So, it has been announced. Chiang Mai opens to fully vaccinated foreign travellers. But not every district and under some conditions. At least we are on the right path. Chiang Mai and its citizens are so dependent on tourism so it need to get in the game as soon as it is possible.

Four districts will open. Mueang Chiang Mai is the downtown /central district. Furthermore, Mae Rim, Mae Taeng and Doi Tao.

Mueang Chiang Mai

When Chiang Mai opens, its old town has so much to offer. The historic heritage and the temples. Food and weekend markets. Now we will have to see what happens to the old night market at Chang Klan road. There has been talking of an upgrade of the old market. In Muang Chiang Mai you also find the sprawling and sparkling trendy Nimmanhemin area with its coffee shops, bars and restaurants.

Explore the temples in the old town. Wat Chedi Luang is very beautiful during the blue hour.

Mae Rim

The Mae Sa Valley and the playground of Chiang Mai. Mae Sa waterfall, Queen Sirikit Botanical garden, Insect museums. Home to elephant camps and sanctuaries and of course Elephant poop making.

Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden in Mae Rim

Mae Taeng

Also a scenic and beautiful area by the river Taeng. Mae Taeng has the impressive pan Buddhistic temple Wat Ban Den, the inviting and interesting Bua Tong sticky waterfall and nice camping sites. It is bordering the scenic and exciting district of Chiang Dao.

The extraordinary sticky waterfall in Mae Taeng

Doi Tao

The southern district on the road to Hot is famous for local farm life and Doi Tao lake.

For more details and the conditions for travelling in Chiang Mai, stay updated with the TAT website. As it stands it seems that travellers will not be able to freely roam the Chiang Mai districts but need to join certain tour programs.

I have very little information regarding the rules and conditions now but the hopes are that people after staying in Phuket for a week might want to go up north to be cultural for a week.

So as earlier mentioned, follow the Tourism Authority of Thailand for updates regarding the opening of other destinations outside Phuket. Hopefully, the whole of the country will be open by January 15th 2022 as earlier announced.

Hua Lamphong is 105 years old this year. When it was constructed it was a monument standing for modernization, innovation, extravagance, and connectivity. A pride of a nation just like railway stations in Europe at the time. This was an era when the railway stations should impress train passengers. In a manner that airports and High-Speed train stations are built today.

Strikingly, one often finds the most impressive architecture at historical central railway stations. You get thrown back in time when walking through the facilities or when you leave a city on a train trip out of them. For me I would come with the night train from Chiang Mai and wake up to the sound of Bangkok.

Hua Lamphong is located on the eastern edge of Chinatown close to Wat Traimit and the sprawling activities from the workshops in Charoen Krung

It is time to visit now. Especially because the station will cease operations by the end of December according to Bangkok Post. It stands on prime real estate as well so the question is how long the building will last? This station is the last song of the concert but quietly sings along.

It is said that King Rama V, on a trip to Germany in 1907, was very impressed by Frankfurt Train Station. So he commissioned the construction of Hua Lamphong. Initially, some stories say, the king had been a bit sceptic of railways since they could be used by foreign powers with the purpose of colonisation of Siam.

Completed in 1916, Hua Lamphong was designed by Italian duo Mario Tamagno and Annibale Rigotti. The station is of Italian Neo-Renaissance style. A defining feature of the station is the half dome front. It is held up inside by a vaulted iron roof. The curved roof with stained glass is iconic.

I took a walk through the station yesterday and felt a moment of grief. Many people come to do the same. Time is running out for Hua Lamphong and suddenly we all start to recognise the value and remember our train journeys from there. The suggestion to turn the station into a museum instead of commercial development will hardly be realised because of a huge amount of debt that needs to be paid.

In a not to distant future Thailand will be connected to China and Singapore through High Speed Rail. The section beween Vientiane in Laos and Kunming in China will open already this December.

Since I started blogging I couldn’t come up with an appropriate approach to Bangkok. The City Of Angels, Krungthep Maha Nakorn Among Rattanakosin and so forth.

