Saturday, March 16, 2013

Some more activities at Chiang Mai :-)

It didn't end at zip lining, massage, cycling and mineral bath at Hot Springs. Don't know what kind of a devil had possessed me, I wanted to indulge and get involved at Chiang Mai. Was it the place, was it the nature, the place? I don't know.

Here is a confession; for myself. I m not good at anything - no cooking, no baking, nor gardening, no sewing. I can't groom myself, I am so lazy that its tough to carry my ass off anywhere. I am hopeless but I like traveling, smelling the earth of a new place, fascination for new experience. I love to feel the trees at those places, to play with the water from the streams and lakes. I can sit forever facing the sea watching the sun set and wonder what it must have taken to build architectural marvels hundreds of years ago with no technology. I think what I am good at is some bit at office and maybe my photography which I think is average.

So this place fed my appetite. I missed a famous temple up the hill since it was touristy and oversold, and decided against visiting the Zoo though got free tickets. I've heard the pathetic state the animals are kept, so couldn't get myself go. But there were other beautiful things. Here are other things

Bo Sang Umbrella village : On the way back from the hot spring is the village of Bo Sang, known for traditional hand made umbrellas and parasols. These are made from paper, richly colored and hand painted with floral motifs, thai women and other characters. It was nice to see the umbrella makers and artists at work in their workshop. Its handwork and determination. Patient in drawing intricate deisngs on paper cured to withstand the temperature. The artists also offer to paint on anything that you get - caps, T shirts for a nominal fee. Beautiful parasols all hand made and eco friendly. I got a miniature one for home :)

Bo Sang Umbrella Village Workshop

Work in progress - the cream colored paper parasols are dried, painted and designs drawn

An artist at work

Paper fans displayed at the workshop's souvenir shop

Miniature ones being dried - I got one of them

A completed piece

Kayaking : Finally! Kayaking. Another wish list from my bucket. Was in a dual mood whether to go or not and then just decided to go for it. I was already feeling that I was going overboard and after much thought the second last night, made up my mind. I had a pamphlet at the guest house and yet it was difficult to get the contact for kayaking tours. The guest house where we stayed was partly owned by an American who called himself as "Om". Vastly traveled in India by bullet, and being influenced by the spirit of Hinduism, he dressed everyday in black Vesti and black shirt and had the Ayyappan mala around his neck. Did his surya namaskars and yoga everyday and was ruing about the Santhi he gets to his mind :) He was a mystery, I wanted to photograph him, but decided otherwise so that the mystery remains forever. :) He was excited to have Indians as his guest and he probably thought he have frequented India a lot; but my trip within India is not laudable. He had been to Bhopal, Ranchi, Varanasi, Jaipur, Delhi, Udaipur, Kutch, Kochi, Bangalore, blah..blah..blah....

One of the uniqueness of the trips I do is no prior hotel booking. How do you just go to an unknown place and find a stay? Most times the flights landed late night. But its not tough you know! You just keep walking and be friendly. You will sure find something. And the first thing I have found has always been to my satisfaction. I don't want to keep that an option while I search for others. My choice of stay is simple - a bed to lie down and a toilet with water; if not running at least at regular intervals. That will do! I would be stingy here and rather spend my money in quenching my thirst for newer places and more activities.

We got off the road, walked along and entered the first guest house of Om's - the giant guest house. Just a dorms popular with backpackers. There was a make-yourself-coffee/tea options and free drinking water at 300 baht per day. What else, and to see Om in a familiar costume was inviting as it was inviting for him to see Indians :) This is how I fish for stays anywhere I go. 

So Om helped in finding a agent to help us with Kayaking. We set off the next day, got some class room instructions on how to kayak. The owner was an American; he was an expat. He lent us his waterproof camera; borrowed gloves, safety jacket and hat from the store. Loaded our kayaks with 3 other guides and 1 expat from Wales to the mountains and valleys north of Chiang Mai. The kayaking was to happen on Ping river. Again, this guy Paul Sulivan, the Welsh was a big shot in advertising, now in his 60s retired as an expat at Chiang Mai, been kayaking since age 6 and kayaks often. He was talking about the cricket games he used to play with Sunil Gavaskar and other famous folks during his tenure in Kenya, Zimbabwe. Been in Bangalore a couple of times to nature's spa at Jindal. He was raving about how they transformed him through naturopathy and at the end of the course, even a small piece of papaya that he had for his meal was heavy to the stomach! hmmmm

The 3 hours drive through picturesque hills and valleys as the clouds rolled were feast. Finally we set to kayak. The guides were friendly, indulging and interested to know about India and Buddhism. One of them wanted to visit Sri Lanka, since Buddhism came to Thialnd from Sri Lanka, most consider it as a pilgrimage. One was mentioning how he had to hurry up since he had a beer party last night, he slept very little and had to come for this session at short notice. Overall a nice group.

