After breakfast we left Chiang Mai in the direction of Lamphun. We passed Lampang and Phrae, before arriving at Nan. We decided to take lunch with an egg-noodle soup with red pork at the market. We left Nan and drove through Pua and took the road number 1256 to Doi Phu Ka National Park. The next hour we slalomed up the mountain to the top (around 2000 m) past the parks headquarters, and back down, through the forest, with stunning views of the mountains around us, dooming up from the clouds.
Our hotel was in the valley, in the little town Bo Kluea (salt pit). The hotel: Bo Klua View Resort looked magical, arriving there in the dark. We had to drive up a little to reach our rooms, two rooms in a little stone and thatch house in a lush forest like garden. The interior of the rooms simple, but with beautiful little decorative touches. We showered and went down for a small dinner. The restaurant of the resort : Pongza restaurant is known for its exquisite food, and yes the food is simply very very good. It has special dishes like fern salad, bamboo worms, catfish in green curry, fried pork shoulder, which are all delicious. We had a refreshing sleep, the temperatures are much lower than in the rest of Thailand, the night temperature is only 18 degrees! The first day the day temperature was 20 to 22 degrees, the second day had day temperatures of around 25 degrees. Perfect for walking!!
The first day we went up to the Doi Pu Kha national park headquarters to get some information on forest walks we could do. They made us pay 200 bath per person and 30 bath for the car at the entrance, but then told us at the visitors centre that walking was impossible and all trails closed, because of the rainy season. Taken aback I asked a refund of my money, telling them they could not ask me to pay, if I could only drive through on the highway and could not walk in the park. It took a while but they finally understood that indeed this was ridiculous, and paid us back. We were disappointed since we had hoped to do some forest walking. We decided to go and visit the waterfall Sapaan in the other national park: Khun Nan national park. You do not really have to enter the park (or pay the entrance fee to see the waterfall). The waterfall is further up the 1081 road past the entrance of the park. You have to take a turn right, and in the little village cross are little bridge on the right and park your car just behind. You can walk up a path with stairs and a bridge to view the three tiered waterfall, of which the third level is the highest and most impressive. It is a good picnic spot, and we ate the sticky rice in bamboo we bought the day before and some fruits as a lunch by the waterfall.
We slowly walked back and went to look for some fuel and an ATM, to get cash. There is a small gas station in Bo Kluea itself and a larger gas station further down the 1081 road in the direction of Phu Fa and Santisuk. There are two ATM’s in Bo Kluea, one close to the salt pits, and one in front of the hospital. We went back to our hotel to enjoy the beautiful seating area (salaa) in front of our bungalow, looking over rice fields and the garden with a pond. We enjoyed the dusk setting in. And although there are quite some mosquitos at dusk, once the dark sets in the mosquitos also seem to go to sleep. We did not get any mosquito bite at night. Also the temperature is really perfect for a good nights rest!
I did not yet mention the breakfast that is included in the room price: well it is simply spectacular. Your get freshly baked bread, which you toast on an little open fire, you get eggs, salad, sausages, roasted pumpkin, noodles, rice soup, fresh fruit juice, coffee, tea, an abundance of fresh fruits, and Thai desserts. It is plentiful, and so beautifully served…. It was the most beautiful breakfast of the whole trip. Everything in the resort is served with extra natural touches, little leaves and flowers, carved vegetables, extra salad…..
The second day we decided we wanted to walk, and after some research the evening before ( the resort has free wifi), we decided to take the trail to the view point in Khun Nan national park, a trail of 2 km one way. When entering the park you have to pass the check point where you pay the entrance fee. Normally it costs 100 bath for foreigners, but since it was the rainy season we paid 50 bath per person and 30 bath for the car. The welcome was definitely a whole lot warmer than at the Doi Phu Ka national park. The trail starts at the headquarters and runs through the forest on a good path to a view point where you have a view over the valley and the Luang Prabang mountain range that marks the border with Laos. The flora is nice, the wildlife mostly very small. Golden fussy haired ants, bright red ants, big black ants, small black ants. Huge black and white butterflies, a huge white with sky blue butterfly, small blue butterflies, small lemon yellow butterflies, white butterflies with orange tips, small black beatles with yellow polka dots, and one leech. One king fisher, huge crickets, A brown lizard, a black lizard with a black and yellow belly, crickets with red striped back legs, a big jumping spider, small white and yellow birds, and a humongous night butterfly.
