How long has it been that we see our Father working tirelessly hard and going throughout Thailand? From 13th October 2016 onward, our Father forever takes a break from all of his work. But what we still see is lots of Royal Projects throughout Thailand still keeps on driving for further development.....
Today, I get a chance to start my journey to follow our Father's footsteps. It is a great project sponsored by ReadmeTH and JetradarTH. It allows me to realize the Thainess a step further. It is just a small step when comparing to our beloved King because every step of his is a great step for all Thai people.
'Wat Chan Royal Project' or commonly known as Ban Wat Chan Pine Forest is located at Kanlayaniwatthana District, Chiang Mai Province. This Royal Project starts from the initiative of developing people's way of lives among the vast forest in the midst of nature and sea fog. I can say that if you like the atmosphere at Pang Ung, you would surely fall in love with this place.
And then, the following our Father's Footsteps journey of a lost person has begun........
I choose to travel in December in order to truly enjoy the Northern tourism high season time. Every time I think about Chiang Mai, the first thing that comes to my mind is the chill weather.
I arrive Chiang Mai early morning and hurriedly go to the rental motorcycle shop at Bikky Chiangmai which I have booked in advance as I'm afraid that the bike might not be available due to the high season. Booking in advance also allows me to choose the bike I like. I booked the Red Suzuki GD110i of whom is going to be our hero for this trip. I even call him My Red Boy, haha. The rental fee is not expensive, it's 300 THB each day. The bike is new and beautiful.
When I take the bike, the staff said: "This is a new bike, please take good care of it". Well....when they say like this....I really can't say that it's going to go through a hard work with me, haha. Since this bike is only 110 cc, before riding out, the staff asked me "Will you ride it up to the mountain? And I answer "Yes". He further add with good wish that " Well, if you are going to ride up to the mountain, I'm not sure if it's going to do the job." I feel like, whatever will be, will be, but let's try the best!
My destination is Kanlayaniwatthana District. Do you feel familiar with this name? That's right... It is the name bestowed by HRH Princess Glayani Vadhana. It was separated from Mae Cham District. There are two ways to reach this place. The first roue is going via Mae Malai which is easy and convenient but it's farther than the second route as we have to drive back about 50-60 km.
The second choice is to go via Samoeng. When talking about Samoeng....it's so well known for being the tough route, haha. Last year, I went to Pang Ung with this route and my tears were almost out........ as I feel so sorry for my car.
At first... I'm really hesitate of which way to go. But along the way, I see the sign leading to Kanlayaniwatthana District and I turn accordingly. Still, I'm not sure whether this is going via Samoeng or Mae Malai. So I stop to ask people.
"Can I go to Kanlayaniwatthana District via this route?"
Local people answered "Just keep driving straight and it will lead you to Samoeng, Mae Cham and Ban Wat Chan."
I asked again "The Samoeng road is better now? Can I go there with my bike?"
Local people answered "Of course, the road is good now, just keep driving straight ahead."
When hearing that, I feel much relieve about the road condition. Well, I'm definitely going to just keep moving as I don't have a U-Turn in my dictionary, haha. Then, I ride straight while enjoying the sides view and taking photos. The weather is really cool and not hot at all.
Please remember this number, 382 which is the km this bike has been going so far (actually I already rode about 10 km after leaving the rental shop). We can see after the trip of how many km in total that I have ridden. What I can say is, it's going to be a tough job, My Red Boy.
After keep riding, it's the Samoneg Viewpoint. So I stop to enjoy the endless mountain view below.
You can see that this route leads to Ban Wat Chan, Pai, Mae Hong Son. I wouldn't recommend this route in the past, I would recommend you to go via Mae Malai. But since local people said that the route has been renovated, let's give it a try.
Along the way, I stop at Wat Samoeng to pay respect to the Buddha and to wish for a safe journey. Let's come enjoy the inside atmosphere together....
Wat Samoeng is a small, simple, and beautiful temple. You can see the Phaya Nago on the stairs as almost every temple in the North would which is quite unique.
After paying respect to the Buddha, it's time to continue our journey. From downtown Chiang Mai, now I rode about 70-80 km. Along the way, all I see is forest and mountains. I rode across one after the other mountains. Only very rare occasion that I will find some community which is also just a small village. Now, my petrol starts to run out so I fill it at an automatic machine. Let's see how much petrol this bike would consume during this trip. I wonder if this Suzuki would consume lots of petrol?
