One of the many things I like about travel is that it takes you out of your comfort zone. This motorbike road trip in northern Thailand took me out of my comfort zone. This is the first part in which we visited Phrao and Chiang Dao, two lesser known villages with stunning scenery located north of Chiang Mai.
One of the (many) things I like about travel is that it takes you out of your comfort zone.
I traveled alone for one year, and I loved it. I felt free, I made new friends, I traveled exactly where and how I wanted.
After that liberating, uplifting experience I thought it would be very difficult to travel again with someone else.
I didn’t imagine that I would share a trip so soon.
I used to be scared of motorbikes. I saw them as dangerous unstable things.
During my round the world trip, however, I got some motorbike rides and I changed my mind. They’re actually useful! They’re actually fun!
Still, I couldn’t imagine that one day I would do a road trip… on a motorbike. And I did it.
This is the first part of the tale of my first motorbike road trip.
1 motorbike, 2 people, 9 days, 1000km along stunning northern Thailand. Let’s go!
This post is part of the series “Northern Thailand by Motorbike”
- Phrao and Chiang Dao: coming out of my comfort zone
- Huai Nam Dang, Pai and Soppong: let the trip flow by itself
- Mae Hong Son: challenging my limits
- Mae Sariang and Doi Inthanon: smile, give, receive
From Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao via Phrao
I felt, more than ever, on the road.
I didn’t feel the wind on my face because I had a full visor helmet, but I could feel it on my arms and legs from the back of the motorbike. I could feel the speed by looking at the rice fields that disappeared in the distance.
We left behind the heavy traffic from Chiang Mai and hit the road to the north. To start, we would go to an off the beaten path village.
Our first stop was Phrao, a small village 100km far from Chiang Mai. While it didn’t have any major attraction, I enjoyed being in a non touristic place, wandering around the market, looking and tasting food I had never seen before.
After having lunch in a small local restaurant we went to visit the temple. Did I ever tell you that buddhist temples fascinate me? I like their architecture, the multiple roof tiers, the snakes and dragons, the decoration, the yellow and orange colors, and specially the atmosphere of peace that I feel inside.
The temple in Phrao was a big one that had intricate decoration details. And for the first time I noticed something: there were small bells hanging from the roof that made a gentle noise with the wind. I later read that the ring of the bell serves to focus a follower’s attention, to help paying attention to the now (also known as mindfulness).
Orchids fields (or not)
We had read that there were orchid fields on the eastern side of Phrao. So after visiting the temple we took the motorbike and went in that direction. I was very motivated to see the colorful flowers!
But we never found them.
Maybe it wasn’t the season. Or we didn’t go to the right place. Whatever.
Instead we found fruit trees and stopped to take a nap. There was something comforting in lying under a tree, feeling the sun on my face, hearing the wind blow between the leafs. Somehow, it brought back memories from the past.
In the afternoon we continued the trip to Chiang Dao, passing by more forests and paddy fields and wooden stilt houses. Northern Thailand is so beautiful!
A welcoming farm stay
We knew where we wanted to stay in Chiang Dao, in a farm stay that my friend knew from a previous trip. It is a large area of 4 acres with bungalows, fruit trees and a little river. A place to rest and relax.
I loved the place. I woke up with the soothing sound of the water, opened my eyes and saw the roof and the walls of the hut. It was a bamboo hut. Outside, the sun was shining, the chickens were cackling, and the owner was waiting for us with a tasty fruit salad.
I think that something that makes an accommodation special is the friendliness of the owners. I really enjoy it when the owner is nice and has a genuine interest in talking to the guests.
That farm stay was one of those special places.
Chiang Dao is a small village surrounded by beautiful scenery and Mt Chiang Dao, which is one of the highest mountains in Thailand. The owner of the farm stay gave us a hand drawn map and recommended us some places to visit.
Wat Tham Pha Plong
We went first to Wat Tham Pha Plong, which is a temple built on the top of a mountain. It takes 500 steps to go up! All along the way there are quotes from buddhism hanging from rocks and trees. It is actually a pleasant walk. The birds sing and the jungle embraces the steps.
About half way there is a small terrace with nice views of the temple and some benches to take rest.
The temple is quite interesting because it has been constructed in a cave. From there, you can have a look at the surrounding area: mountains and mountains of lush green jungle. Deep jungle. And further away, more mountains.
The arts café
After lunch we crossed the nearby river in search of a café that the owner of the farm stay had recommended. It wasn’t an easy task since the map wasn’t very accurate. At some point we saw a sign pointing to a café so we turned left, not sure what we would find… and we found it.
It was a great surprise.
The café was much more than a café.
It was a whole area with a café, hammocks, an art gallery, a water channel, gardens, paddy fields, a small theater and even a guesthouse. All beautifully decorated, all perfectly taken care. A place to relax, to sleep, to be creative, to work, to meet, to just be. We were there for 2 or 3 hours but I could have spent the whole day.
A hill tribe village near Chiang Dao
We followed the road in search of a hill tribe village. To find it, we had the hand made map and some directions we got in the arts café. On the way, we crossed more paddy fields with beautiful views of the mountains.
There was ongoing construction work on the road. I was surprised at how manually they work. It was at that moment that I also realized that all the roads we had taken were in really good state (and all the roads we would take during the whole road trip as well).
Finally we found the village at the end of the road. It was very similar to the Lahu village where I had been three weeks before: stilt wooden and bamboo houses, chickens and pigs on the streets, friendly and smiling people. No idea if it was the hill tribe village we had been told about, nor which was its name. It didn’t appear in the maps!
A campfire at night
When we came back to the farm stay, the owner had prepared a pile of wood to make a campfire. At night, after dinner, we lit the fire. There were many starts on the sky.
I was happy. I liked traveling by motorbike. Not only I was able to sit behind without holding for dear life, now I was able to shoot photos and take videos on the road. I was comfortable. I was enjoying.
I was also enjoying the company. It was comforting to have someone next to me, to take decisions and share experiences. We had a very similar way of traveling so we got along very well.
After two days, I didn’t feel anymore out of my comfort zone.
Travel was giving me new experiences, and my comfort zone was enlarging.
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GOOD TO KNOW
- Rai Siwavej Farm Stay in Chiang Dao, phone +66 819616590, GPS coordinates 19º21’55.67”N, 98º56’04.14”E
- Makhampom Art Gallery Coffee Shop in Chiang Dao, GPS coordinates 19º21’58.05”N, 98º58’33.42”E
- Wat Tham Pla Plong in Chiang Dao: free entrance
- Other things to do in Chiang Dao: Chiang Dao caves, hot springs
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