Having one successful day out on the scooter in Chiang Mai we decided to give it another try. After all, Laura only had one day left in the city so we didn’t want to waste it by the pool, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I did some searching the day before and discovered there’s both a cave (Muang On) and hot springs located about an hour away, in the San Kamphaeng district of Chiang Mai. Laura and I had previously considered visiting some caves near Pai so this sounded like an ideal replacement. We were smarter about breakfast this time around and chose to buy some goodies at the local market, much cheaper and faster. Armed with our snacks and obnoxiously big Thai iced coffees we were on our way.
I found some great information about the area we were heading to, including a hand-drawn map, so I was pretty confident we would find it with little to no trouble. Everything went perfectly until the last little bit where we were supposed to turn off for the cave, our map said there should be an obvious sign, but there definitely was not. Instead we drove all the way to the hot springs and realized we had gone too far, on our next attempt (thanks to the map) we took the only other option as to where the turnoff must be, and sure enough we found it (FYI the only sign at this turn off is for a Wat).
The blog warned us that this would happen, but there was absolutely no one else at the cave that morning, just how I like it! The fee to enter the cave was a mere 30 baht, not breaking any wallets here. We climbed a steep set of steps, caught a nice view at the lookout point and then headed towards the cave entrance. There were a few small girls checking tickets outside and also had flashlights on offer, which we ignored seeing as the cave was noted to be “well lit”. You could sense the hesitation building in both of us as we began descending the stairs into complete and total darkness, I was really wondering where this light was supposed to be coming from. I got out my tiny, and I mean tiiiiny, flashlight to help us guide the way, unfortunately, it wasn’t of much help.
Once we were in the cave, but still in total darkness, we both began to wonder what was next or where we were supposed to go, I could see a staircase heading down but didn’t really want to find out where it went to, considering there was no light. Just then you could hear voices from above (the entrance) and suddenly the entire cave came to life with spotlights, leading us towards the beautiful rock formations and Buddha’s. Thankful that we didn’t have to navigate this in the dark Laura and I continued on, observing the different “look-a-like” rock formation, there was the giant mushroom, turtle, dinosaur, and sea, among others. I've seen more impressive caves (Korea just has to one-up everything don't they) but this one was quaint and homey (if that's possible in a cave?). I think my favorite part is that we had the cave to ourselves, aside from the girls that came down with one of the workers. It was peaceful, cooler than the hot air outside, and awe-inspiring. There were two giant Buddha statues inside that were clearly carved from the rock surrounding them, I'm continually amazed by much of the handmade work I've been seeing.
After the cave, there’s an option to continue on up the mountain, to a temple I believe, but having had enough trekking a few days before we decided to head for the hot springs instead. Seeing as we had already driven there earlier in the morning we had no problem finding the entrance to the springs, parking and paying our fee (although it was more than expected at 100 baht). I’ve been to a few hot springs before and this one was by far the most elaborate and inviting. There were many paths leading to different areas for sitting and dipping your feet into the water, relaxing in a garden area, eating or swimming (although you had to pay an extra 50 baht for the mineral pools). Of course being a sulfur hot spring there was a bit of an eggy smell in the air but after a few minutes, one could get used to it.
Another cool thing is that hot springs were actually located at the start of the spring so you could see the two huge lines of water shooting into the air. Below those are two pools currently reaching 105 degrees Celsius, no you don’t go swimming in those. The purpose of these pools was to cook your eggs! Throughout the park, there were numerous vendors selling baskets of eggs (either chicken or quail) for a mere 20 baht. I’m not a huge fan of hard boiled eggs but we decided to buy a basket and take the cheesy “I’m a tourist boiling eggs at the hot springs” picture. Although we bought them for the experience they were actually quite tasty, especially alongside my rosella juice.
Armed with our eggs and juice (Laura went for coconut) we found a spot to dip our feet in the water, hoping to give them a break from all the hiking, biking and walking we’d been doing. The first spot we tried was clearly too hot to the main spring as it felt like my flesh might melt off my feet if I stuck them in any further than my toe, and Laura not even giving it a try. We moved about a hundred yards downstream and found the water to be much more inviting. Having paid 100 baht to enter and no plans for the afternoon we stayed here a while enjoying the scenery, each others company and the reality that we were actually in Thailand together.
Eventually, it was time for us to go, Laura had a plane to catch and we wanted some time to relax and possibly grab a massage before having to pack up and say our goodbyes. The ride back was just as successful on the way there, although we were both feeling sunburnt, I now understand why everyone wears long sleeves when they're out on their bikes, that sun will get ya.
High on the tourist track for a reason, home of good food (mostly) happy people, rich history and culture. Thailand as many tourist soon learn is just easy. Easy to visit, easy to get around and even easier to stay.