We unloaded the kayaks, started with practice lessons and eventually set off. I have not kayaked before and my swimming is pathetic; I can't swim! But those guys were so helpful; teaching how to row, the direction to keep, to lead the nose of the boat along the stream and to paddle backward and forward. Mr Sullivan was on his own since he was seasoned. Rowed over 2 hours along a dam as it started to pour; wow! it was fun. The water was less and one guide was feeling sad that a project had come up to change the direction of river. Environmental destruction happens everywhere. Rowed along thick jungles, along the highest mountain in Thailand. The weather was a hit, it was an awesome day to be out.

We shared lot of interesting conversations, the guys all young in their 20s wanted to know where I and Velu met and the story of our wedding and all that. One was complaining how a tourist guide can't marry a doctor here at Thailand; I don't know if he had any crush, but he kept saying that. They wanted to visit India, heard a lot about India. Similar kind of conversations. I didn't fall of the kayak even once and I did really well and was ahead until my shoulder blades started paining. After a short break over juice and peanuts, dragged the kayak again to river for the second session and I skid and fell, mucking up my shorts for good.

The second session was mostly uneventful until I got stuck at the edge of the river amidst thorny bushes. Paddling any side wouldn't help; I would fall off if I did that and the river was deep. Stayed that way until one of the guide had to come over from nearly 500 meters away; pull off my kayak and help me all over again. Post that, I let myself be towed by him. The guide tied a rope to the nose of my kayak and I was towed.

To end, lunch along the banks of the river - simple Thai food and we shared sticky rice later which was only offered to guides. Maybe they think tourists wouldn't appreciate local flavors. I just caught one of the guide eating something out of a banana leaf and snatched it away from him; they can eat it many times; what about me!

I had no clothes to change(I took an extra pair the previous day to Zip lining and i did not need it). So I didn't bother to carry an extra pair but needed it. I just let it be; the kayaks and paddles were washed; loaded on the truck and off we turned back to town. Memorable experience. We kayaked 22 km, enjoying the scenery around, women washing clothes, men fishing, people working on paddy, the river was entirely to us. It was only on 3 occasions we saw 3 people throughout. Otherwise the place was entirely to us; its never enough! never ever enough!!!

Om was glad we had a good kayaking session. We did nothing else pretty much that evening; a couple of beers and early to bed. Our flight to Bangkok was next morning at 6 AM; and we had to be in Phnom Penh, Cambodia at 5 PM that evening :)

Relaxing at Giant Gust house bar - its Bob Marley themed

All set to Kayak

The lavender one's mine!

Row, row, row...

Hard at work

Behind me!

A short break; before we begin again

Row, row, row again...

Dark clouds rolling by...


Done and packed!

Lunch on the banks of the river.

Simple but yummy

The crew

Some information on tour itinerary  

  • Bangkok to Chiang Mai is 800 odd km, taking a train is an excellent option - cheaper and scenic route only if you have lots of time in your hand. Flight is an hour and half; Air Asia is a wonderful option; reliable and value for money. Cost about 4500 Rs per person to and fro. 
  • I am not for luxury stay; but there are lot of options for budget traveller and luxury traveller. Stay inside the old city within the walls since most of the temples are there and lot of options for tourists - tourist agents for activities, hotels, restaurants, bicycle hire, laundry, internet cafe..
  • The kayaking and zip lining cost 8000 baht for 2 of us; including pickup, drop and lunch. Bargain and bargain hard. I think its generally 3500 for zip lining and 2000 for kayaking per person. Again, I wouldn't mind splurging money for doing such things than a luxury spa hotel. Massage was 200 per person, worth it
  • To travel to Bo Sang and Hot springs, one can take a tuk-tuk. Speak upfront; the driver start with 1000 baht and settled for 600. Its 80 km up and down and he waited for us for 2 hrs at the hot spring and half hour at Bo Sang; so worth it.
  • Visit the old town by a rented bicycle, you can go to the night market 3 km away by cycle again or if you tired, hire a songthaew; 20 baht per head. 
  • Eat street food, hygienic and value for money. A plate of sea food noodle filling one would cost 40 baht. 


