My last week in Thailand- it was very action packed and fun, a great way to finish off my time there!
Part 1: Pai
I ended my last post describing some of my goodbyes on Saturday afternoon (read here) – Emily (my traveling companion) and I departed Chiang Mai quickly that Saturday afternoon for an exciting and free, week long adventure in Northern Thailand. On Saturday evening, we arrived in Pai. This was my second time visiting Pai (read my first visit here), and oh goodness it sure was different the second time. My first time in Pai was in rainy season, so everything was green. This time of the year, it’s burning season, and since Pai is surrounded by a lot of agricultural communities, there was smoke blanketing the area. It was still so beautiful, just in a different way. Another difference from the first time I went to Pai was that I had more freedom as a traveler – the program had ended so Emily and I decided to rent a motorbike, something that was previously a program restriction. All this called for an vastly different traveling experience, and I’m glad I got to visit Pai on both occasions. Anyways, we stayed in Pai for three nights. On Saturday night, we got checked into our hostel and laid low, and the following days were filled with adventure.
On Sunday morning, Emily and I got ourselves some wheels so we could venture around to our list of activities in Pai with ease. We rented a motorbike for 200 Bhat per day (about 7 dollars per day) – motor bikes are a very common mode of transportation in Thailand and on this trip, we found out why. It was very easy to learn how to drive and was unbelievably convenient. Anyways, on Sunday, we hung out at a cafe with a beautiful view for awhile, and then we headed to Tha Pai hot springs. The hot springs, located inside a national park, were so big and impressive – there were many different pools at all temperatures of water. They also had other hot springs so hot that they were boiling. It was very cool! After relaxing and soaking for awhile, we went to the Pai Canyon. The Pai Canyon is a popular spot for the sunset, but we went there a few hours before sunset to hike around. It was beautiful, both the hiking and the sunset! That evening, we went to the Pai Walking street, and next thing we know, we ended up at a fire show. The fire show blew my expectations! A traveling circus, Medicare Circus, did a lot of different circus acts (dancing, nun-chucks, acrobatics, etc…) with fire! .
On Monday, we went chasing waterfalls – we started off visiting Pom Bok Waterfall. We got there early in the morning which was amazing because we practically had the waterfall to ourselves. We got to go swimming in it – it was so cold it reminded me of home. Next we headed to Mor Paeng Waterfall, stopping at the Pai Land Split on the way. Mor Paeng was so fun! Last week, we had visited a “sticky” waterfall in Chiang Dao, due to the porous rocks, you could climb all over it. Mor Paeng was described as “slippery;” the rock under the water is so smooth that you can slide on it like a waterslide. There were all sorts of different pools and places to slide in. It was super unique and fun. After working up the nerve to slide down the big waterfall, we headed back into town for the evening. In the evening, we got Thai massages and hung around the Walking Street before going back to our hostel. Pai was so much fun but we were heading off to our next place early the next morning.
Part 2: Mae Hong Son
The van ride to Mae Hong Son, another small town further north than Pai was three long hours and super curvy. The first thing we did in Mae Hong Song was rent a motorbike – our final destination, Pang Ung Campsite, was about two hours away. It was a long traveling day, but the campsite was worth it! Camping in Thailand is really convenient and fun! At all the campsites I had the chance to visit, you can rent tents and sleeping gear for a very reasonable price. There’s also a small food shop at the camp ground so you don’t need to pack tons of food. Once we got set up at our campsite, we kept things pretty chill. Our goal of staying at Pang Ung was to relax and take in some of Thailand’s natural beauty. The next day, we walked/hiked around the surrounding area, went on a bamboo raft on the lake, and relaxed at the lake front. The Pang Ung lake/resivour was beautiful – it was a blue lake in the mountains, surrounded by jungle and pine trees. There were black swans there which were stunning. It was a quiet place but it was perfect for us. I don’t think we could have pulled off traveling there if we didn’t speak Thai so I’m so glad we had the means to visit Pang Ung responsibly.
On Thursday morning, Emily and I got back on our motorbike and headed back to Mae Hong Song. On the way back to town, we were able to stop at several attractions that we had to skip on the drive up. First, we stopped at Pha Suea Waterfall, yet another beautiful waterfall. This waterfall was massive and its dry season, I can only imagine what it’s like in rainy season. Next, we stumbled upon Phu Klon Mud Spa – Phu Klon Mud Spa’s phamphlet explains it as “a mud source and natural mineral hot spring which is between 60-140 ° C. Mixed together with the mineral water, boiling black mud is clean, free from sulfur smell and full of healthy minerals.” This ended up being a super unique experience as there are only three mud springs like it, the other two being in Israel and Romania. Emily and I, a bit short on time and on a budget, just got a facials with the mud and a hot spring, mineral foot soak, but there were tons of options including totally covering your body in the mud. It was a really cool experience and I’m glad we ended up checking it out. Afterwards, we made it to our hotel in Mae Hong Son. We dropped our stuff and then went out for an afternoon/evening adventure. First, we went on a brief hike to another simple but pretty waterfall, and then we drove to a temple near the town that had an amazing 360 degree of Mae Hong Song and the surrounding mountains. We enjoyed the view from up there so much that we went back up there on Friday at 6:30 am to catch the sunrise. I think it was the most beautiful sunrise I’ve even seen.
Part 3: Last 24 hours in Chiang Mai
On Friday afternoon, we had to leave Mae Hong Son and get on a 6 hour van ride back to Chiang Mai. It was a long ride, but it was definitely worth it after the awesome week we had. We arrived back to Chiang Mai on Friday night. Saturday was departure day. We met up with Gabby, the other K student who stayed another week, and did our best to take in the last of Chiang Mai and also get ready for the long travels ahead of us. In the morning, I went to the mall to pick up last minute goodies. At the mall they were having some sort of singing competition that I watched for a bit – they played a few Thai pop songs I came to know which hit me hard. By the evening time, all of us were ready to go but still had hours left before leaving to the airport – we decided to spend our last few hours at the Chiang Mai Saturday Night Walking Street. It was nice to take in the scene one more time, get up some last street food before leaving.
We made it to the airport to be surprised by my Thai teacher! We had thought since we stayed the extra week, we thought that we missed the big airport send off, so this was incredibly sweet. We were soon joined by our program contact at Payap University. We got in some last conversations, hugs, and photos. I was and still am overwhelmed with appreciation for the people I met on study abroad because I know their work made the experience for me. At the airport, we also had a short and sweet video chat with our program coordinator. It meant a lot that my Thai teacher was there as she was the reason I loved learning Thai and going to class each day. Sadly, it was soon time for us to get through customs, so we said our final goodbyes and started our long journey “home.”
Thank you for reading this long post! This week was action packed so I had lots to write about – there are also lots of accompanying photos you can find here! I am now safe and sound back in Oregon. I anticipate a few more posts from me further in the spring as I share my experience with first year students at Kalamazoo College. Thanks for following my travels and stay tuned!