Latest Posts

Thailand: Chian Guesthouse [Chiang Rai]

I bumped into a great guy in Tha Ton who told me about the Chian Guesthouse in Chiang Rai. It doesn’t appear in the guidebooks, but no doubt will be included soon. I sometimes post about accommodation if it is above average, and the Chian Guesthouse ticks a lot of boxes.

  • It’s cheap (I paid THB250 for a poolside room).
  • It has a swimming pool!
  • Great communal area.
  • Wifi
  • I’m told the food is great (i rarely eat in guesthouses).

The rooms are nothing special, but considering the above i think it’s an awesome place. Some photos below, sorry i couldn’t be bothered to clear the mess of the bed.

Thailand: (Tha Ton) Interesting People: Jo van der Linde

[subscribe2]

I’m sometimes quite antisocial when travelling. I get so caught up with exploring, photographing, researching and writing that I neglect talking with others. This changed in Tha Ton, when i stayed at the Garden Riverside Resort.

Visiting Tha Ton in low season, I had the whole resort to myself until the second day, when I got a neighbour. Joachim (Jo) looked like an interesting character, and didn’t disappoint. Below is a photograph i took of Jo as we ate breakfast together at a small street stall.

joachim van der linde

Jo has spent a lot of time on the road in some incredible destinations. He has even published a book on travelling the world by train, and there surely aren’t too many of those around. Some more info and some great photos on his website:

http://www.einsteigen-weltreise.de

Jo also supports a fantastic project in northern Thailand. Baan Doi is a home and healing centre for children. Jo told me how it had been established by Barbara Meisl, whose holiday in Thailand became a lot more meaningful than the standard ‘hill tribe treks’ in the north, and partying on islands in the south. I encourage you to check out the Baan Doi website (http://www.baandoi.org) and read of the fantastic work they are doing. Small NGOs like Baan Doi can often make a big difference with very limited funding.

It was great to meet you Jo. Feel free to come and visit if you come past my way.

Thailand: Tha Ton (Thaton) and Mae Salong (Santikhiri)

The journey from Chiang Mai to Tha Ton (sometimes Thaton) is an easy one. A local bus from the Chiang Mai’s Bus Terminal 1 will take approximately four hours and cost THB90. The bus travels through other towns and villages, including Chiang Dao, Fang, and Mae Ai. The best thing about local buses, compared with ‘VIP’ buses, is that you are not subjected to ridiculously cold air-conditioning or Thai pop videos on the TV. It was a really pleasant ride.

I stayed 3 nights in Tha Ton. My first night was at the Apple Resort, where i negotiated a garden chalet for THB300. Tha Ton is almost completely absent of tourists in the low season, and I was the only guest. After being totally ignored by the staff in the restaurant, i decided to explore the town. The locals are not as friendly in Tha Ton as i’ve experienced in other parts of Thailand, but they are not unfriendly and you can pull a smile from them. I seemed to be one of very few tourists in town; during my three night stay I saw less than ten.

Tha Ton is established around the Kok River (Mae Nam Kok), and the bridge is a central feature in the town. The photo below shows the boat jetty taken from the bridge, from which you can take a longtail boat to Chiang Rai for THB400. Sadly, the river levels were very low during my visit and the boats were not running, so i would have to get to Chiang Rai by road when i left.

Tha Ton Mae Salong-8713

Looking down on the Tha Tan is Wat Phra Aram Luang, a temple that spans 9 levels over 3km. I took a walk to enjoy the temple and the views. The photo below is from one of the first levels. The air is quite hazy at this time of year, so photos i took from the higher levels don’t show the town very well.

Tha Ton Mae Salong-8725

After moving to the Garden Riverside Resort (also called Garden Home Nature Resort), which was lovely and peaceful, i rented a scooter to explore the area. My first stop was at Mae Salong – also called Santikhiri – a small town on Doi Mae Salong mountain. Mae Salong has a very Chinese feel to it, which is due to its really interesting history. At the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, remnants of the anti-communist Kuomintang (KMT) forces refused to surrender. Led by General Li Kuo-hui, troops fought their way out of south-western China, and lived in Burma’s jungles. Some of the army returned to Taiwan but the remaining troops, led by General Tuan Shi-wen, sought asylum in Mae Salong. The opium poppies which were grown in the area have now been replaced by crops such as tea.

On my rental scooter, i stopped at Mae Salong’s Martyr’s Memorial, a museum to honour the KMT soldiers who died in their fight against communism (two photos below).

Tha Ton Mae Salong-8733

Tha Ton Mae Salong-8734

Below is a street scene from Mae Salong, and a couple of photos showing views from the town.

