Chiang Rai, April 23-April 27, 2019
We finally made it to Chiang Rai! After leaving Phayao we headed straight for the White Wat. The White Wat was about an hour drive from Phayao and right on the way to Chiang Rai.
Chris went to the White Wat when he was living in Chiang Rai before. A lot of it was still under construction when he went, but it was still impressive, so he wanted to go back. When he and I went back 9 years ago we went to the White Wat. Again a lot of it was still under construction, but it was still very impressive. There weren’t a whole lot of tourists then and it was a neat experience. Definitely picture worthy!
April 23-Since we were going to Chiang Rai and we had a few days and it was on the way from our hotel in Phayao, we figured we would take the kids to the White Wat. When we got there it was packed! It was crazy how many tourists were there and how many foreigners were there. Everyone was walking around taking selfies and pictures and it was pretty chaotic. We did get some fun pictures, but we didn’t stay long. It was crazy! While I still think it is a sight to see and very impressive, the crowds were crazy.
When we were in Thailand before, we were invited by some friends to go to a waterfall. For whatever reason we didn’t go. The waterfall seemed cool to me so I knew that if I went back to Thailand I would definitely go to the waterfall.
Khun Korn Waterfall is a waterfall that is 70 meters tall (about 230 feet tall, or 21 stories tall). The waterfall is between the White Wat and Chaing Rai. Since it was right on the way to where we wanted to go I figured we could stop there before we even made it all the way into Chiang Rai. The waterfall was definitely top on my list of things to see in Thailand, but I think Chris and the kids would have been OK to pass it up. It wasn’t something I was giving up though and I basically forced us all to go!
We got to the parking lot and we saw signs saying the waterfall was a 1.4 (Almost 1 mile) km hike up a mountain. The kids weren’t thrilled with hiking in the heat, but with my begging and bribing with swimming in the waterfall pool when we got there they complied. The hike was really pretty with all sorts of trees! After hiking up and up and up we could finally see the waterfall! It was very impressive! We hiked down towards it a little ways and I fed the kids lunch (Peanut butter and honey sandwiches) and they changed into swim suits. They both thought there would be a real swimming pool there since I had told them they could swim in the waterfall pool. They were a little disappointed when they got there and just saw a river.
When we got close to the pool of the waterfall there was a lot of wind and mist coming off the waterfall and it was freezing! The kids decided to go down stream a little ways and swim in a smaller pool. The water was a lot colder than we expected, but they got used to the water. Chris and I kind of decided we weren’t going to get in and we would just watch the kids swim and play. Ryan started climbing up a smaller waterfall and Lillian followed him. She ended up slipping and sliding down the waterfall and I had to get in the water up to my waist to catch her. It felt nice, I was wet already so I figured I would go in with the kids to the bigger waterfall pool and we would stick our heads under the falls.
The kids were nervous, but I convinced them to come with me! The water was deeper than I thought it would be so I had to carry them with me. We finally made it to the falls and we put our heads under! It really was a lot of fun! Chris didn’t want to miss out on the fun so he got in too. The kids didn’t want to go under the falls again so we put them on some rocks and Chris and I went in under the falls. It was amazing!
We played for awhile, then it was time to go. Hiking down the mountain was a lot easier and we were so much cooler since we were still wet from swimming! As we were driving along the river and there were some restaurants set up along the river. Basically a bamboo deck with a small table. I thought the kids would like swimming and playing in the river while we ate so we stopped there. The food was only so so and the kids wren’t too interested in the river and there were ants. I would say this was our second fail of the trip, first one being another bamboo raft type thing. (Two fails in almost two weeks…not bad!) So we didn’t stay long and we were off!
We kept driving and made it to Chiang Rai. We pulled up some hotels on google maps and finally found one we were interested in. We stayed at Uncle Singha’s Hometel . (Uncle Singha’s is kind of like an Air BnB. Its a house where you rent a room, and share the kitchen and other common spaces with other over night guests. The first night there were other people staying in the house too, but the rest of the time we had the whole house to ourselves.) We pulled up and there was a lady outside watering plants. Chris asked her if this was the hotel and she said yes. He told her we needed a room for all of us. She showed Chris a room and had him call her boss, she was just the cleaner. We paid 500 baht ($15 US) a night for all four of us. We paid her for 2 nights and we figured if we liked it we would stay the last two nights of our trip as well. We unloaded and showered and we headed off for the night.
In Chiang Rai in the middle of the city there is a clock tower on a round about. Starting at 7:00 PM it changes colors and plays music for 5 minutes every hour until 9:00 PM. Its fun to watch so we took the kids to watch the clock tower change, then we found a Tuk Tuk to take us to get some curry. Tuk Tuks are motor bike taxis that are big enough to fit our whole family. Even though we rented a car we wanted to make sure to take the kids on a Tuk Tuk ride. We found a bunch of Tuk Tuk drivers, and we found one to take us to get some food. He finished his beer and we all hopped in and off we went!
