In the summer of 2017, we destined our yearly Northern Roadtrip to Nan and one of our sightseeing spots was the beautiful valley of Nan, also famous for its salt mines in Bo Klua. We drove from Phayao to Nan on another one of Thailands most impressive routes, Road No. 1091. The almost 3-hour long ride sometimes gave you a sense of driving along the boundary of the sky, spiralling hills, soaring and plunging with multiple curves and turns featuring some amazing views.

Views of the scenic road in Nan
Driving along the horizon

For the first days of the tour, we did our usual visits to the old part of Nan town and its outskirts, enjoying murals in Wat Phumin but also Wat Nong Bua. For the kids, we also made sure to visit some of the province’s waterfalls.

After a scenic drive of 110 kilometres North-East of our resort in Nan, we ended up in Bo Klua View Resort and enjoyed a terrific meal. Nestled in the foothills of Doi Phu Kha at around 700 metres above sea level, Bo Klua View was designed to combine with nature and offers a simple, bucolic lifestyle experience. This is an excellent midway point when driving the Phuka loop from Nan.

The Salt Wells in Bo Klua

The word “salary” was derived from the word “salt.” Salt was highly valued and its production was legally restricted in ancient times, so it was historically used as a method of trade and currency. The word “salad” also originated from “salt,” and began with the early Romans salting their leafy greens and vegetables.

The History of Salt

We also went to learn about salt mining and bought a little of the well-known salt from the region. Nan is a large salt source and has majorly been trading salt in the northern area of Thailand and with Jinhaw merchant caravans from Yunnan, and other provinces of China via the Xipsongpanna region. The word Bo Klua is simply translated as a salt well.

Bo Klua salt is remarkably salty. Pails of water are pulled up from the wells, then transferred to giant wok pans, where the water is boiled until it is evaporated. After being boiled it leaves mounds of pure salt crystals.

The quantity of salt obtained per litre is abundant. The salt looks so clean and pure. The white crystals are then transported to wooden jars to complete the drying procedure. In the rainy season, not much was going on so we got the story from one of the locals whose family have been in the salt business for generations.

Well for salt in Bo Klua
Salt pits in Nan

The evaporation process takes around four to five hours and is carried on 24 hours per day. The two wells produce around 60 – 70 kilos of salt each per day. Bags of salt(2kg apiece) are sold. Iodine is added afterwards.

The time it takes from production to sales depends on if any customer is passing by or not. It usually takes anything from one day to two weeks.

Salt pit well in Bo Klua
Another photo of the wells

Where to stay in the area

Currently, there are more places to stay in the Bo Klua area than when we were there. We didn’t overnight though since we stayed in Nan at the Nan Seasons Boutique Hotel.

  • The resort where we had our great meal was in Bo Klua View. Stunning views and high room standards.
  • A place that looks interesting and that I would like to check up on a later visit in the area is Saimoklove Glamping. Morning fog is promised. Have a look here.
  • Bo Klua Home is more simple with some chalets in a nice garden setting.

Read more about the amazing Wat Phumin and its murals here.

When this is written it is still a period of lockdowns during the Covid pandemic. Make sure to check that your trip is doable and check with all intended destinations, hotels and restaurants that are open. Call them, don’t rely on Google only.

In this post, I list 20 quick tips and recommendations for what you can do with kids in Chiang Mai. The city is perfect for having family fun and it was recently awarded the prize as the friendliest city in the world by the readers of Conde Nast’s Traveller magazine. As you might already know, Chiang Mai has been a constant favourite city for long stay tourism, “workation ” and for digital nomads. But is Chiang Mai opening? Well, we just have to wait and see. According to the rollout of Thailands opening plan for tourism, there are indications that parts of Chiang Mai should open under the Charming Chiangmai scheme in September.

Fast guide. Here some slider at Tube Trek.
Tube Trek the most westernised water park in town.

20 places for Family fun in Chiang Mai

  1. Triplets Restaurant and Playground
  2. Nic’s Restaurant and Playground
  3. Ginger Farm
  4. The Bua Tong sticky waterfall in Mae Tang. Read more here.
  5. The new Art in Paradise San Kamphaeng. Read more in the Chiang Mai Family guide.
  6. A day out at Ob Khan Nationalpark, Read more here.
  7. Mae Sa Waterfall
  8. Chiang Mai Night safari
  9. Cup Fine day
  10. Chiang Mai River beach. See more on their Facebook page here.
  11. Grand Canyon Water Park
  12. Elephant Poop Park
  13. Tube Trek Waterpark
  14. Chiang Mai Zoo
  15. Skybridge and tree walk at Queen Sirikit Botanical garden in Mae Sa Valley.
  16. Try one of the new Skateboard parks
  17. Lanna Rock Garden. Read more here.
  18. Go to a themed coffee shop, there are plenty of them the favourite is Into the Woods – the fairytale cafe.
  19. Hands-on experiences in the Insect Zoo in Mae Rim.
  20. Go camping! Why not try Doi Pui mountain or go glamping in Phang Hai.

