MHS and its surroundings have so much to offer and it will be a waste if we are to just move on. With the privilege of having our own transport, we were poised to do some exploring, giving our bicycles a much needed rest. Kun Jum was up early to make sure we were ok and we appreciated her hospitality.
Breakfast was a bit different today - we went to the famous HK Congee near the Toyota Dealership. Loh who loves China was delighted and so were we as I have been here a few times and it's nearly as good as being in HK. I had the Century Egg porridge which was soooo aroy mak mak.
Our next stop was to see the famous Wat Phrathat Doi Kongmu which is perched high on top of a beautiful hill overlooking MHS town.
We have cycled up here before and it gives a new meaning to the expression "Take our breath away" as it is super steep. But onboard the Mothership, our breath was taken away by the sheer beauty of what we saw.
My fav - Fridays, the bicycle that is!
Many of us were happily taking photos of portraits, scenery, temple etc and were amazed at how blue the sky was from up here.
As this view point overlooked the airport, Wayne alerted us to a morning flight that was arriving soon and we waited to see that. I have always loved planes and to see a ATR 72 twin prop plane land is a very special experience. When we heard the faint sound of engines in the air, we got excited and it was great of Sinn Tail to take this video for all to share in our joy. Celia was coming in at 5pm this way!
Our next destination was to Ban Rak Thai, one of the many KMT Army remnant mountain base camps turned villages just at the border of Myanmar. As mentioned earlier, the one in Pai has been very commercialised and this one less so. It was about 45km away and is an easy drive through the mountains along Hway 108. We passed by the Phu Klon Country Club where we stopped to make bookings for our mud spa.
The journey took us through some very steep climbs and twisties and we were glad we were not cycling. We stopped at a beautiful waterfall for a short break.
I felt very worried for those in the rear of the pick up truck as we squealed through the many hairpins but they seemed to be having a ball! Although the distance wasn't too far, it seemed like eternity as we crunched through 1st and 2nd gear many a times to overcome some sections. To think that our friend Mallika was going to cycle up here blows our mind. Nu from Triple Cats told me that he took 4-5 hrs to cover the 25km of climbs! There is a good reason for this and it is Pang Ung Lake. This is probably one of the most beautiful lakes in Thailand and ideal for camping. It is also a photographer's paradise. Unfortunately, we didnt have time to visit on this trip.
A huge gateway greeted us as soon as we entered Ban Rak Thai which means "House love Thailand". So do we! The Thai government has given the KTM permission and citizenship in exchange for them to protect the Thai borders during the war against Mao's Army and it is good to see them settled in so well. Many were in fact given the opportunity to return to Taiwan, but they chose to stay.
Ban Tak Thai is a village that is blessed with a beautiful lake and most shops/guesthouses and residences are located around it. We have stayed here before on our scooter tour and enjoyed the tranquility of this beautiful and remote mountain top village.
The Lee family, descendents of a powerful General I believe, run a huge restaurant there and offered delicious Yunnanese food. At 1600B or S$64 for 10 pax set meal it was very good value indeed.
Loh struck gold as it was authentic Chinese fare - two times in a row for him! I particularly enjoyed the buns with stewed pork among other amazing dishes. A lovely change from the spicy-ness of Thai food. We all ate heartily and truly, this was most enjoyable. And to have such a grand meal with the view of the lake is priceless. It is certainly a big highlight!
It was pure joy to see Mark polish off every morsel off the bones of the fish and we were all amazed at his skill. Truly a food connoisseur he is!
Beside the restaurant is a beautiful cafe and wine bar which offers splendid views of the lake, especially from the upper deck. Obviously the enterprising owners have traveled extensively and are very discerning. I reckon Ban Rak Thai truly deserves an overnight stay and I shall be back.
Pete told me about his visit to the Burmese border the last time and I missed it. So I brought the troop there. It is not far from the lake, perhaps 1km or so through unsealed roads. We were not sure if the guards would welcome our visit but one young soldier appeared to be very friendly and warm. He kindly allowed us to take a group photo and I hope he doesn't get into any trouble. We saw several local motorcycles going through the border gates without passports etc and that got me curious. I wonder if we could do that too? But then again, I wasn't prepared to spend a night or more in jail!
It was only 25km back to Phu Klon Country Club where we were going to have our mud spa. But a short detour to the King's Botanic Garden was a must do. It was a pity that time was running out and we could only do a photo stop.
At the Spa, we opted for the whole body mud package and I truly enjoy this treatment. Basically, we are called to undress, get painted on with special mud and wait patiently in the sun for the mud to dry. This seems to have a tightening effect on our skin which make it taut and rejuvenated. It was good that we were here at 330pm, the hottest part of the day as the winds were still very cool.
But more than that, we had a huge laugh as we saw ourselves transformed into savage natives and it is through moments like these that make our LTF trips so fun, special and memorable.
I shall always be grateful to KC for asking us to do an impromptu sun dance and here is the delightful video of our unrehearsed performance.
It was time to wash and scrub off the mud and the attendants did a brilliant job getting rid of our road dirt accumulated all the way from Chiang Mai. After the bath, skin lotions were applied as well as other treatments and truly, we were so spoiled. Worth every of the 700B we paid.
It was then off to the airport to pick Celia up. She was touching down at about 5pm from CM/Singapore. We were a little late and she was waiting for us, looking pleased as punch. Unlike all of us who brought full size bikes, she brought along her trusty Bike Friday Pocket which traveled in a discrete and anonymous Samsonite 29" suitcase. This truly makes for easy travel on a small light aircraft as well as the back of our Mothership.
We celebrated the end of our Phase 1 of the MHS Loop with style at Fern Restaurant where we welcomed Celia to the team and farewell Loh who was going to take a bus back to CM. The prices here are about 30% higher than normal but it more than makes up with its cosy ambience, great food and wonderful live music.
After such a huge dinner, it was a stroll to the night markets where we had soya curds and milk for dessert. Many of us took this opportunity to buy souvenirs at the myriad of stalls all bustling and alive.
We were also very blessed this time to be able to get a slot for a Thai Massage and that really prepared us for bed. I reckoned everyone should have one regularly and it is no wonder the Thais are so bright and cheerful as Thai Massage is part of their weekly routine for most locals.
As cosy and warm Ban Mai Guesthouse is, it was quite a challenge to have a good night's sleep if you are a light sleeper as the wooden walls are not sound proof. If you happened to have neighbours, who no fault of theirs, are naturally recruited into the night rhythm orchestra, it can be a very long and trying twilight zone. Fortunately we had ear plugs and that helped greatly.
The missus wasn't too impressed understandably but I did promised her that tomorrow's hotel will be better, much much better and with that, we said farewell to an absolutely gorgeous day in MHS with gratitude to the Lord in our hearts.
Pics - KC ST n AL