On day 2 morning, we departed for Northern Thailand after a brief night stop in Koh Samui by air, & reached Chiang Mai around noon after 1 hour 50 min. But instead of stopping in Northern Thailand’s largest city, we continued up north on the road for about 3 hours before we arrived in Chiang Rai city, where we would stay for 2 nights.
A non-stop 3-hour journey on the road probably sounds too much for anyone to bear. For one, I can’t imagine myself cooped up in the car (despite how comfortable the seat may be) without any break in between. Thankfully, the organisers were thoughtful enough to plan for a rest stop in between the 2 provincial cities, so that we could stretch our limbs, get some refreshments and/or relieve ourselves in the restrooms. 🙂
Wiang Pa Pao (เวียงป่าเป้า), the south-westernmost district (known as “amphoe” in Thai) of Chiang Rai Province, was our comfort stop for the day. This district is little known to foreign tourists with its limited tourist attractions. Nonetheless, amongst the local people, there is a noteworthy Mae Khachan Hot Spring (also known as Mae Kachan Hot Spring) in Wiang Pa Pao, a popular rest stop for locals being situated right beside the main highway (Highway 118) to Chiang Rai.
The drive up north was pretty pleasant & smooth, along the well-constructed highway roads lined with lush green trees. Scenes like below photo were a common sight throughout the journey:
For urban dwellers like us, it was interesting to see local buses like above (known locally as sŏrng·tăa·ou/ song taew) plying the highway routes, & filled with passengers standing on the edges of the bus/ truck. Looks like a classic example one can use to explain “economies of scale”. 😛 The approximate 1.5-hour journey wasn’t too boring or dreary, because it was a joy to witness all these + the pleasant landscape throughout. Anyhow, it was still good that we could get off the car at Mae Khachan Hot Springs for a breather.
We were pleasantly surprised by the sight of a lovely rainbow at the hot spring entrance when we alighted. 🙂 Flanked by a handful of shops & peddlers selling souvenirs, clothing, & knick knacks, as well as the 7-11 convenience store & coffee shop, there are 3 hot spring wells at this small local attraction.
Besides the geyser-lookalike welcoming visitors at its entrance, there is also a 3-metre wide hot spring just a short distance away, where we could boil eggs (or any other food you want) in the high temperature spring water (about 80 degrees celsius) & get them cooked within 3 min. There were a few in our group who purchased some quail eggs from the local peddlers, just for a cheap & fun experience.
Walk towards the end of the street & there is another pond filled with natural spring water at soothing room temperature. We removed our footwear & soaked our feet into the free refreshing foot spa for fun too. If small fish were introduced into this little pond, maybe they would start charging a fee for the fish spa experience? 😉
Of course, just like every other rest stop, the restroom is a must-have. It was located right at the end of the street, just a short walk away from the foot spa. We were somewhat amused to find a turnstile in front of the gender-separated restrooms, which would only allow single entry for every 5 THB (~S$0.20) inserted into the coin slot. Too bad, I forgot to take photo of this sight, but it was a delight to see that the restroom was kept clean & pretty well-maintained (at least for the Ladies). 😉
Lastly, before we returned to the car to continue the second half of our journey to Chiang Rai, we were lucky enough to spot a mini-procession with some holding several flower bouquets, while some had joss sticks on hand, trailing along to loud local music. We found out from our local guide that this group of locals were from a nearby temple who were trying to solicit donations from well-wishers. The procession was pretty similar to the Buddhist or Taoist religious ceremonies we would see in Singapore.
We were happy to be able to witness such a lively procession by chance in this lesser-known attraction to foreigners. Despite the small size of this hot spring compared to other famous natural hot springs in other parts of the world, it is worth stopping by for some respite from your long road journey. Who knows, you may encounter some lovely surprises like us during your brief stop! 😉