Read more about waterparks in Chiang Mai here

Read more on restaurants with playgrounds in Chiang Mai here.

And one more, why not stay overnight in a Tree House surrounded by teak forests.

Walking on stilts in a play space in Chiang Mai
Lot’s of fun at Begin Playspace

For more in-depth information about more family fun and other things to do in Northern Thailand please scroll through the archive of my blog.

This is a route that is also labelled the Mae Sa Valley Loop. It is an incredible half-day or whole day tour out of Chiang Mai depending on your time. In these Covid – 19 times it is a great ride do to when you live in Chiang Mai since you can get nature and mountains views without leaving the province. In addition, you can even spend the whole ride in the car and not getting out. Start off by just enjoying the scenery. Having said that, in non-pandemic times it is also a very nice drive since there are so many places to see and so much to eat on the way up to Samoeng as wells as in Mae Rim’s Mae Sa Valley. We began our drive from Hang Dong, the Samoeng road begins just a few minutes from there.

We took the ride again at the beginning of July after a few years pause. Firstly we stopped at the Lanna Rock Garden and secondly driving onwards to Samoeng Forest Park view. Consequently we continued over the mountains and down to the Mae Sa valley via the Zombie cafe. The final stop was at Solao restaurant to enjoy some Bing Suu shaved ice on the last leg before we would reach home.

Plenty of places were shut down but some places that we liked were open. It is clearly visible that subsequent lockdowns has forced the adventure travel attractions to close for the moment at least.

In normal circumstances with a motorbike or scooter, you will probably need around 4-5 hours for this jaunt, all depending on how often you stop of course. The Samoeng Loop is about 100 km long and it covers the 1269 road and then the route 1096.

Lanna Rock Garden

This is a favourite spot on the way up to Samoeng. It is easy to social distance, very wide outspread area. The kids love playing in the peaceful stream that flows through with rocks to jump on, or using the small play area, and checking out the water buffalo. No food from outside is allowed in but they do have a small kitchen and they serve different kinds of coffees and teas. If there is no rain, it is nice to sit by the river in small bamboo shafts and if the rain starts it is possible to move in under the roof next to the kitchen.

Lanna rock garden was open as usual.
Nice play area and also a small tree house.
The stones that gives the name to Lanna Rock Garden.

Samoeng Forest View Point

Located roughly 30 minutes from Lanna Rock Garden you get some spectacular views of the forest and mountains here. There is a nice, wooden sign welcoming you and you can park here. Drive-in slowly because there are some quite sharp curves at this spot. In good weather, you can also catch stunning sunsets up here.

Zombie Cafe

There are so many themed coffee shops in Chiang Mai nowadays. We got the impression that Zombie would be one of those, but the place is more like an old nightclub turned cafe in a nice garden setting. Staff was friendly but the cafe itself a bit overly hyped. Apart from the guy on the photo and the signboards not much of a Zombie character to this place.

However, there were many choices of food and drinks on the menu. Decent taste but nothing special. This place was really full when we were there so we took a seat outside to keep distance. Outside in rainy season meant quite a lot of flies and some mosquitos. It was ok to have seen the cafe, but none of us have a direct desire to go back.

Zombie Cafe in Mae Rim.
Zombie Cafe in Mae Rim. Plenty of food on the menu. The atmosphere is very much like a previous nightclub. I guess that it used to have that function. Interestingly enough many of the staff had tattoos.
Shave ice at Soo Laos restaurant in Chiang Mai.
Bing Suu, shaven ice at Solao’s, one of the best in town. The reward for agreeing on a drive on winding mountain roads. Solao is not on the loop. But a convenient stop on the way home.Solao is famous for its Laotian & Nort-Eastern food.

Guide to great stops on the Samoeng Loop.

First some nice places on the road 1269 section up to Samoeng.

  • Wat Ban Pong, the whitewashed pagoda that is visible in the greenish landscape. Stop at the temple and walk the 900 short steps up. Or drive to the top. Read more here about my recent visit to this wonder of Hang Dong.
  • Hoppipola is a popular BBQ, grilled meat restaurant if you pass by in the evening. They are famous for their beef Tomahawk but my family liked the Chicken Wings the best. Anyhow if you are up for a heavy big meat plate and with some mashed potatoes you are at the right place. Location on road 1269 here.
  • The Royal Train Garden and resort. Yes, it is just that. Have your coffee on a train and enjoy some great instagrammable spots and a nice garden. Read more here.
  • Are you looking for a high-quality resort on the way with an amazing incentive pool, try the Veranda hotel. Currently offering staycation holiday packages and maybe you can pay some money to eat and get access to the pool.
  • Tara Coffee and Din Cafe are nice coffee shops just where the Samoeng road starts. So it could also be your last stop if you started in Mae Rim.

Guide to great spots in Mae Sa Valley and Mae Rim.

