Sunday, 13 December 2009

Winter in Thailand, part 2.

There's no length I won't go to to get to the bottom of a story for you, dear readers. Or the top in this case.

After my last blog on Winter in Thailand, I decided to duck down -- OK up -- to Doi Inthanonon, a couple of hours' drive or ride on Route 108 south of Chiang Mai. You can make a day trip of this by stopping off at some of the craft villages en route, such as the woodworking village of Ban Tawai.

Picture a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. From the main road turn-off, the Doi (nothern Thai word for mountain) is about 47 kilometres. Soon, the wind was crisper. The tree type became conifers, or pine trees, and the air immediately cooler. Was I in Europe somewhere?

As we climbed nearer the summit, two gorgeous gold and granite stupas came into view, situated on the highest points of the mountain "according to air density". Check these out for the amazing views of the valley, as well as the intricate mosaics and stunning gardens. Make an offering to Budda while you're there with lotus flowers for sale.

Just a few kilometres later a blue sign announced we'd arrived: The Highest Spot in Thailand. A quick photo op at the sign, and then it was on with an extra shirt. Twelve degrees celsius! Song taew vans shuttled visitors to the top, a convoy of silver tourist mini-vans, and to my delight a group of motorbikers on Harleys and BMWs, all the way from Phuket and Bangkok, came throbbing along too.

Everyone was in scarves and woollen caps, rubbing their hands against the cold (anything less than 34 degrees is considered freezing to Thais!). Then more photos from the car park, overlooking a cloud forest far far below.

Savouring a hot mocha I chatted with a park ranger. He confirmed it has never snowed on Doi Inthanon, but ice crystals form on the leaves at this times of year. At the end of December the mercury plunges to MINUS 3 degrees celsius at night.

So there you have it. No White Christmas likely this year, but if you want to experience a Thailand winter, this is one of the places to put on your itinerary. I'll blog soon on other popular winter destinations which are currently enjoying high season: Pai in north-western Thailand, and Khao Yai in central Thailand.

Today it's off to do the canopy zip-lines at Jungle Flight, and I'll write up a comparison between this and Flight of the Gibbon, another zip line rated as Thailand's top attraction.

But first, a boiling hot mug of something ...

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