Sunday, February 24, 2008

Makha Bucha Long Weekend in Mae Hong Son

Among the many blessings 2008 has bestowed upon us so far, is the 4-day weekend we enjoyed in the quiet, remote town of Mae Hong Son. The Makha Bucha holiday is an important Buddhist celebration that occurs on the full moon of the 3rd lunar month to commemorate the day on which Lord Buddha recited the Fundamental Teaching to his disciples.
We took a short 30 minute flight north over the mountains to arrive in Mae Hong Son, a little town tucked away in a valley, surrounded by forested mountains.
We stayed in a nice, somewhat rustic guest house just outside of town that was run by some Germans. Mary got to dust off her Deutch that had layed dormant for close to funfsen yahren (15 years).
Our first night, we wandered into town to do some exploring and eat dinner at a recommended restaurant. The directions we were given by a dear friend included the landmark of a dog lying in the middle of the road, directly in front of the restaurant. We chuckled at thought of using such a common sight in Thailand as a landmark, and tried to make note of the more conventional directions. The conventional directions, however, led us to many parts around the town other than the area of the restaurant. Then at long last, strangely enough, it was the dog lying in the middle of the road that led us to the restaurant. We will never doubt again.
After dinner we visited the little night market. It was simply a small street cut off from traffic with various tables or mats layed out with local handycrafts. It was not crowded and very pleasant. At the end of the night market street was a small lake and two wats, Wat Jong Kham and Wat Jong Klang. They were all lit up and filled with monks and other worshippers walking solemnly around the wats, praying and placing offerings at their chosen religious icons. We joined in too and payed our respects to Lord Buddha with an offering and a little prayer from Maeve.
The following day, we teamed up with some other guests, a Danish family who actually live near us in Mae Rim, and a Chinese/Aussie couple. We hired a guide with a truck to take us around to some of the nearby sights. It took a fair bit of time to get on the road, however, because they were working on the wheels of the truck, butting in brake pads or something else important.
We first visited the "fish cave" which was a nice park where there were indeed fish swimming in and out of a cave. Next, we went to a waterfall that was rather short on water during the present dry season. We hiked down anyway to the river bed and took in the beautiful rock formations, imagining the roar of a powerful that was currently a calm trickle over the cliff. We then visited some hot springs with mineral-rich volcanic mud. The site was converted into a spa and we enjoyed getting mud facials. We all felt
invigorated and younger than before after the treatment!

Our last stop was at Wat Phai Doi that sits atop Doi Kung Mu overlooking Mae Hong Son. We arrived in time to enjoy the sunset and witness the monks preparing for the evening's chants and prayers.
We arrived back at our guesthouse in time for supper and to find the place invaded by many French guests. We enjoyed a delicious home-cooked dinner with lively conversation in French. Mary welcomed the opportunity to use "big people" French instead of communicating in simple words and sentences as she is accustomed to in her French classes.
During our final day, we made a short trip to the nearby "long-necked' Padaung village of Nai Soi. We're not huge fans of "people zoos", but wanted a quick trip to somewhere to pass the day before we flew out that afternoon. The village is home to about 160 people and 35 families, many of whom are refugees from Burma. We walked around, took a few photos, and stopped to visit with the locals and a few of their farm animals. Maeve particularly liked the baby chicks and piglets. Before too long, we were on a plane flying over the mountains back to Chiang Mai.

All in all, it was a very nice, easy get-away, and we'd be happy to return there again.

Friday, January 4, 2008


Hello everyone! Happy New Year! We wish you the health, happiness, and good fortune that we enjoy.

Life in Thailand continues to agree with us. Any mention of snow or northern climes brings shudders to Mary. Maeve has been walking around today with a sweater... very disappointing for true Canadians. And while Maeve talks about visiting friends in Japan to go toboganning or Canada to go skating, Mary and I believe that one small arctic blast of chilled air would bring her quickly back to her adopted home and paradise: Thailand.

We enjoyed a wonderful New Year's Eve drive south of Chiang Mai to Sukothai; a former capital of Thailand and major site for temples (wats) and palaces dating back to medieval times. Time and earlier civilizations have a different connotation to those of us from the west. All you have to do here is see a modern village tucked around a thirteenth century buddhist wat to appreciate how ancient is the east.

We were tuckered out from the beautiful drive and headed to bed early - a trend we have developed over the past few years. We were awakened by the thunderous crash of fireworks for midnight. Andrew was awake anyway as the bed was essentially composed of bedrock! I think we all kissed for a happy new year, but who knows!

Sukothai and several of its secondary surrounding sites enjoy the status of being UNESCO World Heritage sites. This means they are well cared for. They have good facilities and make access for tourism easy.

At Sukothai we rented bicycles and explored the tremendous grounds. Dozens of sites exist within and without its ancient city walls and double moat. Maeve loved riding with her mom. We took so many photos that we filled all of our camera's memory cards! Two nights at a wonderful little guesthouse were enough, and then we headed further south.

Near Kampaeng Phet there are further satellite ruins of the Sukothai period. Outside of the city is also a wonderful national park called Klong Lan which possesses the most beautiful waterfall. We had a great picnic here, saw some wild gibbons swinging down from the trees to take a few food offerings from the picnickers, snapped pictures, tested the cold waters, and headed back to Kampaeng Phet to explore the temples there. We stayed over night at a hotel and then headed back north.

North of Sukothai is another satellite medieval ruins site of large proportion. We stopped off to stomp around some more wats and then had a lunch where Maeve fed some more gibbons. They loved mandarin oranges. Maeve felt that they must miss their families.

The drive home was not too long. The secondary highway we took was beautiful and had little traffic. It was a good trip all around.

And so we are back home. Maeve is playing with some of her friends. She has her dolls and toys to surround her. Mary and Andrew have their most comfortable bed and their favourite spots on the couch and the reading chair. We have the weekend to enjoy and then it is back to the trenches. We are recharged.
Happy New Year to all.

We look forward to hearing from you this year. We hope to see you this year. We also expect to have more visitors to our humble home; make reservations while you can!


The MacLachlans - Mary, Maeve and Andrew