We booked an early morning VIP bus ride from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, which cost about $10 per person. Yes, we could have gone cheaper…but we were really curious what the best bus money could get us. It did not disappoint!
With only 24 passengers and ample leg space (not to mention adjustable footrests and headrests, big reclining chairs, bottled water and a snack), we were happy we chose this method of transportation. Funnily, we had to convince the cashier to let us buy a ticket for our “free” 2-year old boy…we’d rather he had a seat of his own instead of being pinned our laps for 3 hours.
Truth be told…he hopped around from chair to chair until he finally collapsed in my arms for the last 2 hours. Oh well, it was still worth that extra $10, just in case he decided to sit in his own chair! There was only one downer about the bus—it was in desperate need of new shocks—which I’m guessing they won’t get any time soon. So, it may have been a comfortable ride—but it sure was bumpy!
We arrived in Chiang Rai and made our way over to Chezmoi Homestay, where we had booked a 3 bed family room with breakfast included for about $45 a night. The homestay is run by a beautiful family and close knit friends who both live on the property, as well as run a retail store out the front of the home. They are energetic, trendy, and extremely hospitable! Our room is nice and spacious, the home is adorably decorated, and even the shared bathrooms don’t bother us a bit in a place this cozy and welcome!
Breakfast is usually an assortment of fruit, eggs, steamed rice, and Thai dishes…
Imagine our surprise when the first morning there we woke up and they asked, “Would you like to come with us today to the border of Burma to the market, and to some other beautiful places?”
So, off we went…stopping first at their friend’s Doy Din Dang Pottery studio, where we were able to teach the kids about pottery wheels, kilns, etc.
The clay they use comes from the ground beneath them, and their open-air style buildings seem perfectly in tune with nature, creating a jungle-like oasis.
They have a great little café where they served us the most exquisite homemade ice cream ever. Seriously, I don’t think their Chocolate or Cherry Berry ice cream can be beat!
Next, they took us to a local park outside of town to enjoy a picnic lunch. We ran into a large amount of schoolboys who were there in their full-blown Thai Boy Scouts uniforms. Apparently all boys in school are automatically enrolled in Scouts and work on badges and life skills, similar to the US. How cool that it is integrated into school!
Girls, on the other hand, do Red Cross training and learn first aid, etc. Today, the boys were out on a school field trip in full face camouflage and creating cool pictures out of the natural materials around them.
We rented some mats for sitting on, and our friends helped to pick out a bunch of food variety for us all to share for lunch. The kids went to town on the little boiled pigeon eggs, which are so popular in Thailand!
Maiya and Ethan skipped most of lunch to play on the edge of the clear-water ponds throughout the park (fed from natural springs in the nearby mountains).
Next we drove to the Burma border, and learned that if we walked into Burma we would give up our Thai single-entry visa (which at this point would last us 2 more months), in exchange for a short 15 day visa to reenter Thailand. Bummer! No Burma for us (granted—we got the single entry visas because we had no intentions of visiting the neighboring countries on this trip!), so we stayed on the Thai side and did some shopping while our friends went over the border for an hour and a half.
We wore Ethan out, and eventually he crashed while we waited for our friends to return.
On the way back we drove past the Golden Triangle, where the Ruak & Mekong River meet at the corners of the 3 neighboring Asian countries—Myanmar (Burma), Laos, and Thailand. We were told this area is famous for drug smuggling, and learned later through Wikipedia that it is specifically known for illicit opium and heroin trafficking.
Our hosts then surprised us with a sunset trip to a big lake near Chiang Saen. We walked on some old woven bamboo bridges over fields of grass and water lily pads.
The sun was going down fast, so we gathered on a small dock facing West.
We managed to keep the kids from unexpectedly swimming.
Then came the final minutes of the sunset!
Exchanged a few kisses…
And as I was snapping away at the sunset…
…this guy suddenly paddled right into my shot! Ahhhhh!!!
Oh my goodness…could it get any more perfect?!
After sundown, the night was still young. So, we went to Chiang Saen and ate on mats and short little tables along the Mekong River. We couldn’t even begin to read the Thai menu, so our friends ordered a huge assortment of food for everyone to share and enjoy!
Overall…what a surprise adventure…especially considering we had no plans when we woke up that morning!
And that’s not all. The Chezmoi Homestay hosts have been so spectacular, and they have whisked us away on many more adventures! More to come soon!