  1. Don't know swimming and you went all alone in a kayak! You ought to be spanked, though Velu was right behind you.

    I am glad you took up my suggestion. It gives some kind of concreteness, some kind of reality check, you know.
    1 baht = 1.83 INR, fine. 8000 bhat = 14630.64 INR, great. Am sure that was worth it!

    You had a great time and it shines!!

    1. Balan,

      Velu was behind me only because I started early. He doesn't know swimming as well :) And know what? he fell off the kayak 3-4 times and it was difficult for him than it was for me :)

      Whats life without thrills :) Yeah Balan, 14000/- for 2 including 100+100 km of journey, food and the 3-4 hours of activities is sure worth.

  2. Funtastic! You sure seem to be the adventurous and wild kind! Would love to do all that you've mentioned. Someday, perhaps!

    1. RGB,

      Haa thanks. Whatever I can. You should age is not limit but just the mind :) If you do it anytime, think of me :)

  3. You must be really brave and adventurous.
    Yes,simple and yummy meal looks so tempting

    1. Thanks Chowla sir. I think so, more than that its the hunger to try new things.

  4. Kayaking is on my list. Whenever I see 'em kayaking alongside us while doing rafting, I feel like asking them to lend me their kayak.

    As usual loved the pictures.

    1. :) Its a nice activity; but hard on your shoulders.

  5. Envious and blinded by envy! That is precisely what I feel now.
    However as Balan also observed it was stupidly audacious of you to enter the unknown waters without knowing to swim. I suggest you take your swimming lessons right away and pronto before you embark on your next journey.
    Kayaking, reminded me of a good friend who tried to show us his excellence in rowing and went about in his boat in circles at the same spot! He still refuses to accept his naiveté at that.
    You seem to be an intrepid traveler. And I bow to that, things that often eluded me because of other factors of work etc.
    Your paragraph on opening your heart of the traveler was really good.
    Keep going B.

    1. Anil,

      Haaa I have lot of trips, activities pending Anil. Not yet!
      Really Anil, it was nothing. We had the safety jackets and 3 seasoned guides. Those guys are wild; they took good care of us

      I have learnt swimming; but without practice I don't think I remember. Anyway, yeah if I am going to dunk down an ocean, definitely not without learning to swim :)

      Haaa, kayaking round and round :) Interesting. There were moments when it was tough to navigate the kayak; but practice is whats needed. We don't have such facilities in our cities.

      Anil, I will accept me being intrepid the day I do tandem sky diving! These are all nothing. Only thing that eludes me is the budget to travel; if i had the money; I would quit my work right away and embark on a long journey

  6. What a trip..Kayaking, massage, exploring around and zipping through that forest - you are one adventurous soul with an unquenchable wanderlust! :) Enjoyed both the posts. Great pics too!

    1. There are more! :) Tune in. Thanks much, I want to try out as many things as possible when I can

  7. I am loving your travelogue posts! keep blogging :)

  8. B, ha I liked that ,"if I had the money..."
    Wishes can be horses and horses may fly too. So look ahead.

    1. :) Anil, you know I don't want to amass wealth for me or anybody related to me. As and when I can, I make a trip to visit the world. If only, I had the luxury. Perhaps, who knows, if I had the money or facility; maybe I might not be a travel freak! :-/

  9. Am now exited and want to make a trip to Chiang Mai some day soon. Let me discuss the plan at home tonight. It was a wonderful series of posts and loved the details very much . It definitely helps!!

  10. Guess I missed a lot on this blog for sometime. The colorful paper umbrellas (??) were artistic. 22kms of kayaking? That would have drained your energy completely, isn't it?

    1. Hey glad to have you back. Yeah the paper parasols are an art in itself. It did, my shoulders were paining for the next couple of days. But the pain was not new :)


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