This journey actually started with me renting a motorbike and heading to Chiang Dao on a whim. I wasn’t even sure where I would stay. Close to sunset I luckily found a resort where they provided me a tent and blankets and breakfast for only 150 baht. The only drawback was the creepy owner that told me how beautiful I was and followed me everywhere and literally got into my facetime calls. That was precarious… The first day I was able to check out the Chiang Dao cave which had a temple nearby and also votive figure within the cave. It was delightful! I saw a super cute dad and son working the front counter.
Through a series of events and broken english and Thai, I was able to locate a guide to take me up Doi Luang, which is a mountain in the national park that I could see from the cave. It was stunning. The mist gathered around the peak at sunset and my gaze lingered and left me thinking, I want to be there. I want to climb that. And so I did. The next morning I had to wait 2 hours for the guide. But because I got to the town so early, I was able to witness a sacred ancient tradition.
Many monks still walk to the temple every morning and the villagers provide food for them, which they deposit within each vessel or satchel the monk will carry. It was really special for me to see and I chose not to actually photograph it. I did however, photograph some monks walking along the path to the temple. Finally, my guide arrived in a truck and there was a surprise group of like 8 thai people from Bangkok. Luckily Pam, one of the members in the group, spoke some english and I was able to quickly befriend them. We all headed up the mountain, about half way up by truck, to begin the hike.
Upon arriving, I realized an unusual fact about Thai back packing… they hire sherpas basically. I’m not sure what they are called, but the men load up all the food and supplies and carry it for the people up the mountain. Thai people are also not really experienced like western back packers so they don’t bring ultra lightweight items nor food. They literally will bring bags of rice and raw meat, all of the things for complex and large Thai meals. It was fascinating! I felt bad for the men though, as I know it is not good for their bodies to be so overloaded. I had all my supplies on me except the tent and sleeping back they said would be provided for me at the top.
All I want to do in life is climb mountains and read poetry, so I was ecstatic to stumble upon this moment to trek up such a beautiful mountain. The hike is about 5 miles (8.5 km) in distance, but a ton of elevation gain. I would estimate about 4,000 – 5,000 ft of elevation change, but the information is not easily provided. The terrain changed from open fields, breath taking views, to cool jungles, bamboo forests, and then the peak.
After summit, we watched the sunset. Since I powered up the mountain, I clocked it at a little over 3 hours, I lost my group but met some girls from Belgium that were my friends. There were kind enough to share some Sam Song and we sipped it watching the sky turn to fire with the oranges and pinks of the slipping sun. It was unusual to see the sun fall behind such dense clouds in the distance. It disappeared into the mist and the cold started to hit me. I didn’t realize how incredibly cold the mountain would get, so I was deathly unprepared. I reunited with my group and they were amazing. They helped me with a spare jacket and scarf, which I swear saved my life hahaha. We descended together down to the campsite where we had an amazing spread of Thai food prepared by the help and then we kept warm by the smallest most silly excuse of a fire.
I went to bed early and woke up at 3:30 am. I couldn’t go back to sleep because of the cold. My supplied sleeping bag was summer rated, and it reached 3 degrees Celsius up there. Being up in the dark, I was able to stargaze and see the milky way. It was beautiful. I hadn’t seen stars like that since Joshua Tree National Park in California. I also saw a shooting star so made a shivering and quiet wish to myself. We departed camp at 5 am to head up another mountain for sunrise. In the freezing cold, we huddled together as a group to enjoy seeing the god of the sky rise to give us warmth. I could see how so many religions worshiped the sun as it was a life giving orb, mother of our universe, opening its rays of arms to bless us with life.
We continued hiking all around the mountings during the day. My new friend Pam was terrified to see me crawling out on rocks, dangling my legs from mountain cliffs. It was precarious, as I like my life to be and the adrenaline rush was nice. I was so grateful to be in a group with such amazing people. It turned out they were also all engineers and hated their jobs as well! We connected and had a terrific time. We shared lunch together and then I had to split off and descend the mountain alone so I could head, that day, back to Chiang Mai on motorbike.
All I wanted was a cold salad and a beer. I was able to do this after being dropped off back at the Chiang Dao restaurant. After resting for about an hour I finally jumped back on my bike and headed to the city. I had one of the best times in Thailand so far in Chiang Dao. If my visa weren’t up, I would have stayed longer! But alas, I must exit the country.