Khao Lak, Laguna, sunset

In our family, we have a special love for Khao Lak. We have been enjoying the long walkable beaches with all those incredible sunsets since the pre – tsunami times. It did take some time from the tsunami 2004 until we came back again though. Not so much out of fear of a new tsunami, more of a coincidence. But once we were back we just kept coming just like in the old days. From Chiang Mai it is very convenient to fly to Phuket. Less than two hours and then it is just 1.30 to 2 hours drive to Phang Nga province and the paradise of Khao Lak. We just prefer the more quiet laid back atmosphere compare to the more intense Phuket. (Well, talking pre-Covid Phuket).

The Calm of Khao Lak

But when you have passed over the 660 meters long Sarasin bridge that separates Phuket from Phang Ngha is feels like you are entering a slower and more relaxed world. Up to what you like of course, but for us the winner is the more tranquil and classy Khao Lak area. Khao Laks name comes from the top of a mountain, basically the Lak mountain. Basically, it was just a small village and a rubber farming community when some Thai people started up some bungalow business in 1986.

I personally always loved the lush and the green and the fact that Khao Laks resorts are embedded in this environment and the don’t kind of interfere with each other. The owners of the hotels in Khao Lak almost seem to have some kind of consensus (again pre – pandemic) as to not allowing big, low cost group tour agencies to push them around regarding the prices. Even though you see groups in hotels in Khao Lak, no company or nationality has ever been too dominant on a particular resort we have stayed in. Sun chairs are rarely directly on the open beach, you will find them in the shade in direct connection to the beach. They can be quite close to one another but you still don’t get that feeling while walking the long beaches

Khao Lak is also perfect if you don’t fancy boat transfers. The transfer from Phuket Airport is a scenic transfer apart from the first part that you might spend in heavy traffic on Phuket island. There is also a possibility to reach Khao Lak from Krabi. So you don’t have to feel restricted to Phuket Airport. Krabi airport is expanding at the moment. The transfer from Krabi will take you 2,5 to 3 hours counting in the traffic.

Khao Laks beaches

  • Khao Lak Beach
  • Bang Niang Beach
  • Khuk Kak Beach
  • Natai Beach
  • Nan Tong
  • Pakarang Beach
  • Pakweeb Beach
  • Thai Muang Beach
  • White Beach

I will not claim that these are the best resorts in Khao Lak. But we have great experience in the family from the four resorts listed below.

Eden Beach Resort Khao Lak

Very new hotel. Bali meets Santorini kind of style. Stylish with Feng Suei installations, bamboo and straw roofs. Very good pool and an enjoyable stretch of beach. Just outside the hotel, there are a few restaurants and shops. A short car ride ride from the hotel you find the “Loud Burp” restaurant offering some of the best seafood in the area. The restaurant has seatings for dinner. Popular among the local crowd. The a bit strangely named Isarn Seafood restaurant is very close to Eden as well.

The food in Eden is decent, and the breakfast ok. Maybe it is richer during non pandemic times. However the breakfast room is quite small. What is impressive is the bakery at Eden, both the cakes and the presentation is something to write home about. One of the owners bakes herself, so it is a great homemade touch. Loved their Macadamia cake. Just 1h 15 minutes to Phuket Airport.

Kalima Resort & Villas Khao Lak

Another impressive and modern Khao Lak resort. Very close to Eden. Kalima has more than one pool area and lots of different activity areas, you can borrow a kayak and paddle into the mangroves and close to the elephant nature park. Actually, you can see the majestic animals coming down for their morning baths. Very kid friendly resort, almost an all inclusive touch. The beach is ok, but a little less impressive than the other hotels mentioned here. We enjoyed the restaurants very much, but the breakfast had a feel of quantity before quality. The hotel is also close to Phuket Airport.

Khao Lak Laguna Resort

Mega sized and classic installation in Phuket and Khao Lak, this hotel is very close to Khao Lak downtown. Easy just to walk there. The hotel has a lot of sunbeams, a nice pool. Great Thai decorations and some birdlife in the area. If there is anything to complain about it will be the size of it all. But again a luxury problem, older people can find the walk to and from the lobby quite tough. Some heavy stairs on the way. The hotel has a fantastic breakfast, in a fanciful breakfast room.

Manathai Khao Lak

We have been to Manathai three times. When the kids were younger Manathai had many great offers for kids. We could sleep in one room all four of us. No need to book two rooms. They also had free ice cream for kids everyday in those days, and if adults ate in the hotel restaurants the kids could get free meals. They also have a very nice club for children. Manathai is 4 star hotel but with a 5 star hotel service. Great pool, great beach, and many choices for breakfast. The hotel is a bit far from downtown Khao Lak and a longer drive from Phuket Airport. We honestly didn’t leave the hotel much. There were two restaurants very close to the hotel on the beach. Hope they will reopen after Covid.