After that, I keep riding again. Well, I also start to get hungry because I haven't eaten anything since I arrived Chiang Mai this morning, so let's look for something to eat. About 2-3 km later, I find a noodle shop. But but, don't mistaken that this photo is taken from this noodle shop, it's from the opposite shop. I eat noodle in this shop but why I took photo of the opposite shop? I also didn't get it, haha.
My Tom Yum instant noodle is here. The color looks so great, it must be delicious. Let's charge up the energy!
My Red Boy is waiting while I enjoy my lunch. Let's go now!
One thing that I love about traveling in the north is the cool weather. Even if we ride on a bike, we won't feel hot a bit. At certain area with thick forest, you could even feel cold too, haha.
A little while after that, I stop to check the GPS again. When seeing Pai District sign, I knew I come on the right path as they go on the same direction.
For this route, I have to say the road was good at the beginning though it's very steep that My Red Boy almost couldn't handle it. Especially when it's a long steep road, My Red Boy just gives up and shuts down at the middle of the road with gear 2!!! It's like when a person is walking and suddenly stops and I have to use my two feet pushing it forward otherwise it would slide backwards for sure.
So I made up my mind by using the gear 1 and ride up slowly. But this gets me so nervous as the bike is jerking around and looking like it would lift up the front wheel!?!
For the road condition, it's good until the last 20 km. where it's.....really....unbelievable. It's a bumpy dirt road where dirt split out. From only 2 lanes, now it becomes almost 8 lanes. It's about time that I have to make the right decision, otherwise, my life could be in hell, haha. But we just have to fight with this road and the heaven of Ban Wat Chan is just around the corner.
Once I arrive, I met with staff whom I have asked to meet earlier, P' Che, the staff of Sub-District Administration Organization and the tour leader who would take tourists to stay at Ban Huaihom. It is the local home stay that I have booked earlier and not far from Ban Wat Chan Pine Forest. At first I contacted the home at national park but it was full, even though I have made a call a month in advance. The only available home was for a big family. Also, the national park only provides limited homes so actually staying at the home stay is another interesting choice.
When I arrive Ban Wat Chan, I asked P'Che to meet at Wat Chan which locates the tourist information center inside...
There's beautiful clothes and weaving fabrics made by local people. These fabrics were set up by the King Rama IX who wish for local people to have job and set up this place as a hub for local fabric distribution and sell. In facts, several organizations usually come to order clothes to wear in different occasions here. So, we must place our orders in advance.
This corner exhibits our Father visiting local people scene which he has come several times. P'Che said that the villagers here used to plant opium until the King came to develop the career and improved new way of lives for the people here. The villages then could stop growing opium and making the honest living instead. They turn to plant terraced rice field, weaving, and growing vegetables for Royal Projects which increases people's income and eventually lift up people's living standard. When hearing this, my heart is just unexplainably warm.
The fabrics are so delicate and beautiful and all are handmade products.
After that, we are heading towards our home stay. Along the way, we are going to pass Wat Huaihom, let's make a stop. Too bad that the main Ubosot didn't open so I can just visit around. Usually, to go to Ban Huaihom, we must let P'Che pick us up because the road is really bad so it'd be really hard for those who are unfamiliar with the road. For me, I ride my bike following him.
Here we are, my home stay. It's 150 THB each with a dinner and additional 70 THB. Also, you won't need any fan or AC because the weather is so cold. The only thing that you would need is the blanket. Sometimes, you would even forget to take shower, haha.
After unpacking stuff at home, it's time to roam around. Let's walk around together….
The first place we are going to stop by is the rice field which is full of interesting story and learning.
It is the rice field and hut for villagers who would stay here during the harvest season in order to take care of the rice. Most of people are Paka Kayo minority. For every rice plantation, they would have series of rituals starting from day 1 to the harvest time. If you visit here in the mid-year, you would find the beautiful green farm and it would turn gold in October which gives us different atmosphere.
These bamboos, the villagers plant them to use, like building houses, making fences, or just anything which is so useful and beneficial. They know how to utilize the best of natural resources. I think if we learn to plant thing to use or to eat, it's already sufficient for life without having to search for more.
After that, we are going for more exploring? While walking, P'Che said that the villagers just experienced flood which damaged lots of their fields.
Well, they get flood even on top of the mountain?
The answer is yes. The flood gets up here so the production of this year is very much damaged. I feel really sorry for them.