The capital is just too huge and with so many stories. However, today I felt that I should simply start with a small photo journey where I lived from 1998-2006. First, I stayed in Phetchaburi soi 7 in Avenue Mansion and then moved to D Mak mansion. The tour company I worked for had their office in Asia hotel. So the location was practical and convenient. After a while, I moved to Sukaa Place in Phetchaburi soi 12. That was even closer to Asia Hotel. I rented a condo with a small kitchen and a balcony that offered many magical sunsets in the capital. The incredible light formations probably derive from a fair share of pollution from Bangkok’s congested roads.

Enter “my soi”.
New Skyscraper on Phetchaburi road.
Sukaa Place, no more. I stayed there from the year 2000 to 2006. New Condo under construction. Sukaa is gone for one year. T Thinking about it, it was just amazing that I could stay in downtown Bangkok for 9000 baht monthly.

A great benefit of living in Phetchaburi soi 7 was the proximity to Ratchathewi Sky Train station. Asia hotel at the time 1999 was the only or at least one of the few hotels that had its Skybridge to a Skytrain station. With our tours, we could enjoy the Bangkok night scene while eating a welcome dinner by the swimming pool of Asia hotel. Gazing out over Siam Square and the Skytrain disappearing on the horizon. People would have dinner and then go down to watch Calypso Cabaret. One of the best drag shows in Bangkok.

From my soi(sidestreet) it was just a 15-minute walk to Siam Square anyway with MBK, Siam Discovery malls as well as Hard Rock Cafe where I was taken for my welcome dinner in Bangkok. The walk would take you over the historic Elephant head bridge, one out of three in Bangkok. This one crosses the Khlong(canal) Seap with its own rushed boat bus.

Also, CoCo Walk and the building with the Rock Club was still there.

Behind Coco Walk there used to be a beautiful heritage house before these apartments were positioned here.
So strange that this still stands. Would have expected it to be replaced by prime real estate.
Elephant Head bridge.

Outside Sukaa Place there was a laundry shop that is still there, and outside the soi facing the main road plastic chairs and tables were set up every night for crowds craving some of the best Isarn(North – Eastern) Streetfood in town. The name of the restaurant was Jeak Goi and it is still there. More successful than ever now not a street phenomenon anymore.

The favourite Isarn hangout. Jaekoy. Had many grilled pork and larb evenings here.

Two classic restaurants in the area where our staff and clients often frequented were the Siam House and Ole Ole. The latter was to my surprise still there.

Ole restaurant still there.
The old sign and logo for Asia.
Back door to Asia hotel
Upgraded facade of Asia from the main road. I stayed here in 2018. The service was still good but rooms were too worn.
Finally, a photo of the wonderful Skytrain what a relief it was when it started operating in 1999. In celebration of Queen Sirikit’s 60th birthday. Ratchatewi station.

Just recently I went on assignment to Jordan. I am a Swedish citizen but I travelled to a country, not on the 60+ countries on the list that can go to Thailand with only 1 night/waiting for PCR test quarantine.

Now, I am in Bangkok for a 7-night “Sandbox” but the Thai Pass form was a bit challenging to fill in. Especially since it required details about the first vaccination as well as the second. I uploaded my EU vaccination pass on each question regarding the vaccine. I suppose that from the QR code, the whole vaccination history could be seen.

Anyhow, it took just three days to have the Thai Pass granted. At Amman airport, the staff from Qatar did ask for all the documents such as hotel booking, insurance and my flight ticket out of Thailand (something I don’t require since I have a VISA). According to the Thai Pass info, you don’t need to show those documents mentioned above. They are already required to get the Thai Pass. But ok I could find them in my mail history. It is mentioned in the remarks of the Thai Pass information that additional documents might be requested to be able to board the aircraft.

I got my PCR test in the hotel in Jordan. A good service that many hotels can arrange there.

Landing in Thailand was a similar experience in Bangkok to the one in Phuket. Everyone was seated on blue plastic chairs and documents were inspected. Most attention was given to Thai Pass and PCR tests. I asked about the Mor Chana app but they didn’t talk about it.

The rest of the passing through immigration and customs was smooth and I got my private transportation to Novotel Siam Square. Quick check-in and then up the room. 30 minutes later a nurse showed up to do a PCR in my nose. Still waiting for results. Said to take 7-12 hours.