Haven’t stayed at JW Marriott but it is apparently top class according to friends that are regulars there. Many families choose Sands hotel because they have built a kind of waterpark within their hotel area. It is nowadays a play-land for kids. Personally, I have never been disappointed anywhere in Khao Lak. But that is maybe just because I love the area so much. But on the whole, hotels here are top – notch.

Excursions from the hotels

Excursions you can make from Khao Lak, Ko Khao Kao, Surin, Similan and Tachai islands. In April 2021 the charge to go to Similan Islands was about 1800 baht per person. Or why not go over to Takua Pa for a great food experience. Famous for Dim Sum and authentic Chinese food. This is a very friendly old mining town and once a harbor. Read more here about a wonderful Dim Sum brunch at Takua Pa.

Don’t miss the chance to visit the wonderful Khao Sok nationalpark with its stunning scenery at the Chaew Lan lake. Read more here: Khao Sok and Chaew Lan lake.

There are also excursions to learn Thai cooking and visiting Elephant Conservation camps. Again a bit unclear what the situation will look like post – covid.

Hotels in Khao Lak have been offering amazing promotions during the pandemic. Eden Hotel as low as 1200 baht per night for a standard room. Eden hotel have been selling vouchers on their website during the pandemic.

A friend of mine stayed at Marriot for 3500 baht per night, inclusive of breakfast. So as long as the pandemic is here, there are definitely discounts.

Sunsets are exceptional in Khao Lak. To quote Angela Abraham, “The sunset comes as a settled heart to the horizon, as if the sky itself could speak of love”. Angela Abraham@descriptionari

Some restaurants to try in Khao Lak

The loud, noisy, big Burp restaurant. Excellent local seafood place In Khao Lak that often fills up with the local crowd. See the link here.

For fair European, or rather more Scandinavian food Viking was always the place we would go. The restaurant always included Swedish style pizza salad to all main dishes. Last time we were in Khao Lak, the restaurant seemed to be closed though.(Will advise you to do a you an update via Google Maps).

E-Sarn Seafood next to Eden Resort was surprisingly good.

Be Friend restaurant just outside Manathai used to be the local favourite. Tables and chairs in the sand. Great sunsets. Hard to say if they are still there due to the pandemic. But just a 5-10 minutes walk to the right from Manathai.

Most of the time we have ended up eating in the hotels, or just a short walk on the beach you might find a great local restaurant.

Temple in Hang Dong Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of Lanna holds an enormous temple treasure. Here is a photo odyssey of some of the incredible temples in and outside the city. I earmarked only 20 out of 300+ temples to explore! But we all need to start somewhere. Also, temples are great witnesses of past times. Even though some buildings are not the same original buildings in full as when they were built, they still carry a story from that time in history. In Chiang Mais history prosperous times went together with temple building and renovations. It comes hand in hand.

You can often find parts of the old temple somewhere in the vicinity, a relic, a gong, a part of the old roof. Some of the temples host small museums. It is not necessary to be a Buddhist to find interest in temples. If you arrive in the early morning or early evening there might be monk sermons and chanting. There is often a certain Buddhist peacefulness and some sense of a mystery that one is not yet part of that adds to the atmosphere. A feeling of escapism.

Temples as a key to exploring the Thai and Lanna Cultures

Temples are architecturally interesting and reminders of ancient Lanna and Thai culture. Even though Buddha is officially not recognized as a God in Therevadha buddhism, temples are still built for eternity. While normal peoples houses were not. So temples are often the best remains of history that we have, with their meditation halls and temple towers built in brick or sandstone. Additionaly stupas or chedis are memorials of enlightenment and is considered to bring enlightenment to the present.

The temple towers named, stupas, chedis, prangs and many other names have the function to demonstrate the enlightenment and wisdom that comes with it to be a victory over ignorance. The escape from suffering made Buddhist followers overwhelmed by joy so they started to build stupas by the millions. Stupas are sermons in stone and often they also claim to hold relics of the Buddha. Then the towers help people turn their minds from the hedonistic pleasures and directs them towards their own higher potential. So to understand Chiang Mai, the old kingdom of Lanna and indeed Thailand and a majority of its Buddhist population.

Please do take your time to visit some of the magnificent temples we have in Chiang Mai. There is no lack of good coffeeshops with cool air-conditioning for those needed breaks when you feel a bit “templed out” once in a while. Also try to look for the small soi / side street temples, or the ones in the countryside that tourists don’t visit as much. Then you can often truly feel that calm and harmony that comes with the territory.

