I was in the midst of a garlic fueled dream saga about me and Julia Gillard having a short weekend away together. The cockerel crowed in the midst of Julia and me driving around the central coast of NSW looking for accommodation!
Chiang Dao Nest, our accommodation 1.5 hrs north (but a million miles away) from Chiang Mai is walled-in by mountains - to the north the mist-shrouded highest mountain in Thailand, Chiang Dao (and surely the most vertical I have ever seen).
Yesterday rocked. Grabbed pushies, pedaled up to the monastery which has to be, along with Borobudur in Java and Tengboche in Nepal the most spiritual place I've been. I sat down and chilled out with Buddha for quite a while in a small cave with about 40 Buddhas and relics of a lama.
Very Om. The monastery's pushed into the base of the big mountain with a good few hundred steps sure to test out the Buddhist 'I'm not suffering' theory, the way adorned with colourful butterflies flitting around and Buddhist scriptures displayed at resting points. Tom predictably read each one (now to apply them!) while Rosie raced herself to the top.
A Pad Thai later and we were pedaling to hot springs 10km distant. I forgot to carry a sarong so stretched my rashie down to previously unfound limits in the name of modesty.
The water smelled strongly of sulphur and was almost too hot to bathe. Much rock skimming, river cooling and shaking ants out of our clothes and we were on our way back, stopping for a large beer and sprites (they misinterpreted "two glasses" for "two beers" - shame) en route to Chiang Dao Cave.
What a ripper. Swallowing our fears we explored chamber after chamber separated by squeezy bits we knew not how long or narrow, past a 300 year old reclining Buddha, past the 'don't go that way snake kill you' cave, past the spider and the crickets - all hoping big time the guide's only gas lantern didn't expire!
Emerging to admire the sacred fish - and what was left of the daylight - we shared our fears and rewards and fell ravenously into dinner at Mallees next door to our Nest.
Shane, Helen, Rosie and Tom
Location:Chiang Dao, Thailand