Then I will stay for 7 nights and another PCR will be done 10 a.m the day before I travel domestically.

Newly renovated rooms in Novotel Siam Square.

Lee Wine, the resort on a slope in Ban Rak Thai overwhelms the landscape in this village of Chinese tea farmers and once upon a time Kuomintang combatants.

The resort is cleverly built with traditional Chinese cottages and roofs in a tea plantation making it a dream place for storyliving and storytelling. It is a clever way to market yourself and be seen on Instagram. But how about the resort itself? We were lucky to get a last-minute cancellation. The resort was fully booked for many months to come.

Lee Wine is just by the border of Myanmar.
Just by the border of Myanmar.
Lee Wine tea plantation.
A glimpse of the tea plantation.

We got a house on the top with a nice balcony overlooking the Rich Pool lake. It is a small dam made for Feng Shui. In our room, there was a nice bathtub and panoramic Chinese moon window. Plenty of money is spent here on teak furniture.

Bathtub and moon window.
A bath with a view

Sometimes, I turn allergic to overhyped places that everyone has to go to. There are plenty of other nice places in Ban Rak Thai. But Lee Wine lived up to expectations. Their restaurant is just top class. Not only for the Yunnanese cuisine for dinner but also for the amazing attention they pay to their quality of noodles, steamed bread and so on. You have to enjoy Chinese food for breakfast if you stay here. But if you do you will understand what I mean. The subtle flavours and cooked to perfection dishes reminded me of a 5-star hotel in Taipei.

Yunnanese food in Lee Wine restaurant.
Appreciating Yunnanese food.

However, I felt that one night was enough here. I have frequented Ban Rak Thai from 1999 to 2012 very often and the transformation it went through to become a small piece of traditional China in Mae Hong Son for tourism could have annoyed me. But actually, they get away with it. Behind the facades of the sloping Chinese hotels, you can still find the traditional village with life going about as normal. And just on the border with Myanmar. It sits just on the border and Burmese pagodas are fully visible from here.

Chinese boat in the Rich Pool Ban Rak Thai.
A new attraction in Ban Rak Thai. A boat trip with tea drinking, 400 baht.
Night view of Thai Rak Thai village
Night view. The sound of the night was music from the walking street by the Rich Pool. The sound the morning the roosters waking the village up.

Once upon a time, the Kuomintang soldiers of the “lonely army” trapped in Yunnan couldn’t evacuate to Taiwan so they walked South, settling in Myanmar first and after they were kicked out from there. They resettled here and in Doi Mae Salong.

Helping the Thai Army to fight the local communist insurgency as a paramilitary army. Now they are peaceful farmers with one foot in their Chinese culture and one foot in Thailand. Ban Rak Thai, the village that loves Thailand.

So, yes Lee Wine is worth it. Book with them on Facebook and plan your trip early.

For Halloween, we were invited to Chada for a birthday party. This is another good eatery for parents while the kids can play.

Play Area in Chada Cafe
Play area in Chada Cafe

There is a lot of open grass space to be creative and make up your games as well as strategically placed swings around the area.

Chada Cafe has a playground with a slider. The play area mostly caters to smaller kids and there are opportunities to feed sheep and chickens.

The Thai food was very decent and some people were even having a hot pot. In the evenings there might be live music since there is a small stage.

On the minus side, they charged 200 baht to clean up after hitting a pinyada. Something we never encountered in Triplets for instance.

Swings here and there
Sheep in the  Chada café.
What are you looking at?
Chada cafe when you enter
When you enter Chada it looks like this.

The parking is quite spacious. That is a good thing and a bit of an issue at other play areas.

Overall, Chada Cafe is a pleasant experience that can be recommended. It stays open until 11.30 pm so there is no rush to head home just because it gets dark.

Find Chada Cafe on Facebook here.

The Fern Resort in Mae Hong Son was a new experience for me. Even though I have been travelling the province since 1999 and had many delicious meals at the restaurant they own in Mae Hong Son(Bai Fern) I had never up until now stayed at the resort.