1. Wat Phra Sing

Location click here.

Wat Phra Sing
Wat Phra Singh. A temple considered royal by the highest degree since 1935. Wat Pra Singh is situated at the end of the main Rachadamnoen road of Chiang Mai running east from the temple, via the old Tapae Gate down to the Ping River. The temple has an ornamented library.

2. Wat Sri Suphan – The Silver Temple

Location in Google maps here.

Silver Temple of Chiang Mai
Silver color in aluminum and silver. This temple is located just by the Wualai silver street of Chiang Mai. Here is a new temple built on the sight of an old but cherishing the handicraft of the famous silversmiths of the area. People in this area are often descended from the Shan state in todays Myanmar. The Lanna king Kawila brought back a lot of silver workers from that area after a raid into the area. The old Sri Suphan was a temple where people in the old days would pray that their sons and husbands would comeback alive from wars. The silver and goldens colours of the temple makes it stand out. On occasions, you can see workers working aluminium that will be a part of the temple, Jataka(Buddha life tales) and from the Ramakien. A temple not to miss in Chiang Mai.

3. Wat Dok Kham

Location in Google maps here.

Wat Dok Kham
Wat Dok Kham is near to the Thapae Gate. A minor temple with a viharn, a chedi and the eye catching pavilion. A good place to start if you are located in Chiang Mais old town.

4. Wat Doi Kham

Location in Google maps click here.

Wat Doi Kham
Morning walk at Wat Doi Kham. Best seen in the morning. It is possible to drive up or do the morning exercise through a short natural trail and then followed by this staircase protected by Naga guardians up to the temple itself. You will be rewarded with great views of Chiang Mai from the hill of the golden mountain temple. This is a very living temple. Thai people come from all parts of the country to seek success in business from making merit here. Avoid this temple during the Thai national holidays. It is very crowded and heavy traffic to get in and out.

5. Wat Chedi Luang

Location in Google maps here.

Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang in blue hour. A majestic brick construction that is best seen in the evening with lights and in the blue hour. Once partly destroyed in an earthquake, this temple is also home to the city pillar of Chiang Mai and once upon a time an important centre for Buddhist monks all over South East Asia.

6. Wat Doi Suthep

Location in Google maps here.

Wat Doi Suthep
Doi Suthep temple, actually the name of the mountain where it is located. There is a tale of a white elephant bringing the relics of the Buddha to this spot and the whole temple is a story about Buddhism. Leading up to the temple you have the longest Naga balustrade in Thailand and on top you find the 24 meter gold gilded octagonal Chedi. Revered by Thai people all over the country. The temple is somewhat the guardian temple of Chiang Mai. The holiest and most visited temple. I prefer an early visit before the buses with tours come. It can be very crowded here at times.

7. Wat Hang Dong (Wat Ban Dong)

Location in Google maps here.

Wat Hang Dong
Wat Hang Dong called a nearby relative to Wat Ton Kwaen. Another jewel of Lanna architecture 12 km outside town.19th century or earlier.

8. Wat Suan Dok

Location in Google maps here.

Wat Suan Dok
Wat Suan Dok after a rainy night. The royal burial grounds for Lanna kings. The ashes were brought here from several places in Chiang Mai in the early 20th century. The white Chedis, contrasting the golden one against the blue sky and sometime clear visibility of Doi Suthep. This is the “flower garden temple”. The area was once used as a Royal flower garden by the ruler of Chiang Mai. The tallest golden Chedi in Sri Lankan style is 48 meters high and contains the relic of the Buddha. The Suan Dok area is an active Buddhist studying centre. They used to offer monk chats as well.

9. Wat Ched YodThe Seven Spires Temple

Location in Google here

Wat Ched Yod
Wat Ched Yod. A piece of India in Chiang Mai, with a feeling similar of being in the Angkor region of Siam Reap. This is a pilgrimage site for people born in the year of the snake. A copy of the Mahabodhi temple in Northern India, Bodhigaya where the Buddha reached enlightenment. I enjoy this temple best in the early morning.

10 . Wat Umong – The Tunnel Temple

Location on Google maps here.

Wat Umong
Wat Umong, smiling Buddha. An area that differs. Mysterious tunnels, meditation grounds, nature area, and a graceful Chedi. This is a temple area that is very active in many ways and also with some art installations. The whispering forest and the proximity to the cafe and art area surrounding Wat Umong makes a half day to this part of town worthwhile. I would call it Chiang Mais own little Kyoto.

11. Wat Ton Kwen (Wat Intharawat)

Location in Google Maps here.