Route 1069 passes by elephant camps like the famous Mae Sa camp, cobra and monkey shows, ATV rentals, and a shooting range. But the recommendations we would like to put the spotlight on are the following :

  • Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden, different themed areas from cactuses to orchids to the rainforest. Now with a tree walk canopy. The address you will find here.
  • Mae Sa Waterfall. Quaint 8-level waterfall with a neat plunge pool for swimming, a hiking trail & food booths. (Temporarily closed) . Should open as soon as covid restrictions are lifted. Address and contact here.
  • The Siam Insect Zoo has been collecting insects for over 30 years. You will also be able to view a huge range of insects on display including butterflies, spiders, dragonflies, mosquitoes and beetles, just to name a few. There are also lovely butterflies and dragonflies. Adress on Google maps here.
  • Pong Yang Angdoi restaurant with a waterfall view. Location on Google Maps here.
  • A bit off the beaten track you will find a great place for scones and afternoon tea. The Chiang Mai Cream Tea House. Location on Google Maps here. ( Note that they open at 12.30)
  • Eat at Sala Mae Rim, if you can afford it overnight at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai. Exclusive and elegant in lush surroundings.
  • Panviman Mountain and Spa Resort. Another top-class resort. Located here.
  • Elephant Poo Poo paper park. See how the elephants poop turns into paper. Read more here.

As of today Chiang Mai is again a red zone. During this period it is necessary for any outings to make sure to update where you can go and what is open. It is constantly changing.

Hua Hin beach

The Governor of Prachuap Kiri Khan province has just announced that the resort town of Hua Hin 200 kilometres South of Bangkok will open on the 1st of October. I have very fond memories of Hua Hin since this was a town that I frequented in the late 1990s and early 2000. I had work stays there and our around Thailand tour would have extension days there in classic hotels like Sailom and at the time the Grand Dusit Polo Club. Nowadays it might take some years between the visits. But last December we started a roadtrip down to Krabi from Hua Hin. At the time Thailand was still considered a very safe country with very limited spread of covid. (Even though things started to change a bit around the new year 20/21).

In any case, Hua Hin works great as a stopover, for example as a weekend trip from Bangkok or as so many people do during the cold winters in Scandinavia, stay the winter and play golf.

Hua Hin has the highest density of world-class golf courses anywhere in Thailand and it has been a very popular destination for Scandinavians and others, to buy a winter house.

Hua Hin beach
December 2020

A Brief History of Hua Hin

Hua Hin is considered to be the oldest resort town in Thailand. It got its name from some interesting stone formations on the beach that reminded a group of farmers, that escaped a drought in Phetchaburi, about heads. Hua Hin translates as Stone Head. The old name was Samore Riang (สมอเรียง), a row of rocks.

Hua Hin gained popularity when Rama VII found the fishing village at his liking and according to some sources enjoyed hunting in the area. The royal palace “far from worries” Klai Kangwon in the Thai language, was built in 1928. In 1923 The Thai State Railways built the magnificent Railway hotel with initially only 14 lodges, which later became the Sofitel and nowadays the Centara hotel. When the movie the Killing Fields was filmed that hotel served as the Royal in Phnom Penh. Cambodia was still too unsafe stuck with internal conflict at the time. So the colonial structures of the Railway Hotel served the purpose well do that movie.

Hua Hin Railway station opened already in 1911. This station is still one of the most beautiful railway stations in Thailand and the Royal Waiting Pavilion is a delicate architectural masterpiece. We used to go here with groups, riding with the bicycle samlors and sometimes watch the Eastern & Oriental Express stop by on its route to Singapore.

Royal Pavilion Hua Hin
A landmark of Hua Hin. Waiting pavilion at the railway station.

Modern days

Since the 1980s a large construction development took place in Hua Hin and the beach section from Cha-Am through Hua Hin is aligned with condominiums and housing estates as well as hotels. Petchkasem Road runs through Hua Hin and down to the South. The once so obvious gathering point outside the clocktower by the temple(now next to Starbucks) is not necessarily a central meeting point anymore.

When I started working in Hua Hin in 1998, there was talk about Hua Hin before and after Melia. Melia is now Hilton and the hotel is still a tall landmark with good positioning in the city.

What to do and where to go in Hua Hin

Since I am not a frequent visitor I like to revisit the places I love. Here are some personal favourites and some general recommendations.

