Dita drove my Eagle Creek bag and I back into Chiang Mai on her scooter, for my last massage before heading up to the Chiang Dao Nest Resort in Chiang Dao. When I booked my bungalow, They gave two choices for the hour and a half drive north….a pick-up truck with two facing rows of seats for $29.50, or an air conditioned minibus for $43.50. But, they left out the choice I opted for, the local bus for just over a dollar.
After buying my ticket and pointed to the bus, I pick a seat and wait. As the bus fills, a woman seems confused and quite committed to sitting in my Eagle Creek’s seat…who knew there was storage below! With a little time, a lot of attention and smiles, and the woman practically sitting on my bag, I learn that hand written seat numbers are on each ticket. Sorted out with humor the quite comfortable ride begins.
I notice some interesting things about the bus that make me grateful that it’s a chilly day. One being the ceiling fans, the other that each row fine for two, is actually for three.
Sometime into the ride I make my first friend, seemingly excited to practice his English and interested in the only foreigner on the bus. Full of questions, he leaves me with this statement I ponder, “the world is a very young place.”
A guy and his four year old daughter eventually sit next to me. Fluent in English we chat, and when we depart the bus in Chiang Dao where he lives, he gives me a lift the four miles up the road to the Nest 1 where I am staying.
Lonely Planet says that I’m in “a lush, jungle setting in the shadow of a mighty limestone mountain”, and they appear to be correct.
My little bungalow on a dead-end road ends a half mile up at the Wat Tham Pha Phlong mountain temple. On the fringe of the Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary, the Nest is idyllic. Renown for its food, I’ve resorted to taking photos of my meals.
After my bus adventure and the safety of the slow paced environs, I pass on the taxi into town for the Tuesday morning local weekly market. Rather, I walk until I catch a ride on the back of a scooter. On the return, in the back of a pick up truck.
The temple was where it was at for me. More than 500 steps leading up, signs scattered along the way with Buddhist sayings. It was drizzly and cloud covered for the first two days, giving an added mystical vibe to an already magical place.
Meditating at the top, gazing out over the jungle, I’m deafened by the sounds of cicada’s. I’ve never heard such a sound, and until told otherwise, was certain that a chainsaw had run amuck in the forest. Top of the World by the Carpenters spontaneously appeared in my mind and I’ve been breaking out into song ever since.
When the sun came out, I realized that I was in a butterfly and bird paradise. Thousands of multicolored butterflies were everywhere.
Sometime during the day, I met Corey, a charismatic and considerate young man from Miami Beach. Although living in China for several months, he’s not well versed in Asian travel and has not yet embraced it’s frequent communication absurdities. He humored me into the evening with his insights and bewilderments. We toured yet another cave, a much larger and more intriguing one with tunnels, insects and bats.
There are street dogs everywhere, a lot of them. One of these little ones followed me for quite a distance away from its siblings and mother which worried me. I think of Louie all the time, there are so many black and white ones, i miss her!
With the peace of nature, touches of adventure and the warmth of the people, I’ve hit my traveling stride. Even now as police (or are they amy) with guns have stopped the bus back down to Chiang Mai (where I catch a flight to Bangkok), checking identity cards with the occasional body search, I’m curious but not phased.
I’ve postponed my flight to Kathmandu for six days and as it’s taken me so long to get this post up, I’ve already flown down to the Sanctuary on the island of Ko Phangan. More about that in the next post, but their website really says it all, http://www.thesanctuarythailand.com