Atop the Land of Smiles

Our children were on fall break this month.   This gave us a week to plan our first real vacation from Singapore.  The debates about where to go and what to see were fierce; we have many desired destinations.  Thailand won our vote for two reasons:

  1. Chris works in Thailand and wanted us to see it
  2. Chiang Mai has a mountain.

We love mountains.  Chris, Jonathan, and Michael have a goal to scale the tallest peaks of each country we visit and every state in the U.S.  So, we visited Chiang Mai to climb Don Inthanon and check one peak off our list.

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A view across a Don Inthanon vista

We booked a local tour to tackle the mountain.  Don Inthanon is about an hour and a half away from Chiang Mai.  We traveled in a songthaew-style truck along with other tourists and our guides.  These trucks pervade Thailand, offering affordable transportation almost anywhere you want to go.  The ride is not extremely comfortable, but there is plenty of fresh air!

Our tour included visiting the summit of Don Inthanon, visiting the King and Queen pagodas, a hike through the rainforest and stopping by some local Thai villages.

A Wet Start

Our first stop was at Wachirithan Falls.  Here is a video; the force of the water created vapor that drenched us in seconds.  It was powerful!

Summit and Shrines

The summit of Don Inthanon houses a large shrine to King Inthawichayanon, one of the last kings of Chiang Mai.  As Buddhism is the predominant religion, one finds shrines to Buddha and Thailand’s rulers everywhere you go.

 

Another magnificent example of these shrines sits on further down Don Inthanon:  The King and Queen Pagodas.  These temples were built to commemorate the 60th birthdays of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit.  You can learn more about them from other visitors here.

Here is a sampling of the beautiful gardens and pagodas.

We continued walking through the rainforest before stopping at area farms.  Here is a short video of the lush forest.  I wish my videography could catch the wonder of it for you.

 

Village Life

By far, my favorite part of the day was our hike through the villages.  There we were able to interact with locals and see their rural lifestyles.  It was a welcome break from the busy streets of Chiang Mai.

We toured a strawberry farm carved into the mountainside.  Strawberries were not in season, but we enjoyed watching the farmers tend the plants by hand.  There were a couple of children racing up and down the hills while their parents worked, but I couldn’t catch a picture of them.

Visiting the farm felt like a step back in time.  As a child, I grew up on an old strawberry farm and ran across it constantly, delighting in the up-and-down mounds beneath my feet.  It touched my heart to watch children doing the same thing in a rural village half a world away.  Also, there was no power machinery on the farm, only manual tools and simple machines to harvest the crops.  In every sense, surveying the farm evoked feelings of nostalgia and comfort.  I was sad we could only visit briefly.

Our last stop of the day was at a coffee farm.  There we found a building set up for visitors to sample coffee and buy wares.  We tried our hand at coffee grinding and tasted the rich Arabica coffee.

A campfire set at the edge, surrounded by logs for seating.  On one of the logs sat an old woman, petite and beautiful.  The woman mesmerized me.  I longed to hear the stories she held within her.

A couple of ladies sat nearby and I approached them.  I signed to them that they were beautiful and could I take their picture?  This is the picture I got after they translated my gestures to the woman:

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This was my favorite picture of our trip.  The woman on the left translated and told me that mama was ninety-three years old.  Her job was tending the fire for the water kettles, which she did with attentive fervor.  We enjoyed sweet conversation and long before I was ready, it was time to leave.   After a long day of trekking, we boarded the trucks back to our hotel.  We were tired.


As wonderful as this day was, it was just ONE of the amazing days we enjoyed in Chiang Mai.  Look for more posts that share our adventures in this wonderful area!


 

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