  • For me, an Afternoon Tea at the Railway Museum in Centara Grand Beach Resort and Villas is a must. Furthermore, I adore the garden and the environment of this classic hotel. I have stayed here on a few occasions and the location is great. The cliche of a real oasis comes to mind. After all, it is true in this case. Read more here and reserve at Centara.
  • At the end of the day Hua Hin is a beach town and one of the reasons people like Hua Hin is that you get a city atmosphere as well as a beach. Hua Hins beach and water might not be as stunning as the Andaman Sea but there are long stretches with quite hard-packed sand that makes the beach enjoyable for jogging and walking. One suggestion is to sit down at some of the stalls nearby Hilton and have some great Thai Seafood dishes. The idea of horse riding on the beach in Hua Hin has always divided tourists in the beach town. But you will see horses on the beach.
  • Visit the railway station and let your thoughts take you back to “the good old days”. The Royal Pavilion is such a beauty.
  • Speaking about pavilions. Take a day trip to the National Park of Sam Rai Yod, “the mountain with 300 peaks”. Limestones, marshlands, caves and the stunning pavilion inside the cave. This park is 60 kilometres south of Hua Hin. Read more here.
  • If you have the time and you are looking for better water, snorkelling and a more paradisiacal feel. Travel to Koh Talu. A secluded, private island with great sustainability ambitions. Read more in my blog post here.
  • Waterparks: Black Mountain Waterpark and Vana Nava Water Jungle will keep your kids busy for the day.
  • Golf. I am not a golfer and the topic deserves its blog post. But you can’t write about Hua Hin and not mention golf. Hua Hin is home to the first 18 holes Golf Course in Thailand – The Royal Hua Hin Golf Course commissioned in 1924. Famous Golf Courses that you find in Hua Hin are: Banyan Golf Club, Black Mountain Golf Club, Kaeng Krachan Country Club and Resort, Lake View Resort & Golf Club, Majestic Creek Country Club, Milford Golf Club & Resort, Palm Hills Golf Club & Residence, Sawang Resort and Golf Course, Sea Pine Golf Course and Springfield Royal Country Club.
  • From Hua Hin, you can also day tours to Kanchanaburi, or preferably overnight at some nice resort by the legendary River Kwai. Read more about Kanchanaburi here.
  • Day tours to the huge pagoda of Nakorn Patom, the floating market in Damnoern Saduak or the Royal mountain palace in Phetchaburi are also good options.
  • Visit the Cicada Night market (temporarily closed).
  • Go shopping in the Market Village location here.
Railway cafe in Hilton
The Railway Museum at Centara resort

Where to eat

This is a mix of choices and recommendations from friends in Hua Hin as well as my own experience. Things change fast, and it is a pandemic going on. So be sure to check opening times and recent updates on the quality of the restaurants. A lot of nice restaurants and cafes are locating themselves in the so-called Pala U road now.

  • Good old Sailom hotel still offers nice food in their restaurant facing the beach. Baked Rocket Lobster used to be a classic there or the Steak Laos with sticky rice. Sailom is located here.
  • L’Occitan with French/International and Thai Cuisine. Great quality for a reasonable price. They also run a cafe called the Douce France location here.
  • Baan Alissa Creperie Restaurant with specialities like crepes from Bretagne, or boef Bourgogne. Location here.
  • Chomview Seafood is already a classic. This is an institution with some mixed reviews, it is large, it has great views and most people seem happy when it is not too crowded. Adress on Google maps here.
  • Coco 51. Nice location and excellent seafood also a chef-d’oeuvre. Location on Google maps here.
  • Chao Lay Seafood, still getting on according to friends. Central location. I have good memories of their Tom Yam Kung soup but it has been some time since my last visit. Location on Google maps here.
  • Krua Kannikar. This restaurant arguably has the best-fried chicken in Thailand. A family restaurant where the taste hasn’t changed for the last 20 years. I never miss a meal here when I am in Hua Hin. Their green curry is excellent and their laarp is mouthwatering. No view though, located near the railway and Hua Hin Grand Hotel. Location here.
  • A restaurant with an interesting concept is the Mon Thai restaurant and believe it or not Coca Cola is used in some seasoning. So a kind of fusion restaurant. Facebook page here.
  • Looking for a trendy cafe, try Marzipan. Nice break if you are shopping in Market Village.
  • The Livingroom Bistro & Wine Bar seems popular with the Bangkok crowds. Location on Google maps here.
  • Daddy Deli is a Swedish owned vintage restaurant with a focus on imported delicacies like cheese and beef. Location on Google maps here.
  • Chicken laarp in Kannikar restaurant Hua Hin
  • The bar street in Hua Hin
  • View from the balcony at Hilton in Hua Hin
  • Restaurant the so called chicken place
  • Hua Hin seaside
  • Sign of Hua Hin airport
  • Green Thai Curry
  • sunrise seen from Hua Hin Hilton
  • Statue av Pone Kingpetch

Where to stay in Hua Hin

There are so many fantastic resorts in and around town. When we have stayed there on a budget we quite enjoyed Ibis hotel, a classic favourite is the Dusit Thani though a bit outside of town. A bit wore but stop up to standard. My number one choice for Hua Hin would always be Centara, the old Railway hotel. During our visit last time we got an excellent deal from Hilton so absolutely nothing to complain about there. Great views, perfect location and a very huge swimming pool.

A disclaimer for this whole blog post is that it is hard to assume the situation in Hua Hin at the moment. If the city opens up, I hope that it gets back to normal for all these places. But do your research thoroughly in these covid times.

