is so severe it might even snow in Thailand for the first time decades, but I don’t really think it will happen.

This hotel has decent complimentary breakfast, so our whole clan went down to the hotel restaurant at the lobby. Breakfast was simple fried rice, sausages and eggs, but more important was the free flow of good coffee. The restaurant was rather small, but it had the advantage of a stunning vista of green valleys and faraway mountains.

This is the view from the restaurant, you can see we’re almost above the clouds.

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Plan for the day was horseriding for the kids, while adults explored Mae Salong town and market. We went down to the Lt. Col’s restaurant again – his place seems to be the hub of tourist activity in the town as it faces the market street.

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Plan for the day was horseriding for the kids, while adults explored Mae Salong town and market. We went down to the Lt. Col’s restaurant again – his place seems to be the hub of tourist activity in the town as it faces the market street.

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For RM25, you get a 3 hour guided horseback tour of the countryside, coffee farm, hill-tribe village and lots more. So the 3 kids got a horse each, plus my BIL as adult supervision. Actually, its more like a hairy pony ride.

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For the uninitiated, this is horse shit.

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Soooo… With the kids gone, the rest of the adults went down the market street. Its actually a short street, comprising of the actual market, a few houses, a hair salon, a barber and two sundry shops.

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The first house had these hanging to dry. The stuff on left is easily identifiable as ‘lap cheong’ or Chinese sausages. The middle one is bacon. The white stuff on the right… Well, after a protracted discussion with my MIL, the conclusion is pork skin ginger white radish.

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The market itself is small but very interesting. They sell lots of fruits and vegetables you hardly see in Malaysia. Since everyone speaks Mandarin, its easy to converse with the locals.

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This is wintermelon.

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Some part of some animal i don’t eat.

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For what its worth, the pig looked happy in death.

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Opposite the market there an old Chinese Muslim ex soldier here. Guess how is he? 80. Years. Old. He used to be the town barber until he got too old to cut hair. Now he sells vegetables outside his shop.

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We still had time until the kids returned so we went took the van back to the town centre to check out more stalls.

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Then we went back to meet up with the kids who finished their horseback ride. Then we packed up and checked out of the resort. One last look at the place as we leave.

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On the way out of Mae Salong was the nearby tea plantation. It’s a bit like Cameron’s, except the tea bushes are planted in rows instead of clumps, plus they are irrigated by sprinklers due to the low rainfall.

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We spent quite a long time tasting different teas again and bargaining with this girl. Takeaway lesson from this experience – safflower tea makes you mabuk. Not joking.

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After that we kept on downhill and westward, i fell asleep and woke up for lunch. No idea where this was, but it was at a busy traffic light junction.

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The served excellent local food, including fresh chicken. On the average a local meal around here costs RM2.50 to RM3.00, only here you realize how expensive cost of living has become in our own country.

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We also tried the roasted chicken from this stall next to the shop. Quite good. Would have been better if it was freshly roasted.

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Next stop was the Mae Fah Luang Royal Botanical Gardens in Doi Tung. But before that, more coffee to keep us awake in the hot afternoon. As you can see, SOME people can hardly keep their eyes awake.

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Mae Fah Luang is a large botanical garden with different types of flowers from all over the world. The temperate conditions were makes them bloom all year round.

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Well, its kinda stunning when you first enter, but after awhile it kinda all looks the same. You might fully appreciate it if you are a gardener, botanist or photographer. But just next to the royal gardens is the late Queen Mother’s Royal Villa. To get up you need to climb up a small hill by foot. Don’t try to do it at midday. Quite a distance and steep.

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The Royal Villa is a somewhat modest timber bungalow, kept in pristine condition as a museum since her passing. Silence is observed there, so everyone gets a audio guide available in English and Mandarin.

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No pics inside, so we could only get an outside shot.

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After the gardens and villa visit, we drove into Maesai and went straight to the orphanage my BIL was involved in. It’s located just outside Maesai town. Its on a huge piece of land, with about 6 small buildings, the rest of the grounds is taken up by paddyfield now left fallow. There are about 10 boys and 10 girls staying there, all orphans.

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Calvin taking photos of the boys.

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The resident orphanage dog, a well fed Golden Retriever. Very friendly and inquisitive.

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After lots of photos of the place, and some discussion with the caretakers, it started to get dark and we drove back to Maesai town to check in our hotel. Maesai is a very simple town to navigate. its a straight road through town and it ends in the immigration checkpoint to Taichilek in Myanmar. Everyday thousands of locals and tourists cross the bridge over river Mae to enter Myanmar (Maesai is the northern-most town in Thailand). But more on the town tomorrow.

Before checking into the hotel, we stopped by this stall selling soya milk and yau char kuai (油条). It was okay, i still prefered the local variety. This was just a snack before dinner.

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Our hotel for the next two nights was the Piyaporn Place Hotel on the main road. It’s probably the only decent hotel in town, but it was pretty good in my book. Rooms were large, wifi dependable, good breakfast, walking distance anywhere.

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We took a quick shower and came down for dinner. Dinner tonight, for a change, was just street food. Throughout the day, the roadside of Maesai are filled with stalls selling clothes and souveniers, at night, some of them are replaced with food stalls. Actually, when we were there, it was pretty late at night, so many of the stalls were closing.

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But there was this Indonesian immigrant lady (all the way here at the Thai-Myanmar border!) selling Thai pancake. It is basically roti canai wrapped around a banana and drizzled with copious amount of chocolate syrup and condense milk. Mmmm-mmmm… can you hear my heart palpitating?

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For me, dinner was this young guy frying up a pad Thai storm. Personally, this was the best of the many pad Thais i tried over the week. Mmmmm… where can i get good pad Thai here in KL?

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So ends a long, long day 3. Tomorrow, Maesai and looking into Burma.

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