The Fern Resort restaurant
Morning walk to the restaurant
The Fern Resort Mae Hong Son
The first and oldest pool at the resort. Yes, they have 2.
Shan Houses at the Fern Resort
Shan houses, banana plants and harvest season for rice. Staying by the pool you could scent the rice. Next time you eat jasmine rice you will think of this wonderful, almost noble fragrance.

The resort has been around for a long time. And you can feel that sense of a distinct hotel routine, a hotel culture in the walls. There is no confusion, everyone knows their work. The routines run like a Swiss watch. Just the fact that they had only guests in seven rooms but still offered a buffet with options of omelette, fried eggs and so on in their classic, retro restaurant. (Many places try to create a retro feel now. With The Fern there is no such need since it already has a history of 20+ years)

Nature and tradition at the Fern Resort

The Fern is built as a Tai Yai /Shan village with the concrete bungalows covered by natural materials such as bamboo and teak? leaves. Walking through the nature trail within the resort you are surrounded by rice and gorgeous hill views.

There is a sense of Eco-awareness with the soaps and shampoo used. Furthermore, the staff wear traditional shan clothing. Both the coffee shop and the new swimming pool has a harmonising effect on the soul. With all lush nature, you do have to live with the fact that there will be mosquitoes. The huts/bungalows are spacious but a bit worn. As with many hotels in Thailand, there is a bit of sweet moisture odour. Not much to say about it though. Times have been tough for 1,5 years now. And the weather is not forgiving to empty rooms in the tropics for such a long time.

Coffe shop at the Fern resort
A coffee shop with a view
Relaxing by the new pool
Sorry for the “footie”. Couldn’t resist.

You are also presumably dependent on their wifi. At least DTAC had no connection out there.

The Fern is a 15-minute drive from downtown Mae Hong Son. So it was easy to get to Wat Phrathat Doi Kung Muu for instance. We all loved it here and the kids requested to stay longer.

Other hotel options in Mae Hong Son

With my groups, we used to stay at The Imperial. That is a natural group or conference hotel in town. It did look like glory days was over when we passed it through. The most modern and smashing contribution to the hotel scene in Mae Hong Son now would be the B2 Premier hotel. Long pool and contemporary style. Splashing new!

For atmosphere and nature, I still hold The Fern as the number one place to stay in Mae Hong Son!

Morning light at the Fern resort
Morning light.

I have to admit, I have a special love for bridges. The fascination of a span that makes us overcome a physical obstacle, or like Nokia used to put it, “connecting people”. Asia is full of intriguing bridges both modern and old. In this case, it is a bridge made of one of the oldest construction materials in Asia, bamboo. The bamboo bridge in Mae Hong Sone is recently built though. The name means successful prayer in the Shan language. Su Tong Pae spans 500 meters of delicate rice fields up to a Shan / Tai Yai monastery and it is about two metres wide.

Bamboo, rice and Buddhism sum up this region of Asia in an interesting way. No rice, no food. No bamboo no culture like an old Chinese saying goes. Then add Buddhism to it and you connect the rituals of life to the narrative. The Su Tong Pae bamboo bridge in Mae Hong Son does give you a feeling of the U-Bein teak bridge in Mandalay. It if is intentional or not I better leave it unsaid. The bridge is not built entirely of bamboo. The bamboo platform rests on teak piles.

Bamboo platform of Su Tong Mae bridge. Mae Hong Son bamboo bridge.
Su Tong Pae bamboo platform

Location of the Su Tong Pae Bamboo bridge

This Bamboo bridge is located around 10 kilometres from Mae Hong Son. Not too far from The Fish Cave Forest Park. If you are on the way to Ban Rak Thai village you can stop on the way. Otherwise, it is a small detour from the 1095 road.

There is a small parking for cars with a mini-mart that sells ice cream and drinks. Make sure you get enough water and sun protection if you intend to walk to the monastery and back. At this parking, you also find decent toilets.

It is well worth walking up to Wat Tham Poo Sa Ma temple and monastery. It was built to serve the monks in the village of Ban Gun Mai Sai and this temple.

Wat Tam Poo Sa monestary

The monastery by the Bamboo bridge in  Mae Hong Son
4 headed installation at Pu Sa monestary
Inside the monastery of Phu Sama
Pu Saa and the bamboo bridge in Mae Hong Son seen from above.

