While Chiang Mai means “New City”, the Old City still retains its moat and a vast amount of the walls that creates its distinctive square centre; this remains the historic and cultural centre of the city however there is plenty more to explore.
As previous blogged, we arrived in Chiang Mai just before 9am via overnight train from Bangkok. We had arranged a rental car with Chiang Mai Wheels and they were at the station to meet us as promised, their staff were friendly and professional and we collected a very clean and nicely maintained vehicle. We made our way out of Chiang Mai as we had booked one night’s accommodation at a treehouse about 70kms out of the city.
Bua Tong ‘Sticky’ Waterfalls
Logan found these interesting waterfalls during one of his research sessions and they sounded too good to miss. They have been nicknamed ‘the sticky waterfall’ as the limestone the waterfalls are made out of creates enough friction to stop you slipping. Once we had picked up the rental car, found some more substantial breakfast after the terrible offerings on the train and a few supplies, we headed the 55kms out to the waterfalls.The waterfall is reasonably small but very cool as we would usually hike up to a waterfall, have a swim and then walk back down. Not here, we walked down a few flights of steps to the third level and began to explore. The rocks are quite easy to climb but where there are some steep parts there are ropes to assist. Lincoln was quickly into the swing of it and we were amazed at how easy the rocks were to climb, even with some pressure from the downward flowing water.After a couple of hours of lying around the rocks and exploring the area, we all headed to the top via the ‘sticky’ rocks. There are some slippery parts on the rocks where some of the trees stop the sun reaching them, especially near the top. Lincoln and Logan reached the top first and Lincoln was telling Logan not to go across a slippery patch, which Logan ignored, and then Lincoln proceeded to head to the same patch; he lost his footing and took a tumble over the edge. Logan’s yell alerted me and I looked up to see Lincoln coming sideways over a rock just out of my reach. Thankfully there was a tree in his path and he managed to grab onto it. Braxton and I came over to him and we all took time to regroup and get ourselves together. This incident made us take stock of staying vigilant while enjoying our adventures and during everyday activities as well. Luckily Lincoln only received a bit of a bang to one knee and a few scratches on his back.
Rabeang Pasak Treehouse Resort
As the sticky waterfalls were quite far out of Chiang Mai and we had one night’s accommodation to fill before we checked-in to our Airbnb apartment, Logan found some nearby accommodation at the Rabeang Pasak Treehouse Resort. After the visit to the waterfalls, we returned to the main road and drove another 15kms to the resort.We were quite tired after our previous evening’s train travel and eventful waterfall excursion, so once we had checked out our treehouse, the resort surroundings and taken a dip in the stream, we settled up at the restaurant for a few relaxing beverages before the delicious dinner meal was served.With some free time after breakfast the next day and before we had to check-out, we decided to go for a family bike ride and explore the area a little more as the resort has an array of bikes for guests to use. Some of the local attractions include a lookout point, bat cave, a red sand area, stalagmite and stalactite cave and temple. We decided on the red sand area after seeing some fantastic photos online, however they proved rather disappointing and not quite what we had envisioned. Anyhow, the bike ride was great, with Lincoln especially liking it and us promising to do it again soon. We only managed one small incident, with Lincoln using a parked ute to stop after his breaks decided to fail him. Thankfully he was going at a very low-speed and the vehicle he hit was more rusted than the bike and there was no damage done to anyone or anything. The owner who was sitting down to a meal close by even had a laugh about it and came over to check on him.
After the one night stay at the jungle treehouse, dinner, breakfast, a bike ride and lunch, we headed back into Chiang Mai to check-in to our ‘home’ for the next four weeks. Logan’s parents were getting ready to depart New Zealand and meet us the following day for two weeks and we were all really looking forward to seeing some more family in the flesh.For our ‘homes away from home’ review of the accommodation at the treehouse, click here.
As I was lucky enough to have a Champagne lunch at the Ritz-Carlton in KL for my birthday, we looked far and wide to find the same for Logan’s while in Chiang Mai. Unfortunately we couldn’t find what we were looking for as there is such a high tax on imported wine in Thailand that Champagne has been well and truly priced out of our budget. A few hotels and restaurants did these type of buffets with free flow sparking wine, Prosecco or cocktails, but even these prices seemed a little over our budget of these type of drinks.
With Logan’s parents then offering to have the boys for the evening, we decided to go out for a nice dinner instead. At one of the night markets often held on the outside of MAYA shopping centre (just a hop, skip & a jump away from our apartment) we had tried some very tasty pork ribs and Logan found they were from a restaurant not too far from us called ‘The Flying Pig’. A once over of their menu, seeing they were BYO and the sample of the ribs were good enough for us to give it a try. We offloaded the boys to their grandparents and strolled the 1.2kms down the bustling streets in the pleasant evening temperature of around 26-27ºC; stopping on the way at a 7 Eleven for a little hip flask of vodka.It was a Tuesday and there was just one other lone customer in the restaurant so we got the opportunity to speak with the owner and chef, Jak, a couple of times. We found he had spent about 20 years as a chef in Perth and we had unlimited compliments for the delicious food we had consumed. We had chosen the standard platter, which consisted of Brazilian churrasco pork ribs (locally sourced), peri peri chicken (again, located sourced) and good ol’ New Zealand lamb cutlets plus three sides (two lots of caramelised vegetables and we doubled up on peri peri with some peri peri fries). Everything was cooked to perfection, the chicken was tender and juicy, the meat just fell off the rib bones and the lamb had just the right amount of pinkness in the middle 👌. There was not a lot left once we had finished, but we were at the perfect level of satisfaction and fullness. The stroll home, in the still lovely mid 20’s temperature, followed by a nightcap mojito at one of MAYA’s rooftop bars, was a very enjoyable way to finish Logan’s birthday.The Flying Pig states that they ‘specialise in flame grilled ribs’ and we would most certainly agree. We enjoyed it so much that we went back again with Logan’s parents and the boys; and once again, we all had an absolutely delicious meal.
