Friday, March 28, 2014

FEBRUARY 9, 2014: ANOTHER DAY WITH JERMSAK-GOLDEN TRIANGLE


February 9, 2014

     After a nice breakfast we are ready to spend another day with Jermsak.  He is here to pick us up right on time at 8:30 am.  We have the same comfy van as yesterday.  We first head north for about 45 minutes on a country road passing through villages and seeing rice paddy fields.  Then we approach our destination CHOUI FONG TEA PLANTATION.  It was established in 1977.  We walk among the tea bushes examining the tea leaves.  The sprinklers are operating.  The scene is so picturesque.  There's a shop where we sample a few kinds of tea that I'm interested in buying.  I end up with a bag of Jin Xuan Oolong tea and a bag of Green Tea-100% natural tea leaves sealed for freshness until December 2015.    www.chouifongtea.com            Cost for the 2 bags is 200 baht.   I would have bought more but I'm running out of space in my luggage and we still have Myanmar and a lot more of Thailand to see yet!   It's very peaceful here.















Founders of the tea plantation

Store, tea tasting
     A surprise as it wasn't on my list is our stop at DOI TUNG/MAE FAH LUANG GARDEN.    www.doitung.org  There are tons of cars so no parking  isavailable close to the entrance.  Because of my knee problems I'm dropped off and Jermsak and my husband will park the van and walk up to where I am waiting.  I notice the sign has reduced fee for seniors (age 60+) so I get 50% off the cost.  Instead of paying 90 baht per person I only pay 45 or 90 baht total for the 2 of us.  If you want to visit the King Mother's Villa there's an extra charge of 90 baht per person or 45 if you're a senior.  Jermsak says there are a lot of steps up to reach the villa so I opt not to go there.  Everything is well labeled.  I love flowers and gardens so I am overjoyed with what I'm seeing.  A riot of color.  So many flower varieties, beautifully landscaped.  Water features, huge rocks and the trees and other green plants blow me away! I take so many pictures!  There's a cafe where you can buy DOI TUNG COFFEE and get a drink.  I buy one bag of the coffee-beans for 230 baht-and an iced  macademia nut latte for 110 baht.   I ask but no one else wants anything.  That's cool  but I'm not sharing this drink!  This drink is the bee's knees!!



































Water feature



My favorite kind of flower-the rose




Continuity statue





































     Now we are  driving north for about 30 minutes to get to DOI TUNG MOUNTAIN, the highest mountain in Chiang Rai where the climate is nice and cool almost year round.  In the past this area flourished with opium production.  We were supposed to stop at the viewpoint where you can see Thailand and Burma/Myanmar but there's a sign.  Jermsak explains the area is closed because Thailand's favorite Princess is there for a visit.  She is not married and even though her brother will ascend the throne she is the one most loved by the people.  As we continue our drive we stop to see some coffee bushes and to admire the scenery.  There are no other vehicles on the road.  We pass by some villages.  Jermsak explains that the road we are on is the border road of Thailand and Burma.  One side of the road is Thailand and the other side is Burma.  The road was built by the Thai government with permission from Burma.  I have our passports just in case!  In years past this was the trail used for opium trading caravans.  Now there are coffee plantations.









You can see the roof of a house here

Coffee














     We are now in the town of MAE SAI.  We can enter Burma here if we want to visit a town with vendors.  We decline as we are arriving in Burma tomorrow for the start of our almost month long trip there.  We see lots of people and cars.  People waiting to cross over into Burma.  I could kick myself as I didn't think to ask Jermsak to stop briefly so I could take a picture.

     GOLDEN TRIANGLE  Gorgeous views of the rivers all coming together in this spot-Sob Ruak, Mekhong.  Forming the border of Thailand, Burma, Laos.  We take the obligatory picture by the sign!  We spend quite a nice amount of time here.  Instead of a lunch Jermsak buys us some fried bananas and sweet potatoes-very good.


 
























     We visit the OPIUM MUSEUM  Admission is 50 baht per person.  Jermsak leaves us here to wander for just under an hour.  There are exhibits on the history of opium, the planting process, opium tools, opium weights, opium pipes, lots to see and everything is well labeled with so much interesting information.  Jermsak had explained that there used to be a room/area where you could actually sample the opium but not any more.


























