During the last two days of the road trip we went from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai via Mae Sariang and Doi Inthanon. And it happened again: my best memories are not from the places, but people. A woman who gave us tea. And I learnt that it is important to smile, and give, in order to receive.
I love beautiful landscapes and stunning sights. However, most of my best memories are not from the places themselves, but from the people I met on the road.
It can be a deep conversation, an inspirational sentence or a simple smile, but people manage to touch me in a way that landscapes simply cannot.
The last two days of our motorbike road trip in northern Thailand were no exception: we crossed impressive mountains on the way from Mae Hong Son to Chiang Mai, went up to the highest mountain in Thailand and visited a famous temple, but my most treasured memory is the woman who gave us tea.
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
Mae Hong Son to Mae Sariang
Traveling by motorbike gives a lot of freedom, but there is more: the road takes a special significance. It’s not only a path to follow, it’s becomes part of the experience. You can feel the road. You can feel the speed and the wind on your body. You can feel the curves.
During the first days of the trip we stopped at several viewpoints to take photos of the distant mountains. In come occasions I tried to record videos, but my camera is not good to make videos while moving.
So that day we decided to take photos of the curves, and it was fun!
Whenever we saw a nice one we stopped the motorbike and searched for a good angle (which wasn’t always possible). Other motorbikes and cars passed next to us when I was standing in the middle of nowhere, camera in hand. I wonder, what did they think about me?
We had lunch in a small village, Khun Yuam, and after that we left the main road. We had time and wanted to explore the little paths, and ended up in a dirt road which crossed growing fields.
It made an interesting detour before we continued in direction to Mae Sariang.
We arrived to Mae Sariang in mid afternoon but were too tired to go out to explore. So we took rest and went out in the evening, when we felt hungry for dinner.
Mae Hong Son is quite unexplored, but Mae Sariang is even more off the beaten path. And as a non touristic place, most businesses are closed in the evening.
We found a group of people who were having dinner in front of a shop. It didn’t look like a restaurant, it was most probably the owner of the shop and his friends having dinner together.
We asked them if they knew a place where we could have dinner, and one of them looked at us with a funny expression that said “not here! don’t touch our food!”. No, of course not! We clarified that we were looking for a restaurant or a food court.
One of them told us there was a food court a few streets away. It wasn’t very easy to find since we didn’t understand the directions very well, but after walking for a while we found it.
I ordered my favorite Thai dish, Pad Thai. Surprisingly, it came in a new way: they used the egg to make a thin omelette, and the noodles with vegetables were inside. It tasted good!
As a side note, a Thai we met in Mae Hong Son (our trekking guide) told us that Thai people didn’t eat Pad Thai. Really? I was very disappointed, I thought it was a traditional Thai dish! I thought I would investigate the subject (maybe it was a regional dish from another region?), but at the end I forgot (and I continued enjoying the dish, I love it anyway!).
Mae Sariang to Doi Inthanon
We woke up in Mae Sariang feeling a bit sad: it was the last day of our road trip in northern Thailand. We had to be back to Chiang Mai. In fact, the day after I was taking the train to Bangkok to take my flight back to Barcelona.
As we left Mae Sariang and traveled to the east the landscapes changed. We left behind the lush green mountains and found a dry land, empty growing fields, and more colors.
We stopped for lunch in Mae Chaem, and when we were leaving we saw… a parade? I don’t know what it was, but something was going on. There was music and people were well dressed and laughing. We tried to ask but didn’t manage to understand each other.
In the middle of nowhere we stopped to take rest. There was a small stall nearby where a woman was selling herbs, honey, plants and bananas. She seemed to be alone.
We approached her and, in effect, she was completely alone there, in the middle of the mountain. We thought we could buy her something so we could interact with her and offer some company. She didn’t speak English but we smiled and asked if she had something to drink. She offered us tea.
You can imagine our surprise when we asked for the price and she said it was free! Actually she didn’t sell tea, she had given us the tea she had carried for herself. We insisted in giving her something, she had been very kind with us so we wanted to help. At the end she accepted the money and then gave us another present: a bunch of bananas. So friendly, I was touched!
This was another example of the hospitality and friendliness that I have experienced in my trips. Indeed, most people around the world are nice and helpful.
It also confirms a theory that says that givers get. Give to receive.
Smile, give something, even if it seems small, and sonner or later you’ll receive something back.
On the way to the Doi Inthanon summit we stopped to visit the Royal Pagodas. It’s a popular place that can be visited as a day trip from Chiang Mai, so for the first time in more than a week we were in a crowded place.
These two pagodas were built in honor to The King and Queen of Thailand, and are surrounded by beautiful gardens. I can understand why it’s a popular place!
Soon after we reached the summit of Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand.
And… there were no views!
It’s all a well protected area, a National Park, so it’s full of trees.
I recently found an article from Chris and Angela from Tieland to Thailand about the Doi Inthanon National Park. They recommend a hike called Giew Mae Pan Nature Trail which offers much better views.
Well, that’s what happens when you travel without plans nor previous research… sometimes you find unexpected hidden gems, and sometimes you miss something nice. But as I usually like to say, it will be for next time.
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GOOD TO KNOW
- Mae Sariang:
- Where to eat: food court, Wiang Mai Road, GPS 18º09’34.73”N, 97º55’55.91”E
- Where to stay: there are many guesthouses in Laeng Phanit Road, we stayed at River View guesthouse
- Doi Inthanon:
- entry to National Park (main entrance): 300 bhat for foreign adult
- entry to National Park (on the road from Mae Sariang): free
- Doi Inthanon: 40 bhat for foreign adult
- Giew Mae Pan Nature Trail: requires a guide, 200 bhat per group.
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