15.05.2007 - 18.05.2007 35 °C
The Chang Puak (White Elephant) Bus Station is the stepping off point for buses to Chiang Dao. Our tuk-tuk arrived just as a bus was ready to go so we were hustled from one form of transport to another. The bus is a provinicial bus so the air-con is open windows and the seating is three to a seat when necessary.
The first half of the journey is through built-up area and not so interesting, apart from the passing the army barracks and the equestrian centre. But the second half is very scenic as the road winds it way through the mountains, alongside a muddy brown river. We saw elephants and their mahouts walking alomside the road - there is an elephant camp up here too.
At Chiang Dao our first priority was food as it was now after 1:30pm and we hadn't eaten for awhile. We ate noodle soup. Katherine thinks this is the fourth time her vegetarianism has been compromised as even though she didn't have meat in her soup. the soup stock would have been made from meat. It was delicious anyway and Katherine closed her eyes and thought of Mother Earth.
We took a truck taxi to Malee Nature Lover's Bungalows, about 1.3 km past the well-known Chiang Dao cave. Malee has a beautiful garden with little brick bungalows. We settled in and went for a short walk to the temple up the road. We had just started looking around when the rains came (yes, my title Monsoons in May is appropriate). Luckily we had our plastic rain ponchos from the Elephant Camp so we sheltered for a bit then walked quickly back to Malee's and a lovely mussaman curry for dinner.
At nightime the fireflies, frogs and geckos came out and kept us entertained.
The next morning we walked down to the cave. We hired a guide with a lantern to take us through the caverns. You can go by yourself through the paths lit by electric lighting but with a guide we went the less well-trodden path. At times we had to crouch and scramble through little tunnels. The bat droppings reminded Katherine of Steve Gurney and his problems from going through a cave in Malaysia. The guide pointed out lots of rock formations that had been named eg 'Looks like dead elephant', 'Looks like lotus flower'. Her other most popular saying was 'Watch your head' but despite the warning I still managed to bang my head.
It was a very hot day that day, at least 32deg in the shade so the afternoon was spent snoozing in hammocks and swing chairs.
On our second full day at Malees's I hired a bicycle and had a short 2 hour ride along back roads through orchards and to hot springs (not much to see actually) and again the rest of the day was spent in idleness. In the cooler afternoon we walked to the hill temple again this time managing the 500 steps to the top.
On our last day we had time for some final relaxing before catching a truck taxi back to Chiang Dao town and the bus back to Chiang Mai. We were intrigued by the police checkpoint where they checked everybody's papers, except for us. I told Katherine they were looking for Burmese refugees escaping to Chiang Mai for a better life, but I made that up and I really have no idea why they were stopping everybody.