Wat Ton Kwaen
Wat Ton Gwaen(kwaen) . Miniature, minimalistic, a lot of woodwork, less gold. This is the wonder of Hang Dong outside Chiang Mai. You will probably be alone here, at least it will not be crowded. Charming and tranquil. Built in the year of 1848 and you can feel the village presence from Tong Kwaen village where it is located.Festival in June early year.

12. Wat Ket Karam

Wat Ket Karam
Shortly just Wat Ket. Exciting temple in an interesting area. You find it on the west side of the Ping River. The Chiang Mai citizens who were living here were of Chinese, European, and Thai origins. Wat Ket Karam was the centre of this community. Before the emergence of train travels, the main port for marine transport between Bangkok and Chiang Mai was located here. Inside the compound is a museum of the old days. Nice place to go in the evening, you can continue to the restaurants and bars along road the iconic Rubber Tree Road nr 106.

13. Wat Bupparam

Location on Google here.

Wat Bupparam
Wat Bupparam. Not far from Chang Klang road, easily accessible in down town though with an entrance. It holds the largest teak Buddha in Thailand, 400 years old. A classic Burmese Chedi and a Donald Duck statue. Yes, you saw right.

14. Wat Rajamontean (Wat Rachamontien)

Location on Google here.

Read more about the temple on this link. Sights in Chang Puak and Sri Poom Road.

Wat Rajamontean
Wat Rajamontean, the eye catching from the moat with its large Buddha statue, but also well worth a visit inside with the red lacquered pillars on a white marble floor and a Buddha type Shan/Burmese royal style. I very much like the statue of Rama and Sita. The temple offers monk chats.

15. Wat Kuan Khama

Location on Google maps here.

Read more about the temple here.

Wat Kuan Kama
Wat Khan Khama. The legend says that a horse owner commissioned the temple for the love of his deceased horse. A very unique temple with about 20 horse statues facing the main road.

16. Wat Ban Den

Location in Google click here.

Read more in a separate article here, Wat Ban Den a Dreamlike Vision.

Wat Ban Den
Wat Ban Den. An old temple turned into a complete new temple grounds with so many different beliefs, directions of Buddhism, colours and architectural mix. Wat Ban Den has to be experienced. Like it or not. It is the most overwhelming temple we have in Chiang Mai. But you need to travel outside town.

17. Wat Lok Moli

Location in Google maps here.

Wat Lok Moli
Wat Lok Moli. The ashes of some members of the Mengrai dynasty were placed in this temples Chedi. The Bihari is currently under renovation(2021).The temple is famous for the viharn’s sweeping three-tiered roof. Inside the viharn a superabundance of artworks decorates the walls and ceilings. 

18. Wat Rai Neua or officially Wat Si Pho Thong

Location on Google maps here.

Wat Rai Neua
Wat Si Pho Thong (Wat Rai Nuea). This temple very off the beaten track not to far away from Wat Ton Gwen has some village treasures like a huge drum and gong. I like coming here in the evening listening to the temple bells and monks meditating, birds singing in the background. And you have this interesting section of murals that depict daily life and festivals in a contemporary and traditional way at the same time.

19. Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)

Location on Google Maps here.

Wat Hua Kuang
And old Chedi holding a Buddha relic in a fairly new temple area rebuilt in 1993. The whole temple was deserted for a while. But now guilded and like a fairy tale in red and white. Early morning is a great time to visit. Historically an important temple for religious and military meetings.

20. Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang

Location in Google Maps here.

Wat Inthakhin
Gets its name from being the first temple in 1296 with the Holy Chiang Mai city pillar. Small temple with a nice museum. Early morning visit to recommend.

Behavior and dress code

  • When in temples, always cover your shoulders wear knee long shorts. Don’t wear singlets or hot pants and such, Dress conservatively. Don’t forget to take off your shoes when you enter holy areas.
  • Normally it is ok to take pictures of the Buddha images in Thailand. But not always, such as the Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew. Also pay attention not to climb Naga staircases or, hold Buddha’s hand and no posing with Buddha. Thai people often take pictures together with Buddha images but most of the time they are sitting properly and below the Buddha image.
  • Buddhist Monk’s are not allowed to touch women so please keep the distance. So no selfies with the monks.

The Thai temple explained

Frangipani | The Tree of Fragrance

Plumeria, Frangipani

Frangipani is the flower that many of us foreigners instantly fall in love with in Thailand, or South East Asia. You most probably encountered the flowers in a spa bath in Thailand, if you have ever been to one. The Laotian even made it their own flower. It is the symbol of the national carrier Lao Aviation, and declared a national flower. In Laos it is called Dok Champa. Plumeria is the more scientific name and it derives from Charles Plumier, a French botanist (1646 – 1704). He was regarded as one of the most important botanical explorers of his time, Plumier served as a botanist to King Louis XIV of France. He did many journeys to the New World documenting plants and animal species. The name Frangipani comes from the name of a 16th century Italian nobleman who created a perfume with a similar scent used for gloves.

