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Welcome to Chiang Dao Nest

March 19, 2006 Chiang Dao Nest

Chiang Dao Nest is the second of three places we stayed outside/around Chiang Mai. We arrived at what we knew would be a more rural setting but offered gourmet food. We also expected less comfy accommodations, which really means that the place does not have air conditioning. It was hitting 90 plus degrees when we arrived around noon, and got more hot and less windy around 1-2pm. The naps were non-existent because we were all wallowing in our own sweat. Just breathing and blinking my eyes broke a sweat. Nicky actually got a massage with hot coals that afternoon—what a freak.

chaingdoanest

It's so hot here the birds have to use pot holders to get worms. The cows give evaporated milk. I'm telling you, it's not cool here. There were several car tires that melted and I swear I saw one dude’s eyes start to bleed from the heat and humidity. You remember the guy that runs out on the basketball court to wipe up the sweat from the players? They have one of these guys here to wipe up our sweat from just our hearts beating. It’s seriously hot here. My book spontaneously caught on fire; ice sublimes in less than 2 minutes. All the drinks they serve here start with “lava….”—and those are the frozen drinks. They use the heat bubbles on the paved road to tell the time. I tell you, it’s hot.

Around 3-4pm it actually cooled down and got a good breeze going. The mirages I experienced soon left and I was able to appreciate the beauty of this area. After my vision returned and the cars’ tire rubber congealed again, we had a wonderful gourmet dinner and booked an elephant trek with bamboo river ride for the morning.

March 20, 2006

This was a traditional Thai elephant trek. We traveled by taxi (read: Nissan pickup truck with a top that fit into the bed. The top had padded seats built into it that ran the length of the bed. Most of the sides were open as well as the back. Very economical way to travel as the taxis can carry 10-14 people at any time, and the openness of the back keeps the temperature to a manageable/livable 135 degrees) to a very rural area that had nothing except a small stand that sold bananas for the elephants and a set of stairs to a platform on which to mount the elephants. We were lucky in that we shared this trek with another family. The brother (Sean from Spokane, WA) was visiting the sister (Sima) who works for the U.N. in Bangkok. He’s a physician with a specialty in kidneys and he brought his 8 yr. old son (Daniel). I enjoyed talking with them the entire day and was very happy we were able to share this day with them. On our last day there Sima helped us out quite a bit by writing down some things that we should see while we stay in Bangkok.

During our wait for the elephants and the banana station, both girls got bitten by some kind of huge elephant fly. Apparently, if you believe the kids' horrible screams and gnashing of teeth, it was very painful. Both the bite areas swelled up immediately and turned very red. Fortunately we never travel without our first aid kit (which is getting beat up from all the use thus far). We used our last “anti-itch bug” wipe on both of them and them and the pain went away very quickly. Sean mentioned that meat tenderizer is a great way to quickly reduce the pain and swelling for bug bites, so if/when we find some we’ll add that to our first aid kit arsenal. NOTE: look at the Lessons Learned section for tips on traveling with kids and first aid preparations. I think we’ve done a pretty good job in anticipating things, but we’re still learning.

The mornings here have been very hazy because of the many brush fires around the country. They are practicing preventative fire maintenance by pre-burning brush prior to the dry season. The dry season starts in April and lasts until July. That’s also their hot season where, I hear, your head spontaneously combusts if you walk outside during the daylight. During the dry season you don’t need lighters for cigarettes—you just hold the cigarette up in the air and it automatically catches fire. Ice chests here are a non-entity because ice doesn’t last long enough to put in a cooler. It’s hot here.

But I digress. The morning was hazy as our kids are screaming from the bug bites and we hasten to fix their ailments. Then we notice 4 large elephants across the road coming out of the haze, coming towards us. It was a very cool picture because these were very large elephants, and the haze made it all the more exotic. The 7 of us mounted the elephants and we had a real trek through the forests of Thailand, fording rivers, climbing very steep hills and going down some very steep trails, and fighting off mountain lions (I made up that last part about the mountain lions. I thought I’d put that there for poetic license).