Tha Ton Mae Salong-8739

Tha Ton Mae Salong-8740

Tha Ton Mae Salong-8741

Leaving Mae Salong I took backroads and tracks back to Tha Ton. I passed through various villages inhabited by ethic groups including Akha and Lahu. Although you still see traditional dress in these villages, their close proximity to towns and the main road means that they have become influenced by modern Thailand. I didn’t take any photos as i travelled through these villages (replying on my trusty Garmin GPS unit to find the way), but the two images below show a view with Mae Salong in the background, and one of the tracks i took as i returned to Tha Ton.

Tha Ton Mae Salong-8742

Tha Ton Mae Salong-8743

I would recommend staying in both Tha Ton and Mae Salon, and exploring the surrounds. Apparently, many travellers just visit Tha Ton to catch the boat to Chiang Rai and miss exploring this wonderful part of Thailand close to the Myanmar border.

Thailand: Chiang Mai Temples

Having visited Wat Phra Singh (see this post) I now made my way around a few other of Chiang Mai’s more popular temples. These photos were taken over two mornings.

Wat Chedi Luang (first photo) is built around a crumbling Lanna-style chedi from 1441. It was once one of the tallest structures in Chiang Mai. It was damaged in the 16th century, either by earthquake or cannon fire, depending on which story you believe.

Chiang Mai Wat Chedi Luang

I think this second photo was taken at Wat Chiang Man. I was happy when a monk walked into the frame at the right time.

Chiang Mai temples-8308

Wat Inthakhin Saduemuang is a beautiful gilded teak temple, and luckily for me right next door to a little row of restaurants serving delicious meals.

Chiang Mai temples-8314

The following morning before leaving Chiang Mai i had a quick look at a few more temples. The morning light really worked well with Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang). I also visited a few others, including Wat Lam Chang. As it was early morning, i had these places pretty much to myself.

Chiang Mai temples-8663

Chiang Mai temples-8668

Chiang Mai temples-8672

Feeling like i’ve seen enough temples for now, it was back to the guesthouse to check out. Next stop is Tha Ton, a small town north of Chiang Mai and close to the Burmese border.

Thailand: Motorbikes and Scooters (Chiang Mai)

I was really enjoying taking these and got a bit carried away, so ended up with around 150 photos. I know that eight shots of motorbikes is a few too many for one post but it’s too hard to decide. My favourite of these photographs is the first one.

See previous post for camera settings.

Chiang Mai motorbikes-8444

Chiang Mai motorbikes-8537

Chiang Mai motorbikes-8538

Chiang Mai motorbikes-8571

Chiang Mai motorbikes-8577

Chiang Mai motorbikes-8579

Chiang Mai motorbikes-8589

Chiang Mai motorbikes-8617

Thailand: The Quest for the Tuk Tuk Photo (Chiang Mai)

The quest for the tuk tuk photo continues. I played around with fill flash, but did not like the results. However, I was happy with the effect i got from shooting wide open in the evening, with shop lights providing illumination to define the subjects.  As per previous daytime shots, i was panning with the tuk tuk. The settings were 1/40 (sometimes 1/50) and f1.4. The camera selected the ISO, which i think was pretty constant at 400.

Chiang Mai tuk tuk-8408

Chiang Mai tuk tuk-8466

Chiang Mai tuk tuk-8552

Thailand: (Chiang Mai) Wat Phra Singh

Leaving Lampang behind in the afternoon, i arrived in Chiang Mai a couple of hours later. I grabbed a songthaew with a load of backpackers to the old city, with the intention of finding a guesthouse off Moon Muang that i stayed at 19 years ago. I couldn’t find it, so checked into one of the many in this area. The area has changed a lot since i was last here; every other building now caters to the throngs of backpackers and other tourists that visit the city.

Up at the break of dawn the next dat, i went out to check out some temples before the gazillions of other tourists did the same thing. Although you can’t get in all of the buildings at this time, it’s nice to have the sites to yourself. My first stop was the famous Wat Phra Singh

(Full name: Wat Phra Singh Woramahaviharn; Thai: วัดพระสิงห์วรมหาวิหาร)

Wat Phra Singh monk

Wat Phra Singh-8278

Wat Phra Singh-8292

Thailand: (Lampang) Wat Akkho Chai Khiri

On the way back to Lampang from Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn I saw steps up to another temple and decided to check it out. The timing was good as a monk was climbing the stairs, which made the photo a touch more interesting. He’s just finished sweeping the steps, so i guess he’d be ready for a good cup of tea 😉

The temple has a camera obscura, which casts an image of its chedi. I was impressed with the giant standing Buddha image (approximately 11m high) in the ordination hall. Two monks look after the temple, and one of them was trying to clear out pigeons as i entered.