The kids loved it and the Tuk Tuk driver loved the kids. Once we got to the restaurant the Tuk Tuk driver had the kids sit in the driver seat and we did a mini photo shoot with them “driving”. It was a lot of fun! The driver left and we sat down to eat our curry. We got chicken curry and Rotis and it was heaven! I think we went back to this restaurant everyday.
Instead of getting a Tuk Tuk driver to take us back to the main street, we just called a car to come get us. We had the car drop us off at the night market in Chiang Rai. There are several night markets in Chiang Ria, the one we went to was the one that happens every night. We did a little shopping and then we got some rolled ice cream. It was super yummy and we came back to get rolled ice cream every night we were in Chiang Rai!
It started pouring rain so we ran back to our car, we definitely got soaked along the way. It was great!
April 24-We woke up and headed out to the very northern part of Thailand. We knew Ryan loved caves so we went to another Buddha Cave. This cave is called Fish Cave, with a nickname of Monkey Cave. The drive up to Fish Cave we stopped for lunch. We were looking for Khao Soi, a Northern Thailand dish, but when we stopped at a restaurant they didn’t have any. We were told if we kept driving we would find some. We kept driving and Chris stopped at another place, and still no Khao Soi. A random guy came over and told Chris to keep going and we’d find it. We kept going, but that guy was flagging us down. He told us we needed to turn and then we’d find it. Sure enough we found it! The Khao soi was yummy!
After filling our bellies we were ready for the cave. We pulled up and when we got to the entrance they had bamboo sticks set out for people to take. We found out why the cave was nicknamed monkey cave. There were a lot of monkeys and the bamboo sticks were used to protect against the monkeys. We walked around the Wat/park for a bit and Chris and I looked at each other and said, “Have we been here.” We had in fact been here before, but nine years ago it was almost a ghost town. They definitely had redone a lot of it since then! In fact it was in so much disrepair, last time we went, I didn’t even go in the cave! Nadine (Chris’ Mom) and I stayed at the bottom of the cave while Bryan (Chris Dad) and Andrew (Chris’ brother) and Chris climbed up the cave and went in. Chris said last time they could barely get in the cave because there was so much bat poop and it smelled too strong of bats!
After walking around the park we decided it was time to hike up the cave. Before we made it to the cave we had seen no monkeys. Chris told the kids he would pay them 5 baht for every monkey they saw, but there was a cap at 50 baht, so the kids really wanted to find 10 monkeys. As we got closer to the cave steps we started seeing monkeys. Within seconds the kids had found all ten of their monkeys. As we climbed the steps up to the cave more and more monkeys were showing up. It got kind of creepy. The last time we were there the monkeys were more on edge hissing at everyone that passed by. I guess in the nine years since we’d been last the monkeys had gotten more used to people because there was no hissing.
We made it to the top of the steps and made it the mouth of the cave. This cave wasn’t as big as the other Buddha cave we went to, but the monkeys definitely made it fun!
After going to monkey cave we wanted to go to the cave where the Thai Soccer team got trapped last year. We did some research and we found the name of the cave and put it in google maps. I’m thinking google maps wanted to take us to the top of the mountain the cave was a part of and not the mouth of cave. We drove up a super steep windy road that seemed like it would only be big enough for motor bikes. We stopped and asked a man if he knew where the cave was and he said we passed it, we were too high. We kept trying to use google and figure out how to get there. We had no service so it was hard to do the research we needed. We kept driving and ended up crossing into Myanmar (Burma) for a bit. Finally we believed the guy and started driving down the mountain.
We came across some teens on motor bikes and Chris asked them if they knew were the cave was. One girl said, “Not here!” But offered to take us part of the way. We drove for a bit and came to a sort of parking spot. She told us they were going down the hill and that it had great views and she invited us to go with them. She said we could hop on their motor bikes with them. She said our car could probably make it down, but couldn’t come back up. Since we had the kids and there were four of them already, and only two motor bikes (2 motorbikes and 8 people) we decided to pass. She told us to keep driving down and we couldn’t miss the cave. (Clearly she gave us more credit than we deserved because we already missed it!)
We finally found the cave! It was getting turned into a tourist destination. There were shops set up and a good parking area. We parked and walked to the mouth of the cave. It was closed off but still easy to see. They also had a statue made for the one person who died on the rescue, a Thai Navy Seal. Three was also a room with artwork set up honoring the volunteers and the soccer team. There was a mural painted that told the whole story of the rescue. It was very impressive to see. We loved seeing it all and I am glad we made the trip to see it!
That night for dinner we went and got Mookata for dinner. Its a fun experience. You get a small grill type thing for your table and go and pick out your food buffet style. All the meat and noodles are raw and you get to cook them yourself! I wasn’t sure how the kids would do, but Ryan loved it. He ate a lot that night. Its a fun experience!
