The setting for the campsite, tucked into the base of the Chiang Dao mountain, was so sublime and the variety of people here meant we decided to stay another day. All worked well with the camping stuff and we huddled in our sleeping bags with ‘bed tea’ in the morning listening to the birdlife all around. Malee’s husband Kurt is well into his seventies. He explained to us that he came here from Switzerland for the orchids, found both amazing plants and love (we assume) and has never left. He wandered around in the morning watering his thousand orchids; carefully nurtured in pots hanging from tree branches all round the grounds. He said most of the orchids were from Thailand and one of the orchids had been DNA tested and the only place found in the world was his garden! A real enthusiast whose approach brought us both back to Orchid Fever, which will mean something to Bewdley book clubbers!
We strolled up the road to Wat Tham Pha Plong where we climbed up hundreds of steps to the main temple through a beautiful forest, helped on by buddhist contemplative phrases on signs along the way. We must be getting fitter as we hardly drew breath as we climbed the 309 steps, but it was the cool of the morning. At the top were the monks quarters and the main temple, both set in a large cleft in the cliff. We took in the views and the atmosphere then strolled back down for breakfast.
Later we did a walk along a ‘nature trail’ through the rainforest. Kurt showed us the map and gave us instructions; just as well as we would probably have failed in the first hurdle of finding the tiny path as it plunged into the verdant forest. We clambered uphill, over rocks and tree trunks surrounded by enormous trees and huge clumps of bamboo. The sun glimmered through the canopy but we stayed reasonably cool in the shade. This is a famous place for birders and the bugalows are full of people who know their wharblers from their partridges (and multiple varieties of all species). We had left our binoculars behind this trip – they did not make the weight cull but would have been clueless even if we had them. The bird song was loud and varied, even if we could not seem them.
The path came out at the Chiang Dao caves. Next door was a temple (of course) with lovely surrounding grounds and pathways lined with chinese lanterns. It was Sunday and the place was teeming with people. The caves are almost an extension of the temple complex. We paid our 40 bhat entry fee (about £1) and walked along lit passages with formations of stalagmites and stalactites, interspersed with Buddha statues.
When we re emerged into the light it was a hot walk back up the road so it was a lovely to have a cooling dip in the little pool when we got back.
We spent the afternoon lounging in the grounds. David has cured the ‘squeak’ on my bike (hopefully) by greasing all my seat fittings. We could have done other things but didn’t feel inclined to….we must be relaxing!
We cooked, Bernie caught up with her family on zoom and had a close run scrabble game finished off the day (David won, I will wait my revenge!)