Arriving to Hua Hin’s airport we ordered a Grab to take us the short transfer to downtown. That was the most reasonable price.

There are many outstanding temples in Chiang Rai, artistic with a tweak that makes them contemporary but still observing tradition. Here we will focus on the Blue and White temples. The Blue Temple – Wat Rong Hua Ten is designed by khun Putha Kabkaew and he was a student and inspired by khun Chalermchai Kositpipat, the master of the White Temple. The official name of the White Temple is Wat Rong Khun.

Someone judged that the student became the master. Decide for yourself but don’t miss out on these two highlights in Chiang Rai.

Resemblance between the temples in Chiang Rai

There is a connection between the two temples. They are both parts of the Art Route in Chiang Rai and can be admired as art. You don’t need religious motivation to go there and find it fascinating.

The White Temple has for instance been compared to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The Blue and the White temples are a must for any program in Chiang Rai. Worth mentioning is that they are both still under development. The Blue and White temples are wonderful attractions to return to every now and then and see what new additions there are. This is especially true for the much larger White Temple area which consists of 9 buildings.

Another feature is that they are both new temples on the grounds where old ones stood. This is a development not unusual in Thailand today. Wat Ban Den and the Silver Temple in Chiang Mai are other similar examples, but also Wat Ban Pong and the current development with its white pagoda in Chiang Mai.

The Blue Temple

The flamboyant sapphire colour of the Blue Temple blended with gold gives the temple almost a Hindu resemblance at first. Especially since there are some powerful mythological guardians at the entrance.  The contrast of the almost scary mythological animals and the mindfully smiling, white porcelain Buddha inside is also what makes the visit worthwhile. The porcelain statue reflects blue colour from the walls. The constant presence of good and evil resembling life is ever-present here. This depicts the moment of the Buddhas enlightenment, and it is the posture where he subdues the devil and taking the Earth as his witness that he is the Buddha. The way of the Buddha can be difficult but it is a walk of life that is possible to achieve.

Buddha in porcelain in the Blue Temple in Chiang Rai
Subduing the Mara. Taking the earth as a witness.

The life of the Buddha in Golden Framed Jataka stories on the walls in contrast with the gate of hell. Starch symbolic reminders to chose the right path in life. Leaving the temple you can also taste a good part of life, blue ice cream flavoured by the flower of butterfly pee. This is all so very Thai. Life is all present in the temple. This is not a temple where monks live though.

The temple’s construction began in 2005 and the name “Dancing tiger temple” in the Thai language is derived from the old temple and a story of roaming tigers here over a century ago. Even not as much visited as the White Temple, it is recommended to arrive early or late to avoid too many other visitors. The temple invites many good photo opportunities and is definitely on the Instagram and We Chat Hot Spot list.

The location is quite close to the Mae Kok River. If you stay in the Imperial hotel it is just a short walk.

Find the location on Google Maps here.

The White Temple

Wat Rong Khun is arguably Thailand’s most exciting modern temple.  It is native Chiang Rai born Chalermchai who is behind this extraordinary creation. A visual contemporary artist that initially was a bit controversial for his blending of modern art into tradition.

Chalermchai Kositpipats father was a Chinese immigrant from Guangdong while his mother is Thai Chinese. Chalermchai graduated with a bachelors degree from Silpakorn University.

Over the years, the White Temple project has cost him more than $30 million of his own money. Opening up in 1997, this was also a temple where a new version replaced an older temple.

The White Temple is his attempt to cleanse Buddhism from human corruption. White stands for purity, the silver from the mirror is wisdom, and gold represents greed. A client of mine once described the main building as a “fairytalish merengue twirled castle”. Come here at a time when sun rays hit the ivory white building with mirror glassed mosaic against a blue and cloud-free background. The effect is, to say the least very spectacular.

The temple is symbolic and recognizes the temptations of life. When when you enter the prayer hall you make a cosmic journey from hell to paradise.

Entering the temple

This pilgrimage traverses a pond and a narrow white bridge that leads to the main building. It is protected by two statues of kinnaras, the half-man and half-bird creatures of Thai folklore.

Inside, there are incredible frescoes. One wall painting depicts a demon, in its eyes, you notice Osama Bin Laden and former U.S. President George Bush. Both. According to Chalermchai, they were the kind of warmongers that humanity must watch out for.

One mural illustrates Po from Kung Fu Panda and Spiderman possibly in a apocalyptic war, while the Twin Towers comes down behind them.

In life we must be our own moral guardians. There won’t be any Superman or Spiderman who will come to our rescue.

Check for various popular comics idols while you stroll around. Hello Kitty and the Predator can also be found in the compound.

Art installation at the Wat Rong Khan temple.
Exhibitions are omnipresent around the temple.

Still under construction

The temple is far from complete, but Chalermchai has handed over outlines to his disciples and reckons that when the project is 100% done in a hundred years? Thailand will have an equivalent to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. He believes that this temple will give his name eternal life.

