The morning of November 15 (and I know that week days might be an easier distinguisher most of the time, but there were no days of the week to us while we were in Thailand) we got up and Brandon headed down to the front desk to ask about a few things (and clear up our room switch since we'd be gone most of the day). We packed our bags and put them in another room to be stored until we got back, as our rooms of the last two nights would no longer be ours.We grabbed a quick breakfast and then went out to the van that we knew was our transport for the day. For some reason, our driver was initially nowhere to be found. A friendly tuk-tuk driver nearby waved him down (and I missed it amidst a few other things that were happening at that moment). But he was found and we were in the spacious van and on our way!
I think the estimated drive time to the top of the mountain and pagodas was two and a half hours. It definitely was less than that - two hours at most one way - maybe less than that.
Our first stop were the two pagodas known locally as the King and Queen (they were a gift from the Royal Thai Air Force on their 60th birthdays). There actual names - Naphamethanidon and Naphapholphumisiri - we never used or really knew while we were there. Thank goodness. These two pagodas were beautiful and more modern than most of the other pagodas we'd seen. The air was crisp and cooler (60 degrees) and the view was spectacular. Before we left Brandon got some delicious baked coconut/rice cakes that we spent the rest of the time in Thailand looking for.
We stayed there for about an hour before heading higher to Doi Inthanon - the highest peak in Thailand. For us it was just a quick walk up a short trail to the sign proclaiming it the highest peak and then a small shrine at the real peak. It was different from most peaks I've been on, as it was forested entirely and there wasn't much of a view. But it was still beautiful and mossy and green.
Leaving the peak we then drove back down the mountain. We stopped briefly at a market by the side of the road and then headed to a lunch pavilion to have something to eat before heading on.
We thought we were heading for a waterfall area where we could swim, but our driver pulled another stop for us that we hadn't anticipated at all - Wachirathan Waterfall. I'm glad he did, as it was incredibly breathtaking and there was a beautiful rainbow at the foot of the falls. We walked around for a bit and then Brandon and I spontaneously followed a trail quickly to the top of the falls - a nice tangent from the tourist walkways.
On to the falls that we'd anticipated, Mae Klang Waterfall. The waterfall here was actually a little underwhelming after Wachirathan. We looked at it for a bit but then wandered back to the swimming area a little farther down the river. Now, this was really interesting. There were a bunch of Thai families situated on grass woven mats all around the swimming area. In the water were a bunch of school children - mostly boys - having a grand time splashing around. Brandon got right in (it was hot) but I proceeded with a little more caution. Now, I infinitely prefer a bikini to any and every swimsuit that I've ever worn before. It's more comfortable and more practical for most swimming activities. However, since there were no other grown women swimming in the water, and most of the girls were wearing shorts and shirts, I felt uncomfortable with the prospect of wearing my bikini, just in case I was violating some customs that they had. I initially thought about wearing my t-shirt, but as I hadn't brought a spare t-shirt, I didn't want to get it wet and then not have a t-shirt to wear for the rest of the ride home. So in I went! And it was fine. I might have gotten a few looks, but the Thai people are generally very accommodating of foreign visitors, particularly when we make an effort to also be polite.
Our ride back to Chiang Mai was easy and pleasant. When we got back, we were able to move into our "new" rooms - a floor higher and much more spacious. While beautiful, the new rooms also had their oddities, such as many floor height changes (I swear they were trying to trip us), a terrible shower/bath (it was very pretty to look at, but pooled water terribly whenever we tried to shower - pools on the sides and in the back rather than the bottom - the paint on the bottom also started to adhere to our feet under the hot water when we tried to shower), and another leaky sink. But nothing that we were really willing to do anything about. We relaxed in our new rooms for a bit and then headed back out in the evening. We headed back to the Night Market area and then a little farther North to see some of the parade we knew would be happening that night. The parade was very unimpressive with poorly spaced floats. All of the floats were beautiful, and all devoted to the King, but they were also about half a mile apart from one another! We did not stay long. Instead we headed back to the food court of the night before and got some dinner. Then we wandered for a bit and headed back to the massage parlor of the night before, this time for another set of foot massages. Those foot massages put you to sleep! I was fine going in, but ready for bed when I came out. We all headed up to our rooms, but Brandon expressed and interest in walking back to the Old City to see the Three Kings area that we'd missed two nights before. Exhausted, but interested, we headed out and walked that direction. A few more people were lightning lanterns, so we stopped to watch them for a bit. When we finally made it to the Three Kings statue, it was beautiful with lanterns all over, though many had already been taken down for the night. Off to the side there was also a structure with colored lanterns - something we hadn't seen yet as all the lanterns had been white so far.
Tired, we then headed back to the hotel. We were able to wave down a tuk-tuk (he was as eager to pick us up as we were to be picked up) and got a ride back to the hotel. Interestingly, while we had maps on our phones and physical copies on hand most of the time, none of our drivers were ever really able to use our maps. Rather, the most useful thing that we had was our confirmations in our emails from the hotels that showed their name and address in Thai. The information in Thai was more useful than any other maps or directions we used the entire time.
We arranged for a taxi to the airport the next morning and headed to bed.