Anyhow, even without rice to sell, they still have vegetable and fruits garden on the other side of the field which is still product-ale and sell-able to the Royal Project.
It's just 17.00 p.m. but I already see the faded moon. The night comes very fast and the morning comes quite late during the winter time.
After following him a while, P'Che takes me to taste a small yellow strange looking shape fruit which I've never seen before. He asked "do you know Luk Thong Theng?" I get even more confused until I get to taste it.
It's my first bite in life. Luk Thong Theng or Cape Gooseberry is picked fresh for me to have. It's organic, safe and I'm so enjoying it.
This is how cape gooseberry looks like. It has a thin orange skin where we need to peel it off before eating the inside. We can't generally buy it from any market but from the Royal Project. It's 1xx THB per kg. It's the winter fruit promoted by the King for career development and the villagers here plant it to sell to the Royal Project.
Oh my...it's so delicious. It's sweet and sour and we can eat the entire fruit as it's seedless but only small ones where we can swallow in. I might look a bit unsure for my first bite, but after this bite, I enjoy it so much along the way until I'm back to my bike, haha.
And our next stop is Phra That Viewpoint. It's not far from Wat Chan. I want to capture the sunset scene here. It's a small hill, about a km up. We see Phra That located here. What about the surrounding atmosphere?
.... Of course, it's breathtaking.......
The mountains are up and down in long line with an endless view and houses below. Well, everything is just perfect. The white smoke I saw on the way up to the viewpoint got me so excited. I'm thinking out loud that...oh my... would I see the fog now? haha. I was so excited thinking I would see the evening fog. But I learnt when I got here that it's....... smoke, they are merely smoke, probably because the villagers down there burn their garbage, haha. Still, it makes the atmosphere better, thank you for this smoke, hehe.
The sun is about to go down.....
Up here, about 3-4 people come to enjoy the view. I also see a monk here who might take care of this place and I'm not sure whether he stays up here or not.....Anyhow, it's getting dark, let's go back to our home stay.
I'm so starving now, haha. The owner has prepared dinner for me already. It's a simple meal but very yummy. It's a scramble egg, chili paste-boiled vegetable and a soup. Usually, I don't eat vegetables and chili paste but I eat them all here. The chili paste is so tasty. I'm not sure if they also add mackerel to it. I just love this local meal more than anything, it's so healthy for body and soul.
The second day of the journey, I wake up early. Probably the rooster make noises since 5 a.m. and I immediately get up from bed because I want to capture the morning light at Wat Chan Pine Forest. Do not ask me if I take a shower or not, of course not, haha. My hair would be all standing up if I do so, haha. I have about 3-4 blankets but yes, I still feel very cold.
After that, I bike to Wat Chan Pine Forest. Meanwhile, I'm shivering too, haha. The road is still bumpy dirt, so we must be very careful while driving. Anyhow, the view on the high mountain out of Ban Huaihom is quite beautiful and totally worth the drive.
After riding a while, it's not far but we can't drive fast. The weather is really cold. All we can see is the white fog that I almost can't see the way.
About 4 km out of Ban Huaihom, I now reach
Ban Wat Chan Royal Project or Wat Chan Pine Forest.
For those who want to continue to Pai after Wat Chan Pine Forest, I recommend you to take Samoeng Road, stop at Wat Chan Pine Forest and continue to Pai. Then, you could return to Chiang Mai via Mae Malai route so you won't have to drive in circle but a straight one. But of course, you must be quite a skillful driver as the Samoeng road is still challenging despite certain renovation.
The Wat Chan Royal Project Development Center was established due to the King. When he visited this village, he saw the suffering of the hill tribes here. So he set up the Wat Chan Royal Project Development Center to improve people's quality of lives, promote several careers including agricultural one and winter fruits just like what we saw at Ban Huaihom yesterday. We can say that this is the center of general development.
If you like Pang Ung, I'm sure you would like this place as it gives you similar atmosphere but much less people. I come during the long holidays and yet only around 20 people walking around. It's such a relax and happy time.
Well, no matter how much I say, you won't feel it as it's best to see it with your own eyes. Since you can't do it just yet, let's scroll down slowly to feel it and I'm sure that you would want to stand here like me........
After having a good walk, let's enjoy a cup of coffee. There's a coffee shop inside. It's out of the water reservoirand located inside the national park's houses area.
And let's roam around together again....