I have been told that Khun Chalermchai doesn’t accept any excessively large individual donations for this temple. The reason is that he doesn’t want any donor to be too dominant.

The temple has many unusual sides to it. The mysterious golden washroom. Then the troll doing its business pooping golden poop. And there are constant reminders of the evils of alcohol, smoking and gambling.

Toilet sign in the White temple in Chiang Rai
Very creative toilet signs.

Next to the temple, you find an art gallery with works from the master himself.

In non-pandemic times, a visit to Wat Rong Khun is better done in the early morning or the late evening. It is immensely popular with tourists.

A small shopping area sells Thai snacks and there is a coffee shop for you to sit down and contemplate about what you have just experienced here.

The location of Wat Rong Khun is here.

The Clocktower in Chiang Rai

Make sure that you enjoy the light show at the new Clock Tower in Chiang Rai at night. This tower is also the work of Khun Chalermchai.

The clock tower in Chiang Rai at night time, shifting colors and with music accompaniment.

For more contemporary temples, don’t forget to visit Wat Ban Den in Mae Taeng outside Chiang Mai.

Below is a slideshow of a photographic journey from my recent Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Doha, Stockholm, Jönköping. Me travelling during the pandemic. This was my first international trip in one year and five months. As I can remember I haven’t had any period as long as this since I was about two years old without international travel.

My parents would go annually to Spain or Greece during my early childhood years. So this is a new experience in my life.

I just want to share some of my experiences from this trip. My feeling and the atmosphere changed a lot along the way depending on the geographical location. Starting in a Thailand close to lockdown and arriving in Europe that is opening up.

Looking back at this post in a few years will probably feel a bit strange. One will maybe wonder that it was so difficult travelling during the pandemic? Or maybe not? Anyhow, I am looking forward to reading this post in a couple of years.

Travelling from Chiang Mai to Bangkok

At Chiang Mai airport everything was seamless. The airport wasn’t busy and Thai Airways operated a newly renovated lounge. I could access this lounge thanks to my Gold Card with Thai Airways. The lounge had just been refurbished but it still had the same old coffee machine as before. There weren’t any modifications of the interior from the Thai Airways side. The furnishings were also classic old TG style.

Anyhow, I had the whole lounge to myself almost 90% of the time.

My flight from Chiang Mai was with Thai Smile Airways. And it departed Chiang Mai on time at 3 p:m. My connection with Qatar to Doha would depart at 3 a:m.

But I didn’t dare to book the last Vietjet flight in the evening. There have been so many cancelled flights these days. And if Vietjet decided to cancel that flight, no chance for me to get to Bangkok.

At this stage, there was also talk of a lockdown in Bangkok due to the high daily numbers of Covid cases. Almost 10 000 per day. I felt some fear to get stuck in Bangkok.

Rules at Airports in Thailand are to wear a mask at all times.

A quiz and a tropical shower

The flight went great, beautifully, lush, green mountains could be spotted and dramatic clouds looked like already chewed on marshmallows in the sky. Heavy rainfall on the inflight to Bangkok reminded me of being humble and Daoist versus the forces of nature. Curiosity on the flight was that Thai Smile had its 9th anniversary so they even held a quiz onboard.

It was quite depressing to taxi to the gate and see so many of the grounded Thai Airways planes at Suvarnabhumi though. Some planes even without engines. And for sure some aircraft already in need of repainting.

Waiting in Bangkok and the flight to Doha

At Suvarnabhumi Airport I had noticed a fairly new short-time hotel. You can book by two hours, four hours and so on.

Currently, Boxtel@Suvarnabhumi had a whole night promotion. An 18-hour stay for 1250 baht.

To get to Boxtel you have to exit through the same area as the Airport link and walk towards Novotel hotel and on the way, you will see an interesting capsule hotel as well. Seemed not to be open.

Then to your left, you can see a small reception for Boxtel.

The staff who worked rapidly will check you in and show you to your small “box”.

It is very cold on this floor with very strong air-condition open. At Boxtel, you get a small room with a bed and free wifi. There is also the possibility to charge your phone.

Just a few minutes walk from Boxtel there is a 7/11. Food and snacks can be bought there and next door to 7/11 is a Royal Project shop selling some salads and dry fruits. There were not many choices at any of these convenience stores though. Much of it was sold out.

Moreover, some tea and coffee places were open as well. But most of them closed early in the evening

My body temperature was scanned every time I walked through the checkpoint into the airport. When cleared the staff would add a green sticker on the shirt. The Boxtel included a small area with two tables where you could sit down and eat. But for the toilet, I had to use the public one. The toilet was located a few minutes walk from the hotel.

Time – consuming check-in

I slept a little bit and around 11 p:m I walked up to the check-in area for Qatar. There was quite a long queue. Directly on arrival, some trainees handed out a kind of covid free guarantee form.

I didn’t have to fill in any form since Swedish citizens can enter Sweden without any PCR test. Well, at least we could do so at the time being. Things can change again so stay updated. We have to live with these terms when it comes to travelling during the pandemic.