` elephanttrek

It was a great 40 minute ride. The elephant drivers/handlers didn’t speak much, if any, English. Sean’s handler actually jumped off his elephant in the middle of the trek and ran across the road to try to shoot a bird with his slingshot. Then he casually relieved himself and walked behind all the elephants for quite some time. Then he jumped back on the elephant to lay down for a bit.

Elephant Trek Video

Note: if you can not see the video, download QuickTime and view the movie with it.

quicktime logo (4K)

Of course the elephants are used to the trail they walk and usually follow one another, and the other handlers were giving verbal commands to the wayward pachyderm. But it was good theatre anyway.

elephanttrek2

After the elephant trek we went to a small river to enjoy a bamboo raft river ride. The bamboo raft was about 20’ long and 6’ wide, with raised bamboo shoots in the middle to sit on. The raft guides stood at the front of the raft and used long bamboo poles to guide and propel the raft. The river ranged from about 5” to a couple of feet deep and had a lazy, slow-moving current. We were able to enjoy the scenery and take part in the driving/steering of the raft when we wanted. The raft itself was very cleverly constructed. It was made entirely from the bamboo grass, and held together by bamboo shoots that were soaked in water, wrapped around the bamboo poles, twist-tied like what you would do to close a loaf of bread. Once the shoot dried, it also shrank, and made the binding very tight.

bambooraft

In the afternoon I rented a scooter for 24 hours. Dominique and I explored the area and went out for 3-4 hours. I had a scooter almost exactly like this in college so it brought back a lot of memories for me. Dominique loved the ride and we went everywhere—downtown, back roads, even went out on the main road and opened it up to 70 km/hr. We tried to find the elusive Chiang Dao Cave (more on that later).

Did I mention the gourmet dinners here? Nicky had a lightly breaded pan-fried pork dish with melted blue cheese and caramelized Asian pears. Outstanding. I had marinated chicken breast in paprika, garlic and lime with sautéed potatoes in bacon and bean salad. Yummy. After dinner we all conked out for 12 hours, ready for our next adventure.

March 21, 2006

The next day we had planned an extremely full agenda. In the morning I took both kids on the scooter down the road to find that cave. I had heard good things about this cave from several people and despite my inability to find it the previous day, I vowed I’d find it today. It didn’t hurt that I had specific directions from the Chiang Dao Nest owner… We inadvertently walked right past the money taker (50 cents donation for the lights) and he kindly reminded us, “Hello? Hello? HELLO?! Halfway into the cave we came to a large table with many people in what we soon recognized as a turning point—from this point forward you had to pay 100 baht to get a guide and a lantern. For $2.50 I thought this was OK. Our guide led us for a 35 min trek through the caves, some of the cave openings were so small that I had to get on my stomach and crawl through. Brilliant tour. It was warm and damp and slippery, but never really dangerous. The steeper parts were aided by human-installed stairs.

Around 11am we arrived back at the Nest and got into a taxi for our next adventure. We had bottled water, packed lunch of salad, chicken and sticky rice, and we were off to the local waterfalls. It was great. Very small pools fed by a series of small waterfalls. The rocks were very climbable and, to my surprise, Dominique wanted to climb all the way to the top. We both had on our strap-on sandals and she was like Spiderman.

We had a great time relieving the heat at the falls and had a wonderful lunch. From here, we had a small taxi ride (the driver stayed with us all afternoon long) to a local hot springs. Why there would be hot springs at a place that’s already hotter than liquid hot magma is beyond me. What’s even more crazy than that is that WE ACTUALLY WENT THERE! Picture this—it’s so hot that my internal organs and skeletal structure has turned into a huge gelatinous glob. Yet I’m still somehow convinced that the hot springs is a worthwhile destination for us.

We only stayed there for about 10 min and then we were off to the local pool. The Nest has a partnership with a local pool that’s fairly cheap for us to use. It has a huge slide in both the adult and the kiddy pool. After this, both the kids and the adults were quite exhausted and we all had a very early bedtime.


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