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Chiang Dao Mini-Nest Resort

By Ruth Wan

In December 2004, my husband and I spent 11 days in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Dao. Chiang Dao was our absolute most favourite part of the trip and what made it special was our stay at Chiang Dao Mini-Nest Resort. The resort is owned by Stuart and Wicha (Stuart is Brit and Wicha is Thai) and was set up a few years ago when they were holidaying in Chiang Dao and loved it so much they decided to uproot their family and build their home there.

(insert songtao.jpg) We arrived bright and early at the Chiang Mai train station. Stuart had arranged for a songtaew (a covered pick-up van of sorts) to drive us straight out to Chiang Dao, about an hour-and-a-half's journey. Chiang Dao is about halfway between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. The resort itself is 1,000m above sea level, so it did seem a bit chilly when we arrived. But by 10am, the weather turned breezy and warm and stayed that way the whole day. Then at night it gets cold again. This was typical for all the days we were there.

(insert hut.jpg) The resort is quaint and beautiful. Stuart and Wicha have six huts in the resort without any fences or barriers between them. The entire layout resembles one of a close community rather than a stodgy or big holiday resort. (insert landscape1.jpg and landscape2.jpg) Gorgeous plants and flowers litter the entire compound and the landscaping strongly reminded me of a cheery British garden. We spotted poinsettias and picturesque lily ponds. But there are tropical features, too, like the pineapple, pumpkin and papaya trees we saw. There is also an edgy looking house cat and the neighbour has three very hairy dogs. An altogether fertile and rich place! (insert edgycat1.jpg)

We really fell in love with the landscape. And the best part is, when you look up and around you, you see towering mountains. Just being there is very inspiring and relaxing.

(insert room.jpg and viewfromroom1.jpg) The huts are thankfully in very good condition. Spartan, clean, elegant. Plus, each came with two windows with beautiful views outside. The only issue was that it did get rather cold in the evenings. When we were there, it went down to 15, or even 13 degrees celsius at night!. (insert fire.jpg) This was when Stuart would build a huge fire in the common area and we'd all sit around it, huddling for warmth. Quite a bonding experience! The huts, however, did not have any heaters. But, after a lovely dinner meal, and after asking for two extra blankets, we found we actually slept very soundly, no complaints at all, so it wasn't too bad at all. Here's a pic of our elegant hut and the views from the two windows. It also has an attached bathroom with heated water! Very important!

Anyway, I mentioned "lovely dinner meal" just now. Wicha is the head chef of the establishment and she is a gourmet chef by profession. What this means is that all our meals were MIND-BLOWINGLY DELICIOUS. Here's a sample of what we ate: home-made pate (85 baht/$4 SGD), grilled pork tenderloin with stuffed aubergine and sweet potato (245 baht/$10+ SGD), slow-cooked duck with mashed potato and passion fruit sauce (295 baht/$13+ SGD) and the ever-popular buffalo fillet with garlic and Italian-basil sauce, hand-cut chips and salad (275 baht, $12 SGD) (insert gourmetfood 1, 2 and 3 jpgs)

We really stuffed ourselves silly the both nights we were there.

(insert naturetrail.jpg) Chiang Dao may seem like a sleepy place with all its laid-back beauty and charm, but it actually has quite a bit to offer. On day one, Stuart set us off on the Chiang Dao Nature Trail, a good one-hour trail that sent us up, around and down Doi Chiang Dao (Chiang Dao Mountain). Not for the weak-hearted. (insert chiangdaocave.jpg) We also visited the famous Chiang Dao caves - with, get this, 13 km of inter-connected cave trails! The caves were the largest, highest and longest I've ever seen in my life. You don't get to see all 13 km, but a guide will take you round and show you parts of it, for a small fee.

(insert lisuvillage.jpg) On day two Stuart took us on a one-day trip to visit two Lisu villages and visit another cave and a waterfall. There was a lot of walking, climbing, bending and stretching. Very good exercise for two bureaucrats who usually exercise their brains and fingers more than their limbs! Like I mentioned earlier, the weather gets warm and breezy after 10am, and the great thing is, it didn't rain at all when we were there! So, we had a great time walking, prancing, exploring the nature around us.

The second Lisu village we visited was strategically located directly facing a huge mountain wall, about 1,200 m high. The view was absolutely stunning. We also got to chat with some of the Lisu people, who were very friendly too. We noticed, to our amusement, that they ate a lot of junk food - while we were there, they were munching on chips and other salty snacks.

The one-day trip was enjoyable particularly because it consisted of just husband, myself and Stuart. Stuart acted as our personal tour guide, and his knowledge and love for Chiang Dao and the Lisu people was quite evident. We quizzed him on everything, from Chiang Dao's flora & fauna to the ways of the Lisu, to Thai politics and so on. Stuart seemed to know a little about everything. He's also fluent enough in Thai to get us around and communicate with the Thai and Lisu people. All in all, he added a very personal and informal touch to the whole trip, which was very nice. Here's some of our favourite pictures from the day:

(insert favpic1.jpg) This picture is not touched up. I promise! It's the view from the second Lisu village we visited.

(insert favpic2.jpg)We stopped at the first Lisu village to have lunch at their beautiful Sky coffee shop. Beautiful Sky is the English translation of the Lisu name for their village.

(insert favpic3.jpg) Man, don't we look shack? This is after our caving 'expedition' with Stuart and another Lisu guide. At points, we were crawling on our knees and at other points, squeezing through crack holes, all in a bid to explore a relatively unknown but beautiful cave!

(insert favpic4.jpg)Look at the gorgeous scenery!

All in all, our Chiang Dao experience (only 3 days, 2 nights) was well-worth the effort to travel there and back. We're really grateful that Chiang Dao Mini-Nest Resort had space for us, it having only 6 huts and all. We were also happy to note that the Resort has opened a sister resort, the sensibly-named Chiang Dao Mini-Nest Resort 2, just down the road. Wicha does not cook at that resort, though you can certainly walk up the road and eat her food anyways!

(insert partingshot.jpg)

Check out the Chiang Dao website for more details [reader omitted the URL, but I suppose the website is out there somewhere.].

And check out my website (http://www.bimandruth.com/travel/thailand) for more articles of our 11-day sojourn!

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