Often named Temple tree, this tree is appreciated all over the region, but it is originally from the West Indies. (Source Plants in the Tropics). In the region, the tree is believed to protect you from ghosts and demons.

After the introduction of the early rainy season this year our trees are now in full bloom.

The tree drops leave all year round, but mostly during the dry season. So the tree can be & like a coral looking creation with flowers in bloom but no leaves. If you cut off a branch you will have milk-white liquid pouring out of it, but the cuttings can be replanted and in no time in the tropics, it will grow to become a tree. You can grow a rainbow of Frangipanis since the choices of flower colours is so varied, and the perfume is divine.

Frangipani is not hard to grow but demands a lot of work due to the leaves. The long leather-like leaves drop all the time, so every day you have to work out to pick up large amounts of leaves.

Plumeria or Frangipani is truly an iconic symbol of South East Asia. And it does give you some nice shadow in your garden.

Frangipani
Frangipani comes in numerous colours. We have the white/yellow kind and a pinkish/white version.

Mon Cham(Jaem) used to be a location where a lot of Royal Project vegetable produce was grown, and to some extent still is. After becoming more known to the public from a popular drama series this became a kind of hot spot in the mountains near the valley of Mae Rim. 2013 we went to what was one of the few glamping sites at the time, ran by the Royal Project with excellent food, nice views, a small field with flowers and a private toilet for your tent on the slope.

But as I mentioned the situation has exploded up there with new camping and glamping sights. Not very different from how a once – isolated paradise beach suddenly becomes mega popular. And it is hard to criticise the hilltribes from profiting and making a living from it. However, there has been a decision to clear the area of some of this camping grounds, not being legal and the land actually designated as grounds for growing vegetables.

Mon Cham
Flowery fields forever.

If you decide to go here, it will be a warm hearted atmosphere with lots of Thai tourists checking in rather late. People are enjoying hot pots, and drinking until early morning when they often leave quite suddenly as well. If you are looking for that quiet, isolated camping site. You should probably search somewhere else.

Mon Cham is also OK for a day trip. Come and take selfies with fields of flowers, and enjoy good coffee.

Here are some of my photos from January 2013. It was indeed a rather cold night. But I still remember the panorama views and the fantastic scones and coffee in the morning.

Glamping in Mon Jam
The perfect morning after a cold night in the tent Mon Cham.

Some facts about Mon Cham:

Mon Cham is situated on a hill ridge in a place, the Mong Nong Hoi village in Mae Rim. To begin with, it was the Kiu Seau forest area. Then, villagers converted the area to opium production. For a long time it has been part of a Royal Project. The Royal Project transformed the area into vegetable production. Camping and glamping now blends with agriculture. Also on the top of the mountain Mon Cham has a famous viewpoint called “Mon Long”. This is a popular spot where people go to see the” sea of mist”.

The chips maker Lay’s shows a lot of creativity on the market when it comes to inventing new tastes of chips. It has been a kind of trend among tourists in Asian tourism to hunt for new exotic flavours from famous brands. I am first and foremost thinking of all the different Kit Kats(new flavour of the year every year) you can explore in Japan and different versions of Coca Cola(remember the white one that was supposed to look lite water but tasted like a bad version of Sprite).

So when in Thailand forget about salt and vinegar, sour cream and extra barbecue. Why not explore Lay’s local chips flavours. Bring home some inexpensive souvenirs.

Picture Collection of Lay’s

Here are some examples of tastes that are VERY Thai indeed. Even some very Esan/Isarn that is North Eastern flavours.

Lays chips Thailand
Hot Pot, or suki is what everyone eats all the time in Thailand. When it tastes Esan/North East it will be spicy and sour.
Lays Thailand Potatoe Chips
Larb is a very herbal and sometimes spicy meat sauce typical for Esan/Isarn. Goes perfect with sticky rice and papaya salad and apparently as chips.
Lays Thailand Potatoe chips
Chili and lime are two very distinct Thai flavours. So, yes very Thai indeed.
Lays Thailand exotic chips
This one feels like it could be a bit more South East Asian in general flavoured but Made In Thailand. The Xo sauce is actually a signature of Hong Kong. Developed in the 1980s. It consists of dried seafood, including dried scallops, fish, and shrimp, cooked with chili peppers, onions, and garlic.
Lays Chips in Thailand
Squid and hot chili, the perfect match

Lay’s was founded in 1932 by Herman Lay in Tennesse, Nashwille. Currently owned by PepsiCo.

