It is time to share a travel secret. The truth: most days during this Year of Sarah Joy begin around noon and include a maximum of 4 to 6 hours of sight seeing. Leaving the hostel before 8:00am is a rarity.
My slower pace is a comical contrast to my life before travel. My morning routine as a traveler is one example of why I move slower. It takes longer to begin the day because I haul toiletries to and from a communal bathroom; pull clothes out of my backpack to dress in a dark dorm room; locate and wait for breakfast; and make a plan for my day. These are all activities that, before traveling, would have been a part of a routine and efficiently completed each morning. Now, these formerly mindless activities require concentration because they take place in changing surroundings where the language and culture are unfamiliar.
All of this information is context to explain why the B&P&S travel team had one member who lagged behind during the 4 days pictured below. That member was me! Together, we started our days early and ended late. I think we all thought it was funny when I advocated for breaks and rest time. On our 4th day together, before we caught an early evening flight south, Brittany and Parker spent 7 hours with baby elephants (amazing, right!). I could not have been more excited to have that time to rest.
I do not feel guilty transitioning from 8-10 hour work days to days that start after noon and include 4-6 hours of touring. I know this slower pace is necessary for me to remain a heathy, happy and joyful long-term traveler.
Parker and Brittany come to Thailand! We met at the Bangkok airport around 2:00am to start our group vacation.
After a short night’s sleep, we started our day in Bangkok at Wat Pho. The chedis were as exciting as the first time I visited this wat. For more information about Wat Pho visit this post.
There are many structures within the Wat Pho complex including 16 satellite pavilions. The chapel and alter I posed with are sights I did not see on my first visit.
The Lunar New Year holiday, also called the Chinese New Year, took place while we were in Bangkok. Wat Pho was packed with people who used the time off from school and work to take a vacation. There were celebration tents and decorations set up for the holiday.
The reclining Buddha at Wat Pho.
Brittany and Parker visited Infinity Spa for massages. A little self-love was a great way to start the vacation. While they enjoyed massages I treated myself to a pedicure at a nail salon.
At the end of our day in Bangkok, we went to the central train station in Bangkok, Hua Lamphong, to board our night train for the ride north to Chang Mai. This ride was about 14 hours long and the train was the fanciest, cleanest, newest train I have experienced. It was a deluxe night on the rails. We arrived in Chang Mai around 7:00am the following morning.
After dropping our luggage at our guesthouse, we headed into the old city to explore some of the more than 300 Buddhist wats (temples) in the area. Wat Phra Singh was our first stop. This temple houses an important Buddha statue and most recently underwent extensive renovation in 2002.
The entrance, alter, and doors of another temple we visited in the city. The inlay work on the doors and attention to detail throughout remain impressive, no matter how many temples I see.
Wat Phan Tao is a temple made completely from teak wood and historians believe first construction dates to the end of the 14th century. Inside the temple we saw decorations for the Chinese New Year and a memorial to the King. Brittany received a blessing from the temple monk. As part of the short ceremony, the monk tied a red string on her wrist and shook a few water droplets over her head.
Outside Wat Phan Tao is a spirit house honoring past residents of these temple grounds.
Around 8:00pm at the end of our first day in Chang Mai we worked with our guest house to book a tour departing the following morning at 7:00am. The tour was a day trip to Doi Inthanon national park, located about 40 miles northwest of Chang Mai. We traveled in a small bus for 90 minutes to reach the national park.
Our first stop on the tour was a visit to the Royal Twin Pagodas located inside Doi Inthanon National Park atop the highest mountain in Thailand. Each pagoda has a stunning view of the surrounding mountains and nature. The pagodas were built in celebration of the 60th birthdays of each monarch.
Lush gardens surround each of the pagodas. The garden at the King’s pagoda included a memorial in his honor. I enjoyed seeing these colorful and well-maintained flower gardens.
After visiting the pagodas it was a short ride to the starting point of our hike on the Kew Mae Pan nature trail which is also located inside the national park. This waterfall was 500 meters from the start of the hike. All individuals and groups hiking on this trail are required to be led by a local guide. Our hiking guide was a young Hmong woman who spoke both Thai and Hmong. The guide for our tour acted as her interpreter. When we explained we were from Minnesota, she said she knew the state.
The views of nature on this hike were stunning. Befitting Thailand’s status as the second most developed South East Asian country, and a country with a longer history of tourism, the trails we hiked had safety barriers.
We tasted blueberries from the bushes alongside the trail. These rhododendron bushes with their red blooms stood out in the landscape. From one of the viewing spots on the hike we could see the Royal Twin Pagodas.
It was an excellent 2 hour nature walk. After the hike, we again boarded our bus for another stop in the park, a visit to this forest shrine.
The Mae Klang waterfall inside the national park. According to the park website, this fall cascades, “Nearly 100 meters high over several tiers with the highest tier nearly 25-30 meters high.”
B&P&S looking our best!
Traveling via songtheaw to the Chang Mai airport to catch our flight south.