While we absolutely loved our time at the Thai Cookery School, it was only our second favorite thing that we did while in Thailand. So, what was you guys-ex (Northern peeps, what up?!), most favorite thing?? I am so very glad you asked, Reader. Our most, at the top of the list, that's not in any guide book, favorite thing, was renting a car and driving around Northern Thailand. I can't even begin to describe to you just how wonderfully, peaceful it was, but I will. I'm a blogger after all.
Our super cool car
This was at the very top of things I wanted to do while in Thailand. Some people thought we were crazy wanting to drive in East Asia, some thought it would be too weird driving on the other side of the road, and some just weren't interested. But this girl, I was set, SET, on renting a car. Zachary made sure to remember it was at the top of my list and made sure we didn't negotiate it or forget it when spending on the rest of the trip.
I love driving. That's the main reason I wanted to rent a car. I just love it. And I miss it. I had no idea there would be so many other perks to renting a car for the day, though. Here's a few things that made it an awesome experience;
1. The Freedom.
We loved the freedom having a car provided us. It was so very fun talking through which road we wanted to take, and then going, without any real schedule and no plans but to drive on this particular road and see what it had to offer.
We choose Highway 107, which was pretty much a straight shot to Chiang Rai. It turned out to be quite an adventure. Check out part of the map.
It had some intense, mountain side, windy, and even windier than this map even shows road ways. It was like that famous windy street in San Fran at some points, except on the edge of mountains.
2. The View
Northern Thailand is just gorgeous. While we did see some beautiful scenery in the distance in Chiang Mai we didn't really get to see the beautiful mountains and scenery that N. Thailand has to offer. Driving we did. Often times it was hard to keep our eyes on the road because our surroundings were just so darn beautiful.
3. The Adventure
We found so many, random things to do on the way. We stopped by a cave, stopped in little towns at the small shops, went to a coffee farm, saw a hill tribe village, and had tons of opportunities to do so much more. We even followed a few signs that led us to no where or to small ran down places, which just added to the adventure.
4. Getting away for it all.
That day road trip was probably the best time Zachary and I had together while on the trip. We were able to just get away from everything. Get away from all the people and just relax. We felt so peaceful and rested on the trip. All that driving time also gave us time to just "be" together. We really bonded and it was wonderful. We love being together all the time, and usually are, but we often need more time, away, to just focus on each other and the Lord.
If you want to rent a car, here's one VITAL tip,
get the GPS! It was so helpful. Man, I can't believe some people have these, like all the time, that GPS made me want to buy a car, just for the GPS.
Our Road Trip Journey
Our day started early when the rental company dropped the car off at our hotel at 8. We were excited to get going but of course, we had to stop by Starbucks. Driving, with a Starbucks in the cup holder, music on the radio, and my boo by my side= fantastic. After the Starbucks run, we headed for the open road. We had seen on the map that there was a small town called Chiang Dao down the road we choose. We were set on going there considering we live in Qing (pronounced Ching) Dao.
Once we got into Chiang Dao, we followed the city signs to the Chiang Dao Cave.
After the hour cave visit, and some awesome stalagmites, we got back on the road and drove for a few more hours before stopping. We stopped in a small city for a lunch of pork ball noodles on the side of the road. It was delicious, and gave us a chance to stock up on road trip snacks, too.
We quickly approached the windy roads that kept winding and winding. It was fun in the daylight. There were beautiful views and I liked driving on the curves, though you have to be very careful.
Along the way, we started seeing a sign for Loata coffee. They had a sign every mile or so for 10 miles out. The last mile they had a sign every 100 meters, so we knew we weren't going to miss it. The suspense for those 10 miles to see what this Loata coffee shop was all about grew and grew. We finally reached it, to find a little coffee shop full of Thai people.
We had noticed on the sign that there were coffee cherries and we had been noticing for the 30 minutes before that the sides of the hills had started looking dark green and lush, resembling coffee plants. So, we were hope filled and eager, and asked the baristas if they grew coffee with sign language and broken, simple English. We got the yes! and that it was only 500 m ahead, and that yes, we could visit.
We were pumped! If you know us, or have been reading this blog, you know we love coffee. But you may not know that it's our dream to own a coffee shop one day. We have also dreamt of one day owning a plantation or at least working very closely with one. I had seen coffee plants in Costa Rica, but Zachary had never seen one, so we were thrilled to find coffee in Thailand. Who knew?!
We drove the 500 m, as the Barista told us, turned around and finally found a small gravel road, leading to a small coffee farm. Since it was winter in Thailand, it wasn't the season for coffee, so all the cherries but two or three had been picked already. But Zachary did get to see a few, and we got to wander around this small, empty farm, and enjoy it all to ourselves.
After, the coffee farm, we got back onto the road, and headed towards what we hoped would be hill tribes. We were definitely in the hills and it kept getting more and more beautiful. We kept driving and driving but didn't see any signs for any of the hill tribes.
With no signs of the hill tribes and since it was around 5:30 pm, we decided to turn around. We were already regretting going so far, because this meant that we'd be on all of those windy roads in the dark. We were looking for a place to turn around when we hit a huge pot hole. Thankfully, we found a place to turn around just 15 minutes later. And, how lucky we got, that the place we went to turn around at was a hill tribe village!
We checked out the tire, and saw that it was damaged, so one of the local guys called some of his buddies over, and Zachary and the guys worked on the tire. Since, I knew we'd be there for a little while, I decided to take the village tour. I am so happy I did. It was really great to see small glimpses into their lives.
By the time I got back from the tour, the donut tire was ready to go and Zachary and I, a little anxiously, got back on the road. We knew we needed to find a tire shop soon, because there was so much road left before us until we made it back to Chiang Mai, not to mention many of them were rough and windy.
We past through two towns, but saw nothing, and just as we were starting to get really nervous, and the sun was setting, we found a tire shop! We pulled in and met the nicest guys ever.
Not only were they great but they all loved Jesus, which was really cool and encouraging for us. They could speak some English and just kept thanking God that we were okay. They were thanking God! One of the guys was actually Chinese but had lived in Thailand and hadn't gone home for 9 years. He was married to a Thai woman and they had a 4 year old son. It was great to speak some Chinese with him. We got to meet his family and found out that it was his sons' birthday that day!! We sang him happy birthday and ran to the car to grab what was left of our road trip goodies. Thankfully, we had some delicious chocolate and gummies. Perfect for a four year olds birthday. After, saying our good byes, we headed towards the treacherous winding road with peace from our visit with these Christian brothers and family.
I know it doesn't look like much, but trust me, it was intense.
Zachary drove this time, and was so patient with my nagging about braking more & slowing down to like 10 mph, just to be safe. He did a great job navigating all the curves and an hour or so later we were in the clear and drove the rest of the way on semi-straight roads.
Once we made it back into Chiang Mai we decided that dinner had to be at Loco Elvis. We were craving some Mexican food, as always. While pulling up to the restaurant, we clipped the side of a taxi truck. The side mirror appeared to fly off. My goodness, we were freaking out a little, as a lady pounded on our window to get out of the car. Zachary got out and I stayed in the car praying. Turns out they were knocking on our window to go and get the piece that flew off our car, which clipped right back on, as if nothing happened. Praise the Lord! We relaxed after that, enjoyed our food, and headed back for the night, sad we had to let the car go in the morning.
We hit the side of one of these type of taxi-trucks
Renting the car, despite for a few hiccups, was by far, the best thing we did on the trip. We hope that we can go again some day and rent the car for longer and go exploring for a few days.
Have you ever rented a car in a foreign country? How did it go?