You find these unique Thai flavours in 7/11 or Mini Big C. You find these chips online also.

Lays chips Thailand
And of course, sweet basil. “Horapaaa.”
Lay exotic chips in Thailand
Anyone? Original with a touch. Not only salt but also egg.
Lays amazing chips
The prawn chips need both salt and spices
Lays chips on the Thai market
Mieng Kam is one of my favourite snacks. A basic mieng kam includes fresh betel leaves, shallots, ginger, lime with lime zest, as well as fresh chilli, peanuts, roasted coconut and dried shrimp. Why not add potatoes?? So it’s done!!
Ghost chili, more like the devil himself chili. Spicy and aroi!
Prik is chili Zab Zeed is a kind of term used for a spicy and delicious papaya salad for instance

May the list continue😁.

Only recently my old Honda City broke down just when I was about to park it at a barbers shop near a 7/11 not far from my home. At the exact spot where the car stopped there was a lottery vendor, and this lady had a customer. First, they looked a bit shocked by my awful parking, but when they saw that the car was overheated and me going to 7/11 to buy some water for the cooler they both started to write down the number of my license plate. I realized it was time for some Thai superstitions. I started the car again and I moved it to park a bit in the shadows. Not far away from the hairdresser’s shop. But the very moment I stepped in to cut my hair, the lady directly asked the same question.

–What’s the number of your license plate hihihi?

This is maybe the most classic way to look for a good lottery number nowadays. That is to check the license plate number. Furthermore, it seems that no tragedy is too morbid to get good luck from. It happens frequently after accidents that license plates are checked. I heard stories from quarantine hotels in Bangkok now during the covid pandemic that staffs have been buying lottery inspired by the room number where they have encountered cases of people with covid. Superstitions with some hope to make a profit.

The Mae Nak Shrine on Sukhumvit in Bangkok

This Shrine involves some of my favourite Thai superstitions. Some people in Bangkok will look up a shrine in Sukhumvit 77 to get the blessing of a spirit to win the lottery. The spirits name is Mae Nak. She died prematurely while giving birth and her husband was at the time not home. The husband Maak was fighting in a war.

Mae Nak dearly loved her husband so her spirit refused to move on to the afterlife. When the husband returned home he knew nothing about the death of his wife. The couple went on living as nothing had happened.

One day the husband realized that she was just a ghost and he hid from her in a temple. The local ghost doctor came to the rescue and cut a piece of Mae Nak’s forehead bone and captured her spirit in a bottle.

Later, a shrine committed to Mae Nak spirit was constructed. The folktale is over 100 years old but to this day people still go to the shrine for guidance and trying to get signs to win the lottery and some men go there to try to avoid military service. They get the right draw in that lottery. Since Mae Nak’s husband was called to battle it is said that she is not in favour of military service and can be of help if you want to avoid it.

The Snake Case

Many years ago a snake fell on my chest from some temple ruin in Sukhothai historical park. It fell to the ground and I lightly stepped on it, but it didn’t bite. It just escaped. But my two Thai friends were so happy and said: – Khun Per. This means that you will meet your partner soon. Wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not. But at the time I was more busy trying to calm down a bit after what for me was a completely new and unique happening. Also dreaming of a snake is said to be a message that you soon will meet a partner. And some people might think that seeing a small snake is equivalent to choosing number five in the lottery, and a large snake is a sure number six.

Bees in the house, more superstitions for good luck

In Thailand, you might also be surprised to see when a neighbours house has been invaded by bees. They just leave the beehive and the bees swarming around. This is very much considered to be a totem of good luck. Listening to a gecko calling ” geeechoo” “geechoo” 7 times should also be a good reason for buying a lottery ticket. And if a small lizard enters your house, speak to it softly and kindly and you will have some great fortune coming your way.

Don’t cut your hair on a Wednesday superstition

The classic superstition is that you can not cut your hair on Wednesdays in Thailand. That it would be bad luck has probably something to do with the fact that royals had their haircut on Wednesdays in the past so it was both the fact that hairdressers were not available and that it was absolutely a no do to cut the hair as a common person on a Wednesday. No way that you could compare yourself to nobility.

The Monk and Astrologist advice and superstitions

Always consult the monk or fortune teller to get the perfect date for a wedding, starting a company, taking a new car out of the showroom, before installing the foundation pile for a new house, and arranging the house warming party.

For our family, we have done all of this. The monks decided the wedding date. They moved the date from just a few days from before the tsunami 2004 to a month earlier. Which for me was extremely lucky, otherwise I would have had most of my family on holiday in Phuket during the tsunami. Thank god for superstitions.