On our return to Bo Kluea we saw the ancient salt pits, which are not working in the rainy season. We ate a noodle soup and continued on the road 1081 in the direction of Nan. At the intersection you take the direction of Phu Fa, which is the road to the left, that leads to the Royal Phu Fa project.
It is a project to help the Mrabri minority people, a previous nomadic minority, who now became sedentary, and had to learn to grow rice. In Phu Fa, they grow tea and mulberry, and make beautiful baskets and bags made of bark they sell at the central project shop. At the Phu Fa cultural center you can make a small walk passing signs explaining the forest life and the life of the Mrabri people. A local Mrabri girl guided us around and explained everything in Thai. No one speaks English though. The project area is nicely designed and does not feel as a tourist trap. The rest of the evening we took a meal at the Pongza restaurant and enjoyed our beautiful hotel surroundings. We had a great dinner at Pongza restaurant and a refreshing sleep waking up with rain and sunshine at the same time.
We decided to rake the road number 1081 direction North to enjoy the scenery having read this was the most scenic route in Thailand. The road gives you a beautiful view after every turn. We stopped many times to enjoy the surroundigs and take pictures. After about 30 km, we got tired and turned back. Half way back we stopped to eat a noodle soup in a local stall which was very tasty. We returned to the hotel for some rest, and decided to try to see some of the park Doi Phu Ka again. The weather unfortunately turned rainy again, and there was a lot of mist, but we managed to see some of the ancient palms that can still be found in the park. We decided to go back because it was getting late. Suddenly we heard a strange clicking sound, and after some investigation, found we had drove into a nail that had planted itself in our back tire. Aaah, bad luck, this National Park really did not like us coming! We slowly returned to the hotel where they helped us to find a little car work shop, where they could maybe help us. The repairman said that no air was leaking from the tire, but that pulling out the nail might create a leak, so we asked him if he could put the spare tire on, since going to another shop to get the tire fixed might take too long. They changed our tire and the repairman went with us to another shop to inflate the tire. When returning he did not want any money for his work, but we paid him anyway, since that would be too kind of him, he had put a lot of work in it. We had our last dinner at Pongza, and really the food is exceptionally good here!
Our tire looked good in the morning, so for the last time we had our delicious and beautifully presented breakfast, with great views of the mountains and the Mang river from the restaurant. We checked out, and drove back to Chiang Mai. Although the gps said it would take 5 hours and 56 minutes to get there, you should count on about seven hours if you do not really stop to eat (just short breaks to use the bathroom and fill up the tank of the car). We arrived at the train station in time, and took a coffee and small dinner at Upper Crust coffee house in front of the parking area of the station. They serve European-Mexican fast dishes and cakes and are really good! (And more attractive to sit than in the coffeebar on the parking area of the station plus they have wifi.) We returned the car, and got our deposit back, but paid 200 bath so they could repair the tire. Apart from the fact that we received another car than the one we had originally booked, we had a good experience with Alpha cars for renting our car. Just when we entered the train station another heavy downpour (at four o-clock in the afternoon like it should be in the rainy season..) refreshed the day. Coming out of the mountains of Nan province, we realized that the rest of Thailand was a whole lot hotter. During the day in the mountains we had temperatures between 22 and 30 ( if there was sunshine and no clouds), at night it dropped to 18 to 20 degrees which is perfect to sleep. The evening before some Thai guests had been quite noisy at the hotel grounds, and we realized that the experience of the Bo Klua View resort and the area around it might be a totally different one in the high season, when Thai people flock to the mountains for Thai New year. As our car repairman said, at those times, you cannot find a parking space for your car in Bo Kluea town. And knowing from experience how Thai people like to spend their holidays, drinking and being noisy, I don’t think we would have enjoyed it…. These few days here in Bo Kluea have been a blessed few days, surrounded by tropical rainforests, in a resort that perfectly fits this natural bliss.