We walked the whole way up and there was a memorial that day of the abbot of the monastery that passes maybe a year ago. We were invited to have lunch with the monks and villagers but we were already late for Ban Rak Thai village so unfortunately, we couldn’t join. The views overlooking the valley is just stunning. The small coffee shop was not open but there is a beautiful elaborately decorated angel-like Buddha(very similar to the San Buddhas you can see on Inlay lake in Myanmar) in the temple and some modern installations around the area.

Guardian reading a scripture at the monastery Pu Sa.
We were greeted by a guardian doing what? My daughter said he is never getting off his Ipad.
Shan style Buddha in Pu Sa monastery.
The beautiful Tai/Yai Shan style Buddha

In the morning there are sometimes alms given to the monks on the bridge and it is also popular among photographers to show up this particular time to catch the contrast of orange and brown dressed monks with the framing of the bridge, mountains and the rice paddies. The month of October and early November is highly recommended to visit here. Do be careful when you walk the bridge though!!

Avoid walking if the bridge is crowded!

A few years ago during the celebration of Wan Ok Pansa, the end of the Buddhist Lent the bridge collapsed due to the pressure of too many people on the bridge at the same time. There were 29 monks on the bridge at the time.

My daughter stepped a bit too close to the edge of the bridge and the bamboo platform gave in. She managed to hold on to the edge though so we could pull her up. So navigate carefully.

After the walk, we sat down by the small shop where the bridge starts for a drink, some dumplings and ice cream. The walk from the car parking is less than 5 minutes away.

A local villager crossing the bridge
A local woman returning home after merit making.

One of my best memories from Mae Hong Son was to wake up before dawn and drive up to Doi Kung Muu(mountain) 1300 metres above sea level. See the early food stalls setting up for business in the morning. Monks of Thai, Burmese and Shan origin slowly stroll out from their carnival-like light up temples to collect their alms. This time I wanted to re live those memories. I managed to wake up my wife and we drove the 15 minutes it took up to the temple and timed the sunrise just on perfect. It occurred exactly at 6 am.

Sunrise in Mae Hong Son
Good morning Mae Hong Son
The pagodas in morning light at Wat Doi Kung Muu.
One of the two pagodas at Wat Phra That Doi Kung Muu
Morning view of the airport in Mae Hong Son
The airport of Mae Hong Son

Temple and morning market in Mae Hong Son

Darkness turned into light and suddenly clouds drifted over the valley and the airport, as well as over the small lake with Wat Chong Klang temple.

Wat Phra That Doi Kung Muu has this Shan/Tai Yai Burmese touch. With the slim pagoda, at this place whitewashed and crowned with a golden top. This white colour comes to its right in this morning atmosphere. It is almost like you expect snow here. The temple with its two pagodas enshrines the relics of one of the chief followers of the Lord Buddha. These relics were brought from Mawlamyine previously Moulmein in Myanmar. While another stūpa next to it was built in 1872 by Phraya Singhanatracha who was the first governor of Mae Hong Son. This stūpa embodies relics of Śāriputra that were carried here from the city of Mandalay.

Kung Muu means stupa in the Shan language by the way.

We snapped our mandatory photos and appreciated the morning cool. At this time you can also catch some of the early morning ceremonies and routines going on at the temple.

Daytime at Before Sunset cafe

If you come here during daytime there are some nice local shops selling souvenirs and t – shirts from Mae Hong Son. There are also two coffee shops. I like the one that is called sunset the most and it is also a nice view from there at sunset.

More signs about Mae Hong Son
The cool road signs you remember from this road trip

Then we proceeded down to the bustling morning market of Mae Hong Son. My wife did the Sai Baht merit-making for the monks. We enjoyed some deep-fried dough and a short photo stop at Wat Chong Klang before returning to The Fern resort. Enjoying a small buffé that they provided and then continuing to relax by the pool.

In the afternoon we would return to the park and the lake by Wat Chong Klang.

Beautiful post box describing the 1864 curves to Mae Hong Son
Pretty postbox
Sign on the mountain Doi Kung Muu telling the distance to different places.
Sign collection