Monks recommended we have a silvered coloured car. Lucky us that we wanted the same. Well, 14 years later it is still working. We did get the blessing and sprinkling of the car. Thai people can be very pragmatic though. If they disagree with the colour suggested by the monks they might buy whatever colour of the car they prefer, but to be on the safe side they will have a sign on the car saying that this is not a white car, it is a black car or! That would please both sides, monks and car owners.

The Name Change

Something fairly common in Thailand is name changes if you consider yourself a victim of bad karma. So bad events are not always something good anyway. If you need a name change, you will look up a holy person that will find a more suitable name for you looking into events and birthdates and more in your personal history. Sometimes, it is enough to correct bad luck with repeated visits to temples. A Thai friend was a bit unlucky to kill a snake in her house by throwing the heavy spirit house on the snakes head. Two bad things in one call there, destroying a spirit house and killing a large animal. But it was all adjusted by enough temple visits. Superstitions at work

Anyhow, I always found the perspective that something unlucky can anticipate something good as a bit charming. In Europe, I remember often hearing people worrying that something bad would happen to them after they had some luck or a stroke of success. So when in Thailand, take your chances to buy lottery tickets when “shit happens”.

Phayao, mountains and lake

Phayao feels like this odd town in the middle of nowhere in Northern Thailand. A place that you have absolutely no reason to go to. But it is a pleasant lakeside town, with a lot of local activities going on near the lake. There is plenty of exercise equipment around in the nice park, some market life, outdoors massage and some people gone fishing. Walking in town you will get your share of old wooden Thai houses and as usual there is no lack of food in a Thai town.

The lake and the half drowned temple

We met with an older lady in a local fish restaurant that said that her family moved to Phayao during the Second World War, at the time when some bombs fell on Bangkok. The lake was partly supposed to be a food reserve in times of war. First this was a small wetland but since it was often flooded the local government turned it in to a small lake.

Kwan Phayao(Kwan is northern Thai for marsh but here it is definitely a lake) is the biggest freshwater reservoar in Northern Thailand and the fourth biggest in Thailand. The lake has a mountain range in its backdrop. The source of water in the lake is from 18 streams. In the middle of the lake there are historical remains of a submerged temple known as “Tilok Aram Temple” built during the reign of King Tilokaraj in the 15th century, the twelfth monarch of the Mengrai dynasty.

Scenic views with the Dragon guardians in Phayao lake

Wat Tilok Aram was located at a swamp by an intersection called Nhong Tao, a historic community in town. The temple was half drowned in 1941, when the Department of Fisheries built concrete gates to block the water from Nam Mae Ing and other rivers from Phee Pan Nam. The whole community sank to the bottom of Kwan Phayao. Some part of the temple can be seen above the surface making it look like a small island. During an exploration of the lake between 2006 and 2007 the brick Chedi caught the attention of a revered monk, and since then it has become a more convenient place of worship and a tourist attraction.

There is a boat service for around 20 baht to go out to the island. Phayao Lake is also an inviting place for cycling along the lake.

Brief history of Phayao

Phayao was founded in 1096 as a small city-state kingdom. In the 13th century it gained enough importance to be an equal partner with King Mangrai of Lanna and also the Sukhothai kingdom. It didn’t last however. Phayao was incorporated into the Lanna kingdom in 1338. Some of the royal treasures from the Phayao kingdom can be seen in a museum in Chiang Rai. The town was abandoned for a short while after a Burmese invasion. Since 1977 Phayao is its own province, previously belonging to Chiang Rai.

We stopped in Phayao when we drove from Chiang Rai towards Nan on a roadtrip during the green season in 2017. Phayao is about 140 kilometers from Chiang Rai and nice place to spend a night. We found a local homestay just by the lake that was really cute, and with a lovely view of the lake. I will not recommend this accommodation though since we didn’t get much sleep that night. For every truck that passed the building it felt like the truck was driving through the building, or that the whole thing would go down.

We had some local meals in no name restaurants. One famous eatery we did try out was the restaurant called So Good. It did not dissapoint. Phayao has been promoted as the Vienna of the East. Do not expect this. But for a short break it is a pleasant enough town of 20 000 inhabitants to explore.

Daytime lake view with the famous blue toned mountains in the background
Dramatic skies over the park in green season
Gone fishing Phayao.
Pho Khun Ngam Muang monument. The king of Phayao kingdom from 1258 to 1298. Legend says he would always bring good weather with him. A peace-loving king. The statue is from 1977.
Great views, noisy night.

This first morning of the Thai New Year I went downtown to see whether I could find some activities in the temples, some traditions and rituals of songkran in Chiang Mai. The weather continues to be great, but unfortunately the amount of Covid cases is high. So, I wasn’t quite looking for a water – fight.