Doi Inthanon National Park
This national park, also known as “The Roof of Thailand”, is about 100kms from Chiang Mai and the drive takes about 2 hours as the windy road climbs up towards the highest peak in Thailand. The six of us hired a van and driver for the day to explore this area of Chiang Mai for a total cost of 3,000 THB ($120 NZD), this covered petrol and an eight-hour day. We requested a 8am pick up and our driver (Mao) arrived a good 20 minutes early so we set off just before 8am.
As entry fees to the national park were paid (adults 300 THB/$14 NZD, children 150 THB/$6 NZD & car 30 THB/$1.20 NZD) we noticed a sign showing the current temperature of 16 degrees, A LOT cooler than we had been experiencing. There is a few stairs up from the car park to the highest point and shrine and then a short walk along a mossy boardwalk through to the exhibition room with further details of the national park, eco systems, animals and local villages.We crossed across the car park to the Ang Ka nature trail, this is a slightly longer boardwalk and takes you through some dense forest areas and to a memorial site of a helicopter accident that occurred in August 2016 where five Army soldiers lost their lives. We returned to the carpark and loaded back into the van to make the short drive to the Royal Chedis; entrance fees were just for the adults this time, 30 THB/$1.20 each. These two amazing structures were constructed by the Royal Thai Air Force for commemoration of the King and Queen’s 60th birthdays. The first foundation stone was laid on the 11th January 1991 with construction taking 900 days at a cost of over 135 million THB (5.4 million NZD). The stupas and the surrounding beautifully manicured gardens are well maintained and free from rubbish.After a stop for lunch we headed to Wachirathan Waterfall, this is a purely visual waterfall and there are a couple of easy sets of steps up to the viewing platforms from the car park. By now we had descended back down out of the mountains and we were in need of some cooling off. Mao took us to a local swimming area which was down river from the waterfall we had just visited. After this refreshing dip we had about a 90 minute drive back to Chiang Mai, so we stopped to get the boys an ice cream and some refreshing adult beverages for the drive home.
Chiang Mai Zoo
After hearing and reading such great things about this zoo we decided to visit one Sunday. There are a few separate costs when visiting this zoo; entry fee, entry to the panda enclosure, snow dome, aquarium and zoo bus. We decided to bypass the snow dome and purchase the zoo & aquarium combo (adults 520 THB/$20.80 NZD, children 390 THB/$15.60 NZD) as well as seeing the pandas (adults 100 THB/$4 NZD, children 50 THB/$2 NZD).
We are used to strolling around our home zoo in Auckland and didn’t think we would need the bus pass but we were told the zoo was very large and as it was only 30 THB/$1.20 NZD each we added it as well. The bus had some strange rules and only travels one way around the zoo – which was indeed, spread out over a very large space. This also explained why the public are able to pay to bring their vehicles into the zoo. We are definitely not used to this and were a little uneasy about it with all the children around as some roads didn’t have a dedicated pedestrian strip. I guess this is why you either bring a vehicle, hire a golf cart or use the bus system.The zoo opens at 8am and we wanted to get there early to see the pandas before the enclosures got too busy. As we wandered off towards the pandas we saw and got up quite close with some giraffes and a female ostrich who also had some large eggs she was fiercely protecting. We also saw an elephant being walked down the road, but sadly he was put into a small area, standing on a concrete pad all day, so visitors could pay to feed it. This was very off-putting.There is currently one male and one female panda, kept in separate areas. The day we visited the male wasn’t up to too much as he had eaten his bamboo breakfast and was now taking a nap. We moved on to the female and saw she was sleeping up high and wasn’t up to too much as well. We stayed around for a while and waited, hoping to see her in action as we could see her bamboo still untouched. We were all glad that we did as it wasn’t too much longer before she headed down and gave us all a bit of a show as she walked back and forth along the front of her enclosure and finally plonked herself down and started chopping away at her bamboo. You only have one entry into the panda enclosures per ticket so before we left we checked back on the male, but he hadn’t seemed to have moved in the last 30 minutes or so.The pandas were definitely a highlight, as were the amazing sea turtles in the aquarium. Braxton was excited to see the penguins but their enclosure was mostly concrete with a slimy looking pool of green water and Lincoln wasn’t too impressed with the lack of reptiles in the ‘reptile area’. Mostly the boys had a great time, seeing some animals up close that they hadn’t seen before, but the adults noticed that the aquarium was in need of some refurbishment along with some of the sad-looking enclosures that were either empty or with the odd gloomy looking animal or two.After a long day in the heat, the boys were very happy to be able to cool off in the kid’s water play area. This was another cost, children were 30 THB/$1.20 NZD each and any adults that wanted to enter the area as spectators were 50 THB/$2 NZD each.
While it was a great day out with the family, it wouldn’t be a zoo that I would highly recommend, but there is plenty of potential there to make it a fantastic attraction.