First There Was Plan A...


Today was my last day in Chiang Mai. I spent the morning at the oldest market in town, the Warrot market, getting lost and wandering the stalls. I took a break in the shade - it was over 100 degrees in town - at a beautiful old temple and then it was time to head out of the city to the town of Chiang Dao near the largest mountain in Thailand, appropriately named, Chiang Dao Mountain.

I consulted my guidebook and decided a bus would get me where I was going. The guidebook also said, the “town” wasn’t much more than an intersection of two roads, with dusty buildings on either side, but I could get a ride/taxi from the bus stop to where I was staying, 9-10 miles up to the base of the mountain. So there was Plan A.

I took a took a tuktuk (three-wheeled moped taxi) to the bus station outside the north city gate and boarded the bus, which given the fact that I was the only non-Thai, seems to be a rarity for foreigners. I had about 6 inches on the edge of a bench seat with two other people, my backpack between my legs as we drove - in a very hot bus - the hour and half up the winding roads to Chiang Dao. I got out at my stop and the guidebook was correct, not much there. Also not there, any type of taxi or other vehicle for hire. So much for Plan A.

I looked around and saw across the street a (relatively) busy open air restaurant that advertised coffee. Hoping someone would speak English, I took a chance and went inside. No English speakers. I tried to sign that I was looking for a ride, but no luck. As long as I was there, I ordered an iced coffee, and tried to figure out Plan B.

I was looking around to see if I could see a pay phone and maybe call the place I was staying, when a Thai woman came in with a backpack. She smiled and I immediately asked, “English?” She responded “a little.” A little was all I needed. I explained I wanted a ride up the mountain, but didn’t have a phone to call anyone. She stood up, picked up my backpack and said, “ok, for motorbike.” I wasn’t sure what this meant, but she got on her phone, dialed a magic number, and turned and said, “motor bike here in 10 minutes, 60 bhat ($2)”. We waited together, drinking coffee. She had been in the area for one week and was heading back to Bangkok on a bus. When the motorbike hadn’t arrived, she called again and I think, told them in no uncertain terms I was still waiting for a ride. Eventually, the motorbike arrived.

I put on my backpack, the driver took my smaller bag in his lap and I climbed on the back. The next thing I knew we were on our way up the mountain. Every once in while he would point at something he thought I should see as we wove our way up the narrow road. I have to say Plan B was a lot more interesting than Plan A.

We arrived at my hotel - that may not be the right word for the series of bamboo huts that face the mountain - but so far it was definitely worth the ride.