When it comes to the water-splashing event, we have been at either closed, private parties or sometimes joining the war down at the moat in Chiang Mai. But since the water – splashing festival is banned this year I was confident that I could enjoy strolling downtown without any water attack.

Getting ready for battle 6 years ago.
Rise to the occasion with strongly – coloured floral shirts. Woodstock style or traditional Lanna clothing, only two choices.

My first Songkran in Hua Hin 1999

My first experiences with Songkran was in 1999, jumping random pick up trucks assisting anyone I could in their battle. The first soak happened when I was walking from a pub in Hua Hin. Strolling around trying to find a tuk-tuk to Sailom hotel where I stayed. With my tour company, we usually stayed at this hotel a short taxi ride from the temple and clocktower in Hua Hin. The same night that we had our traditional farewell dinner by the sea, the unforgettable baked rocket lobster with cheese, I had continued to downtown to meet with some other tour guide friends. However, it was time to go home and I remember thinking about why they were already having water fights at some pubs. In my head, New Year and midnight were still hours away. I didn’t realise how wrong I was.

I walked through the steaming tropical night in my tailormade suit when suddenly two rather tall and mannish ladies armed with huge buckets of water stared me down and smiled with a broad grin. Then looking back at them, raising my finger as to make some point and said – No, No, not yet! New year starts tomorrow. One more lady about the same size then came running pointing to the watch she was wearing and exclaimed:

Soooo sorry darling!! Today is already tomorrow.

And then simultaneously three buckets of water emptied over my head.

The next morning I was more ready. Walking through Central Hua Hin, in sloppy sports shorts, water gun in my hand and the typical colorful Hawaii-type shirt worn on songkran. I was looking for action. But before I found any waterfights, damage hit from above. A mega splash on my head, then I looked up rather infuriated. My anger turned into a smile when I saw this tiny, skinny, grey – haired, Chinese looking lady who by all means would be considered very old in Thailand. She stood on a small iron balcony on the second floor of a shophouse.

She was smiling back at me.

Sorry, Never attack farang before she bursted out. You are the first on my list now..

I was glad then that I was her first farang target.

Songkran in Chiang Mai – water fights

A lot of focus amongst tourists and expats are on the water fight. No songkran in Chiang Mai without a water battle! Well, to be honest, the same goes for many Thais. But what was originally a very innocent water sprinkling and putting some white colour or chalk on someone’s face, in modern days it has turned out to an all out war. In recent years better restricted to certain areas, like the moat in Chiang Mai. But there will be kids outside their homes pretty much everywhere trying to splash you. If you go to a night club like Ta Chang in Chiang Mai you will be in a water fight and a sprinkler system will soak you wet from afternoon to midnight! There are many ways to do Songkran in Chiang Mai.

With the huge amounts of alcohol combined with water splashing and driving, it is not difficult to understand the peak Thailand sees of traffic accidents during songkran.

Anyhow, Songkran 2021 is from April 13-15th. No water splashing at the usual places at least. Only digital splashing encouraged!!! So below is my contribution:

More Traditional Songkran

However, there is a much more traditional aspect to Songkran as well.

The word “Songkran” comes from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti, literally “astrological passage”, meaning transformation or change. It coincides with the rising of Aries on the astrological chart and with the New Year of many calendars of South and South East Asia, in keeping with the Buddhist calendar. The New Year takes place at virtually the same time as the new year celebrations of many countries in South Asia like China (Dai People of Yunnan Province), Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka.” Source Wikipedia.

During Songkran it is important to visit temples and sprinkle holy fragrant water over Buddhas. I went downtown today to see if I could find some more traditional rituals going on. At the astonishing Wat Ket Karam temple. I found some people paying respect to Buddha and a lady sprinkling water on a holy Buddha image. Not only Buddha images get sprinkled, elderly will as an act of respect also be sprinkled with perfumed water “rod nam dam hua“.

Attention is put to merit making at temples and cleaning the house. Travelling home to visit relatives and spending more time with family.

Paying tribute to Buddha Wat Ket Karam
Sprinkling holy perfumed water
Wat Ket Karam dating back to 1428 AD. Here with new year “Tungs .

On my walk, I also stopped at the old city gate of Thapae where there was a cultural event going on.

Tung, literally flags of great variation that you see during festivals in the North of Thailand. They could symbolise many things; like a greeting from a temple inviting you to join a festival, a greeting for Royals and for Songkran a tribute to people’s ancestors and after a Buddhist ceremony they will be stacked into sand and sand pagodas made within the temple area. Often they are decorated with animals.

Lanna flags by the moat and old city wall.