     Our last stop is CHIANG SAEN.  Here we see the ancient Lanna temple of Wat Chedi Luang.  Driving back to Chiang Rai Jermsak stops by the road and buys pineapple for us.  So thoughtful and it's delicious but he says the best time for pineapple is April.












     As we head back to Chiang Rai we see lots of festivity taking place with balloon and flower vendors.  Jermsak explains that the Princess is giving the commencement speech for the graduates and the parents, friends, etc.  to buy flowers and/or balloons for the graduate.  In Chiang Rai  I see an interesting statue and I ask what it is.  Jermsak says it's the King Mengrai monument.  I want to take a picture.  He drives around in a circle but I can't get a good picture.  There's lots of traffic.  He finds a place to park just so I can take this picture.  What a sweet man!

 
The beloved Princess is coming to different towns and here she's giving a graduation speech.  Vendors selling balloons for the graduates.

Flower bouquets being sold too.

Flags for Thailand, the royal family, and the Princess

King Mengrai the Great memorial monument

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     I had been talking to Jermsak about our disappointing experiences with dinner so he recommended Aekocha.  There's where we'll go.  During our talks he mentioned that he was booked for tomorrow but had a cancellation for Feb. 11th, 12th, and the 13th.  I asked him if he wanted me to post this information on Trip Advisor or did he want to just have the time off.  He's all about providing for his family and has a very strong work ethic so he said he would really appreciate that.  No problem.  It's the least I can do to repay his kindness to us.  Even though we paid for his services I feel he goes way beyond giving his customers 100%.    So glad to hear that someone saw my post and booked him for Feb. 13th-thanks sartoric!  You can't go wrong if you're lucky enough to book Jermsak.  He is the best and woth every penny and more.  He has a large comfortable van with A/C.  He's a very safe driver.  He has tons of information to share about the places you go to and see.  He provides cold water, towels.  The lunch we had on the raft trip was very good.  Our 2 days went by so fast.  Before we know it we are back to our hotel and must say goodbye.  Cost for today was 2800 baht total.  I give him 6000 baht to pay for today and yesterday plus a nice tip.  Handshakes and hugs and he's gone but never forgotten.

     Dinner AEKOCHA Can't remember the cost of the tuk tuk.  What I do remember is the way there was much longer and more expensive than the tuk tuk called by the restaurant to take us back to our hotel.  Hmmmm.  Any way, this place is packed.  Very little English spoken but there are pictures in the menu.  I point and order baked rice with pineapple-khao op sap-pa rot 70 baht.  Hot pan beef-nua kra-tha 150 baht.  Mixed vegetables and shrimp curry-kaeng liang koong ? baht.  Glass of wine 50 baht.  Singha beer ? baht.  This dinner was the bomb!  It was so yummy and the service was outstanding.  I guess I know why this place is packed.  Mostly locals but I think I saw a few other people who looked like tourists??




Mixed vegetables and beef curry

Hot pan beef

Baked rice with pineapple




     Reflections on our time in Chiang Rai:
          I thought 3 nights, 2 full days would be more than enough time but I was wrong.  I could easily have stayed at least 2 more days here.  I didn't get to see the BLACK HOUSE, the BUDDHIST CAVE TEMPLE WAT THUM PHRA, the SATURDAY MARKET for local handicrafts, WAT PHRA KAEO, WAT PHRA SINGH, WAT KLANG WIANG, and probably more.  It may be a smaller city than Bangkok but there are plenty of things to keep you busy here.  Of course there's also just relaxing by the nice pool at the BAAN SOONTREE.  I discovered that I really love this part of Thailand.  Maybe it's because I live in a small city like Buffalo, NY-well really we live on 3 acres south of the city in Colden which is the snow belt area of western NY.  Because we're older now and retired we have found that we like to move slower instead of rushing from one thing to the next.  The fast pace of Bangkok was ok in a small dose but it was not my favorite part of Thailand.  My daughter, who was raised in our small town of Colden, is a big city person at heart.  She loved Bangkok.  She loves living now just outside of Hong Kong.  She loved living in Chicago.  But she's in her 40s.  Maybe that makes a difference??  I don't know.  All I know is that I loved our time with Jermsak and wished I could have had some more time to get to know this city better.
     Tomorrow we fly to Myanmar/Burma.  How exciting!  I'm eager for our next adventure to start in a new country.  So far we are loving SE Asia much more than we expected.
       
   
     
     

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