Wat Akkho Chai Khiri-8253

Wat Akkho Chai Khiri-8258

Thailand: Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn (Lampang)

Every now and again you find something unexpected that blows your mind just a little. If you had to do just one thing in Lampang, i would choose a visit Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn (วัดเฉลิมพระเกียรติพระจอมเกล้าราชานุสรณ์). It’s not in the guidebooks yet, and i didn’t find out of its existence until after arriving in Lampang. Perhaps because Lampang doesn’t see much tourism, it doesn’t seem to be advertised anywhere. I found a photo of the temple on the internet, and immediately planned to visit.

The mountain has been a Buddhist pilgrimage site for many years, due to a feature believed to be a footprint of Bhudda made over 2000 years ago. However, the structures you see in the photos below are recent; i believe construction started sometime around 2004 to commemorate the late king Rama IV 200 year anniversary.

There isn’t much info on the internet about this so here is how to get there and be assured to have the place to yourself.

  • Rent a motorbike in Lampang. The road is good, so a small scooter will be fine.
  • Set off just after 6am from Lampang with a full tank, and drive 56km on the Highway 1035 (click here).
  • Turn left, follow the signs for 5km, and leave your scooter at the base site.
  • Buy a ticket when the ticket office opens (8am) and jump on the truck that takes you up the mountain.
  • Walk the final 1 km to the peak (300m easy and 700m steep)
  • Enjoy the views
  • Walk back down to where the truck dropped you off and view the Bhudda footprint, and then have the truck take you down to the carpark.
  • Return to Lampang, remembering to refuel, and stopping off at sights on the way (see next post).

I had the place to myself for most of my time up there. I gave each gong and bell a good strike, which i’m sure will bring me lots of luck, but at the very least just sounded amazing as the sounds rang out from the mountain.

Potential visitors should also note that it is very hazy at the time of year i visited (early March). I’m told that around the month of November the sky is clear and the views are incredible.

Photos:

Of course, there is a stray dog to be found and photographed.

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat-8175

A shrine at the Bhudda footprint site.

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat-8179

I also photographed what i thought was the footprint, but turns out to be a feature in a shrine. The large depression in the ground behind, just out of the photo, is actually the fabled footprint….

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat-8180

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat-8203

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat-8194

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat-8209

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat-8212

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat-8225

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat-8240

Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn

Thailand: Nakhon Lampang

I left Nopburi on the 8:52pm train, travelled through the night in a 2nd class sleeping carriage, and arrived in Nahhon Lampang this morning at around 5:30am. It was still dark and the town appeared to be sleeping. Although there was a tuk tuk driver available, i decided to walk (approximately 2.5km) to the old town by the river where most of the tourist accommodation is situated.

I like the feel of Nakhon Lampag. It’s a laid back town and the people are really friendly. There aren’t many tourists here – I’ve only seen a couple all day – which could be why people are keener to greet you compared with other towns.

I chose TT&T Guesthouse to stay, as it was situated slightly apart from the main area of tourist accommodation and was close to the the river. No-one was awake when i arrived, so i went to the nearby market to see what I could find for my stomach. The market was great; lots of smiles, jokes with the locals, and a fish and coffee breakfast.

After checking in at the guesthouse, i hired a little moped to get around town. The first rental place i checked out had a contract where i was liable all damage in an accident, no matter whose fault the accident was. Luckily the second place I found was much better. My scooter was awesome, with a front basket and ‘Hello Kitty’ number plates.

The cool morning was just about lost, but I set off regardless to see what Nakhom Lampang had to offer. First stop was Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao and (adjacent) Wat Suchadaram. Wat Phra Kaew Don Tao used to house the famous emerald Buddha, which is now exhibited in Bangkok.

Lampang-8113

Lampang-8114

Lampang-8118

Lampang-8126

A few km out of town is Wat Chedi Sao and i really liked the sleepy atmosphere. There are stray dogs sleeping everywhere, and nothing much appears to be happening. The name of the temple means ‘temple of 20 pagodas’. Apparently, around 500 B.E., two monks made a pilgrimage from India to the temple’s location to teach Dharma. Prince Phraya “Milintra” became a devout disciple, asked for 10 hairs from each monk, and built a shrine for each one.  The third photograph below is a scene depicting the prince having a chat with the monks.

Lampang-8137

Lampang-8147

Lampang-8157

Lampang-8148

Lampang-8151

Adjacent to the 20 pagodas – and the real treasure of the location – is a richly decorated whiran (chapel) housing a much revered solid-gold Bhudda dating back to the 15th century (the two photos below). Apparently, the Bhudda effigy was discovered by a farmer in his rice field in 1983, and is said to contain a piece of the skull of the Lord Bhudda in its head. Amazing stories hey.

Lampang-8155 Lampang-8156

I found that using the black and white blue filter preset on Lightroom made the gold statues much too dark. For this set i used the ‘B&W Look 1’ preset instead.