The actual check-in took a long time. I reminded myself again that this was just because I was travelling during the pandemic. To be honest, social distancing wasn’t great.

I waited about 1 hour and 45 minutes before I could check in. At this time no covid testing was required for transit in Doha when you came from Thailand. It wasn’t complicated in this sense.

But again, things can change promptly. Walking from the check-in counters through security and the passport control out to the departure hall took less than 9 minutes.

I was alone going past security and I was the first in the queue in the passport area.

Qatar Airways would leave from gate D2, and this section of the airport was dark and completely shut down. Walking through it I had some flashbacks remembering when this part of the airport was busy with passengers eating and buying duty-free. Now, it was all dark and shops were closed.

On the right side of the departure hall, some duty-free shops were open but empty. No restaurants were open apart from the Miracle Lounge but here the charge for using it was 1300 baht for entry. So, I skipped that one. In June they had a promotion of 700 baht.

However, it was hard finding water inside the departure hall. Water could barely be found at vending machines by the gates. Just some of them were stocked with products. I could never imagine that finding water to drink would be an issue at a top-class airport as Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Then the departure boards revealed all the flights as they were before the pandemic, with a minor difference though. All but a very few flights like Emirates and Qatar were cancelled. An eerie place indeed.

The aircraft boarded at 2.10 a:m and everything went smoothly. The airline crew offered plastic gloves and a mask in a special ” travel safety kit”.

I was impressed because included was also lip balm and a toothbrush. Very good service for economy class indeed. I slept and woke up two hours before landing in Doha. We arrived around 5.40 a:m local time. The duration of this flight was a bit less than six hours.

Travelling from Doha to Stockholm

At Doha’s Hamad Airport I had a bit of a culture shock. Another view of travelling during the pandemic. The airport was so active and alive. All the tax-free shops were open and big TV – screens displayed ads from luxury brands. No one could miss that the football World Cup in Qatar 2022 was just around the corner.

Wearing a facemask at the airport was obligatory but apart from this, the airport was bustling with life and energy, completely antipodal of Suvarnabhumi Airport.

The flight to Stockholm was a bit delayed. And this flight was decent but not as good as the one from Bangkok to Doha. The seats were not as comfortable and some passengers onboard neglected the mask requirement. I heard them coughing and sneezing.

I asked to change the seat because of this and I was moved to the emergency exit. It was better but here you got some parents not caring at all what their kids were doing. Their kids were kicking the seats, screaming, moving and not wearing a seatbelt when landing. But I could tolerate it. It was less annoying than people coughing and neglecting wearing masks anyway. The complete durability of this flight was six hours.

Landing at Stockholm was problem-free and going through immigration was quick. In Sweden at this stage, there are no quarantine requirements. There is a recommendation to self-isolate if you arrive from certain countries. Not required for Thailand though.

At Arlanda, the staff also offered a free covid test on arrival for anyone that wished.

Travelling from Stockholm to Jönköping

I missed my train by ten minutes. And it turned out that all trains and buses, even rental cars were all full and rented out.

There seemed to be no chance for me to get to my hometown Jönköping. It made me frustrated since I had booked my first Covid vaccination on the 9th of July.

On the Arlanda Express into Stockholm city, I managed to find one seat on Snälltåget. A really old but classic private train that would depart to Berlin 30 minutes later.

I managed to book what seemed to be the last option to get to my hometown. And I did get on board this train. However, I was a little frightened that I was on the wrong train because there was not any mention of my station on the platform. But the number of the train seemed correct so I got on board.

Life as normal, travelling during the pandemic in Sweden.

In Sweden, life seemed so normal even though the pandemic is still ever-present. Ok, many people have been vaccinated or had Covid already. But now I looked like the odd one with my mask. Almost no one wore a mask. The people that did were mostly foreign travellers. So again a culture shock and a new face when travelling during the pandemic.

The conductor explained that it was the right train, they just didn’t have the SPACE to write down all the stations where the train would stop.

I politely informed her that this is not acceptable and how could you understand this if you were not Swedish. In Japan and China, a rolling digital display always mentions all the stations a train would stop.

I enjoyed Snälltågets vintage restaurant car, Krogen. And got off at my station in Nässjö on time for my change to the bus for the last 30 minutes of travel to Jönköping. The kind bus driver didn’t even want to see any ticket.

This felt like the longest journey from Chiang Mai to Jönköping that I had ever done. But considering the pandemic, it could have been even more complex. Especially since I didn’t have to quarantine or take any tests, no need to complain about any hustle.

And not to forget, I made it for my first Pfizer jab.

I wish I can be back in a more normalized Thailand soon. We all want the best for the land of smiles and hoping for a quick comeback for tourism and the economy.

While in Sweden I hope I will get the time to see The Thai Pavilion in Ragunda.