Each point exhibits what our Father has been doing so we learned what has happened at this particular spot.
The fog here is like floating on the water which they will stay until around 9 a.m. before starts to fade and eventually gone.
Actually, the yellow Song Thaew is also available from Chiang Mai downtown. This public transportation would take you right in which is quite convenient for those who didn't come with personal car.
This zone is the houses of the national park. It's the big houses for family. For smaller houses, you have to walk further in.
Coming here, the must talk thing is Maple Tree. It's another highlight that we must take photos home. If we come at the right season, we would see the entire tree change into orange which is so beautiful.
After fully enjoy with this place, it's time to move on. I will go back and stop at Wat Chan again.
And...along the way, there's this sign where I cannot understand this native language but I surely can guess it from the picture, haha.
If you are visiting Wat Chan, you can't miss Viharn with Glasses. Why does it wear glasses? Well, it used to be so dark inside so this area was made to allow some light in.
At this place, our Father has paid his visit several times, about 4-5 times. And every time, the people would all come to this place to welcome him.
This is an entire teak Ubosot. It's beautifully and delicately crafted.
After the temple, I find a breakfast to eat because our destination for today is still far. I want to reach Pang Mapha and here is the approximate distance....
From Wat Chan to Pai is 57 km.
From Pai to Pang Mapha is 58 km.
And from Pang Mapha to our final destination, Ban Cha Bo is another 3 km.
In short, I would have to ride about 120 km. and I don't know how many hours it would take me, haha. I'm now on my bike and the road is steep and curvy. Also, I've heard that several bikes fell on those curves, even the big bike. So I must ride slowly and carefully. If it gets really scary, I would just go down and push the bike instead.
After half way out of Wat Chan, I see Muang Paeng Hot Spring. And it's only 4 km, so let's stop by. But....I forgot that this is a 4 km on hill. The road is so curvy and steep, it's like I've ridden 4*10 km, haha.
Finally....finally...I'm here. I'm so happy that I conquer this 4 km. It's really hot here. I haven't taken any shower since arriving here as it's too cold. Shall I take one here?
After roaming around, let's set off for Pai.
When reaching Pai, I see another hot spring! But this one is located right besides the road. I was thinking what's the effort earlier for!!!???? haha. Well, I stop again anyway as the hot water here is really strong. Let's buy quail eggs and boil them over.
It's so delicious and satisfying. Let's move on to our destination at Ban Cha Bo at Pang Mapha.
Before I arrive here, my butt hurt so much, haha. I spend so much time on my bike. I left Ban Wat Chan at 9 a.m. and reach here around 15.00 p.m. Well, I have been on my bike for 6 hours in total. However, I also stop at several places and have lunch at Pai. Anyhow, finally, my Red Boy takes me here. I don't know why, but I feel like coming to Mae Hong Son is the longest distance in Thailand ever, haha. Probably due to the rough road, steep, and curvy, it makes me feel like the road even further away. It does take much more time than going to any other provinces.
Once we arrive, we can contact any local people at the noodle shop and they will contact the house owner for us. I book the room here a month in advance as it's full quite quick. I'm very lucky to get one. The room costs 300 THB each with a dinner. All of this, we need to contact the coordinator, P'Sonchai whom we will meet soon.
If you come in a group of 2-10 people, you could have the entire house. I think if we come in a big group, they could put up more of mosquito nets. The room is quite spacious. If we come in a small group, we could sleep inside a net and they didn't put any body else in the next one. So it seems we have the entire room, haha.
After unpacking, talking to the owner and having dinner, let's go out to explore around the noodle shop and the viewpoint. Let's enjoy the evening atmosphere here.
It's endlessly beautiful. Tomorrow, this very viewpoint will be the morning highlight. Let's hope to see the picture we have imagined.
At night time, I come out to enjoy the stars and photography. While everybody else is asleep, I walk alone in peace. This night is with millions stars and no one walking by.
The next morning, I plan to walk and hike to Phuphamok (Foggy Mountain) to see the sunrise and sea fog from the high angle. The viewpoint at noodle shop already welcomes lots of people since 5 a.m. Some of whom are staying here and some are driving from Pang Mapha. So I asked the owner to arrange someone to take me there. The fee is 150 THB per person. The peak of the mountain is sharp rocks which could be a bit difficult to find a standing area.