After dinner we went back to the night market for dessert!
April 25-We woke up early for our day with elephants! We went to Elephant Steps Chiang Rai. We decided half a day was long enough for the kids and we just went in the morning. The camp is run by a French woman who is married to a Thai guy and she has lived in Thailand for 27 years. She didn’t speak much English so her and Chris would speak Thai together. There was another French couple on our tour with us.
When we got there we changed out of our clothes into some traditional hill tribe attire, then we were able to feed the elephants. There were three elephants and six people so two people per elephant. It worked out great and it was a lot of fun! We fed them a grain mixture, and we would grab handfuls and pour it in their trunk. The elephants would put their trunks in their mouths and blow the food into their mouth. It was impressive! Then we fed them bananas and finished off feeding them sugar cane. (We fed them so much food, about 6 buckets per elephant!) After the elephants ate we went and hiked with them.
We hiked probably 2+ miles with them up and around mountains. The kids did great, but we did have to bust out our “would you rather” game. It was fun hiking with the elephants and seeing how well they could maneuver through the mountains and down the hills. We stopped in a clearing and it was time for us to go. The other couple were staying for the whole day so we left them and went back to the camp to change.
If we would have stayed or would have picked the second half of the day we would have gotten to bathe the elephants in the river. Originally that’s what we thought we were going to do, but ended up doing the trek instead. The trek was still fun and I think the kids were a little young to be in the water with the elephants. Both kids still loved spending quality time with these giant creatures!
We had decided that we wanted to stay the rest of our nights at Uncle Singha’s hotel so Chris called the owner and told him we wanted to stay a few more nights. He needed money soon and since Chris knew we would be gone all day just left money in our room. Chris told the owner where the money was and we were good to go. We stayed there a total of four nights and never saw the owner. Kind of strange, but it worked out great! Since we knew we had a place to stay we were able to enjoy the rest of our day!
After the elephants we took the long way home and took some side roads. We were driving through rice fields and it looked like we were in the middle of nowhere. It was amazing! We found a snake which was fun. We finally got to this tiny village and google told us we needed to turn. The road it wanted us to turn onto didn’t look like our car could make it, so Chris pulled over and asked a lady if we could get to Chiang Ria on that road. She said, “Not in that” pointing to our car, so we had to turn around and go back the way we came. It was still totally worth it and we loved that drive!
We ended the night at the night market for treats again!
April 26- We woke up and rented a boat/captain and road the long tail boats on the Kok river. We went for about an hour and we stopped in front of a tourist spot that had giant snakes. It was fun to hold them and get some pictures with them. There is another elephant camp here as well and the elephants were out walking through the river when we were there. It was a lot of fun! We took the boat ride back down the river and stopped at another Buddha statue. Lillian fell and got hurt, but she was a trooper.
We made it back to the car and we decided that the car needed to be washed. We went and unloaded everything at the hotel so we could get it really clean inside and out. While we were unloading the kids went up to the hotel room. All of a sudden we heard the kids screaming. Not just fun screaming, but the screaming that turns a parents blood cold. I thought one of them had pulled a giant dresser on them. Chris thought one or both of them got electrocuted. Chris and I raced up the stairs and we couldn’t get in our room. We were both panicking and the kids were too. Finally we got the kids to calm down enough to tell us what was wrong. Finally we figured out they were scared because they were locked in the room. (It locked from the inside and outside. When Chris came downstairs he put the outside lock on probably out of habit, or just to keep track of the lock.) The kids locked it from the inside and when they wanted to come down, they unlocked it but didn’t know it was locked from the outside too and they freaked. Chris was about to break down the door before we figured it out. Everyone’s hearts were racing and our adrenaline was surging. The kids just thought they would never get out and that we forgot they were in there.
We finished cleaning the car and we dropped it off at a car wash. While it was getting cleaned we walked over to the kitty cafe (A cafe where you can play with cats) and got some chocolate cake and hot coco. The kids were expecting the cats to play with them more, but the cats all wanted a nap. It was a bit of a disappointment, but towards the end they found some cats that liked them. We picked up our car and then we went to Chiang Rai Beach. Just a beach on the river and the kids swam for a bit. Basically would float down the river on the current, walk back up river and float down a ways again. They had a blast.
We ended the night at the night market with ice cream again! We watched the clock tower change one last time. It ended up being a perfect last night in Thailand!
April 27- We woke up early and tried to find Chris’ old apartment. We got close, but couldn’t find it. Then we headed to Chiang Mai. In Chiang Mai we went to a Tesco Lotus for some last minute treats, went to Pizza Company, and headed to the airport. We finally found the rental car drop off. (Just at the other end of the airport.) Our Thailand adventure was over! It was an amazing two weeks!