Weekly Photo Outing

This week will be different.  No major tourist attraction, no tigers, no Great Walls, but perhaps something even more rare to many living in Thailand for any length of time.  I can’t believe the number of expats living in Thailand who believe the earth is flat.. or at least Thailand is flat.  They tell me they miss the mountains, the evergreens, the rivers and the wildlife.  Do you know that Thailand has approximately 300-600 wild tigers roaming the land?  Friends, you’ve gotta get out of cement and smoky prison of Krung Thep and come take a drive with me up north.  This outing is going to concentrate on a small but well traveled strip of highway 118 on a drive from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai.

Highway 118 to Chiang Rai

Less than 20km’s outside of Chiang Rai near Amphoe Doi Saket you start climbing a roughly 6% grade.  Everything has turned green by now and tall trees and thick forests are everywhere.  The elevation continues to rise into Bang Pan Daeng and by now you’re really enjoying the view.

View in Bang Pan Daeng

The summit passes by almost unnoticed as you start your descent into Amphur Wiang Pa Pao.  A word of caution.  Most tires sold in Bangkok have a very hard rubber compound with a steep tread wear rating.  This compound is great for crawling around Bangkok in heavy slow traffic year after year without needing a tire change, but it’s very limited in grip, especially in the wet stuff, which affects your ability to safely corner, brake, and maintain traction.  Combine these economical tires with the relatively small brakes (compared to the same models sold in western countries) sold on Thailand vehicles, and the deceptively steep grades of these mountain passes, and disaster is only a small misstep away.  On this trip I witnessed no less than 20 vehicles which had slid off the road, 3 which had overturned and had emergency crews pulling bodies from the wrecks.  Drive slowly, appreciate the view, and watch your rear view often because runaway trucks are quite common.

Forest

By now you’ll have descended in to a lush green valley filled with thick forests, rivers, reservoirs, and small picturesque towns.  Everything looks mostly the same, quant small village after quaint small village for about the next 40-50 km.

More Forest

For the rest of the trip you’ll have some minor ascents and descents, more forests, more small towns, and a very relaxing time.  As always, there is no shortage of great places to eat, places to fill up the tank, and vista points to stop and admire the view.

Mist

For the last two hours your senses have been overloaded with the sights and smells and lower temperatures of this beautiful mountainous region IN THAILAND.  Beautiful and exotic Chiang Rai is almost anticlimactic in comparison.  The drive is mentally taxing due to the roads, environment, and poorly suited vehicle, and I was driving a very popular late model SUV in perfect condition.  That night my assistant and I were almost asleep when she said “I can still see it in my mind..”  So could I.. A drive I highly recommend to anyone missing the mountains and forests of their own country.

A creek in the forest