The tour guide is very cute, helping me carrying stuff up too. We start walking up since 6 a.m. It takes about 15 minutes up here. We wait up here quite a while since now the daytime is short and the night is long. Before the orange light shines on the sky, it's already 7 a.m.
When the golden sun shines more and more, we could see things in front of us clearer. It's so beautiful. Not only does it meet our imagination, it's beyond! Let's enjoy the sea fog this morning from the peak of Phuphamok.
Looking down towards the noodle shop, it's really such a big crowd. As soon as the shop opens, it's full. Even though this place is quite pack, it's not too much. I think the maximum numbers of guests going in and out the noodle shop is around 50-60 people (I only mean for the morning as this shops open all days and people keep stopping by).
I feel so envy this house which is located in the midst of the sea fog......
The sun starts to appear herself. At first, we can only see the orange light in the midst of the thick sea fog. Now, the entire sun is coming up.
Here is the person I'm so proudly present, P'Sonchai who is the hero of Ban Cha Bo. I have to say he's extraordinary hill tribe who makes Ban Cha Bo such a famous place. Everything starts from him.
He allows the hill tribe to have more income and adjust themselves. While developing the village towards the good direction, they make sure it comes with the quality. They didn't just let the tourist pouring in but developing it to " grow and famous with a great quality".
I'm so enjoying talking to him. Though he just had his high school education, he's so knowledgeable. He learns everything by life experiences, reads lots of books, speak several languages, and always adapts new knowledge to life. Every words from him is beyond an ordinary hill tribe who was born and raised in such a far place as he has such a modern thinking and broad world perspective.
The definition of Ban Cha Bo that P'Sonchai has told me is "Slow Life but High Speed". Though they spend slow life but they are certainly not far behind.
I believe that many people already know Ban Cha Bo but at the same time I also believe that only a few people are aware of its history and the starting point where I got all the answer from P'Sonchai today. He also has the project to further develop the neighborhood to be like Ban Cha Bo.
Here is his house, aren't you envy this view? Um... I do really want to have the house like this one too so that I can wake up and see the sea fog right in front from the balcony everyday which can't be bought by money. After enjoying his house, let's go enjoy the hanging legs down noodle shop and spectacular view....
Eating the noodle here makes my body and soul so full. I've never had noodle with this view before in my life.
After that, it's time to pack and go back to Chiang Mai. Today is also another long ride of about 200-300 km and of which I have already made up my mind, haha.
When I return the home stay, my host is cooking so I ask to capture some atmosphere.
Here is the view I could see from my balcony which is so fresh and beautiful.
Here is my owner. She's so lovely, kind and takes a very good care of me. I'm so impressed.
On the way down, though it's already late morning, the fog is still thickly around. It's like I ride through the fog.
Soon, I see the stream afar. I stop and run towards it. The water is so cool and fresh. After that, I go back to downtown Chiang Mai in order to go back to Bangkok. Along this trip, I have ridden over 500 km in 3 days which is also my first time riding this far in life.
Here is my journey following our Father's footsteps. Everything starts from the ground towards the peak. Although the road has been improved, certain area is still difficult. Think about how hard and difficult it could have been back when our King visited?
To do things for other and public is our Father's best example. I think it's very clear and every Thais can feel it because not only did he tell us to do so, he does it to show us as well. I also plan to go back and do good thing like our Father. I will take my knowledge and skills to do good things for others the best I could and I'd be happy.
Today, I call my journey as a priceless journey. I like what P'Sonchai has said " difference makes a journey". I think this statement is so true. We go out to the new world to search for different things, to live different life, to learn different things by using the journey as the means.
Today, I ride this far to follow our Father's footsteps. I come following the fog route which takes me here. My exhaustion turns into beauty and joy as well as some idea to live my life further. I also get to enjoy new experiences and many people as well as happiness in heart. Nothing stays with us forever but the life experiences from a journey.
Sponsored and supported everyone to do good things and follow the King Rama IX's footsteps by "Jetradar.co.th" and "Readme.me"...
Please stay in tune for my new journey at ค นห ล ง ท า ง ...Thank you very much ^^
Contact P'Che at 080 859 2978 for accommodation booking at Ban Huaihom, Kanlayaniwatthana District.
**Before traveling, I recommend you guys to clearly ask for the expenses such as tour guide fee or any other expenses apart from the home stay and food.
Contact P'Sonchai at 080 677 5794 for accommodation booking at Ban Cha Bo, Pang Mapha District.