While durian is almost always considered the King of fruit. With its smell of hell and paradise-like taste people in South East Asia like to express the grandness of durian. In comparison, the mangosteen(mang – kut in Thai) is much more subtle and delicate.The fruit degraded so fast that someone spread a rumour that Queen Victoria intended to grant knighthood to anyone who brought her one successfully. The story, whether real or not, was enough to earn the mangosteen the widespread caption as “the queen of fruits.”

The appearance of the Queen of fruits

Mangosteen reputes as a super fruit due to its qualities for health. The antioxidants are actually in the peel. The only annoying thing with mangosteen is probably that purple-reddish peel colour that easily sticks onto your clothes and can be difficult to wash off.

Peeled it looks kind of like white orange. The fruit itself tastes sweet with a very modest bitter aftertaste. The number of hard brown petals at the bottom of the fruit indicates the number of segments. Among the pulp segments, only one or two are big and have larger seeds.

Frequently westerners struggle with durian but mangosteen is easily loved at first bite.

One aspect that mangosteen share with durian is the high expectations of perfection when it comes to appearance. The nicest samples are often exported abroad to nearby neighbouring countries. However, there has been importing restrictions in Western countries out of concern of the Asian fruit fly.

Some of the very best mangosteens in Thailand arguably comes from the Eastern Coastland. Chantaburi is the capital of durian, longan, mangosteen and rambutan. The so-called big four.

But also the Southern province of Nakorn Sri Thammarat is famous for its 100 years old trees and individually handpicked fruits. Some people say that you should have mangosteens after you ate durian to cancel out the oily taste from the King of fruits.

The intricacy of the mangosteens from Nakhon Si Thammarat is that they are sweet, crunchy, fragrant, and refreshing. The perfect balance of acid and sweetness.

The origins of Mangosteen

The Latin name of the fruit is Garcinia mangostana. Apparently it originated, most botanists assume, in Malaysia or the Sunda Islands of Indonesia. Fruits develop on very unhurried growing evergreen trees with glossy, dark green leaves and pyramid-shaped crowns.

At maturity, the trees, which need huge humidity and massive rainfall, can reach up to 9 – 10 meters in height and generate up to 1,000 fruits a year.

Mangosteens grows best in South East Asia for sure.

A whole box of these delicate fruits just arrived, sent from a friend in Chantaburi. One day later hardly any remains.

A taste of paradise without the smell of hell!

the over 150 year old rain tree at Gym Khana Club Chiang Mai

The oldest sports club in Chiang Mai, Gymkhana, is from 1898, founded by teak merchants. Out of the early founders only one had Thai nationality. The massive rain trees inside the compound make me associate with the lovely Botanical garden in Kandy. There is indeed a special feeling walking through the golf course and everywhere you see these impressive trees planted in a completely different era. What if trees could talk? And share their story from this golf course.

The Gymkhana Club in Chiang Mai is not as fancy as the cricket club in Singapore, but you do feel the history present there. A sign acknowledges the founders and the restaurant and clubhouse has that classic timeless feel.

A “gymkhana” was a term used in the British Raj, initially to describe an assembly. Then the meaning indicated a place where contests with skill were held. So the Gymkhanas became gentlemen’s clubs.

What facilities does Gymkhana have?

The Gymkhana Club in Chiang Mai hosts tennis courts, squash, a cricket field, pétanque field and billiards(this room only for members), a surprisingly cheap restaurant and a nine-hole golf course. Then there is a driving range and coaching available. There are also lockers.

A good place for a golf beginner

I want to say something about golf. I am not a golfer but my son is an eager learner and he has been practising with swing coaches at the stunning North Hill golf course in Hang Dong. But after all that practising and coaching at North Hill, he lacked opportunities to go out and practice on the course for a reasonable price. Then thanks to a neighbour and friend that often play at Gymkhana we got the chance that he could walk the 9 hole course with a caddie that also is an ambitious golfer. The price for a green fee is only 250 baht!! and the caddie’s tip is 300 baht. She teaches him along the way and shares some great advice.

There is nothing wrong with swing coaches but you can only get so much information before you try out yourself. So Gymkhana is in my eyes an ideal place for a golf beginner. For me, I also enjoy walking the course, a nice morning exercise. Resting the eyes on the ancient rain trees.

Moreover, It is also such a nice place just to sit down under the over 150 years old rain tree, or just resting an eye on it from inside the restaurant.

The novelist and travel writer Somerset County Maugham visited Gymkhana in the 1920s. He thought that the club was worth a visit and that it was an opportunity to step back in time for a different kind of Thai history.

An under-visited place in Chiang Mai. Even if you don’t play any sports, sitting down under the 150 years old rain tree makes a great break from the hectic city outside. A true green oasis!

Here is a link to the Gymkhana Club. And the location is here on Google Maps.

And for the golf course, remember the dress code. No jeans, make sure your shirt has a collar. For all the details please see the sign in the slideshow above.

The menu includes a lot of classical dishes not easy to find elsewhere. Here are fried Hokkien noodles on the photo.