The weekend after our Chiang Rai adventures, we decided to stay in our town and potentially try to hike Phu Chi Fah, a beautiful sunrise hike on the border of Laos, not too far away. We relaxed on Saturday morning before heading to the bus station to try and figure out how much a songthaew would cost us.
A few giggles later, the men tried to tell us it would cost us over 1000 baht one way which we knew was way too much. A little bit of bargaining later and they would barely budge, so we decided to table it for another time. This kind of thing tends to happen a fair amount both in our town, and across Thailand. I’ve found it most prevalent with transportation. We’ve been able to bargain the prices on tuk tuks down a few times, but there comes a point when the men won’t budge and then it’s time to move on. We spent the rest of our day trying to figure out transportation for the next weekend with our dear friend Mo (who continues to be a lifesaver time and time again), relaxing, catching up on journaling and napping. Although we enjoyed our day, we agreed that we wanted to get out and do something the next day instead of stay in our town again, and Emma suggested we take the local bus to Phayao.
We woke up on Sunday morning and headed to the bus station to get the bus around 10 AM. We locked up our bikes at the little shop, and quickly found and boarded the bus. In classic Thai fashion, the bus did not leave on time, but rather 20 minutes late. Mai pen rai, oh well. We thought the bus ride would be about an hour, but with all the stops it ended up being closer to 2 and we got to Phayao around noon. Getting off a bus in a new town that you’ve never been to before is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. You don’t really know where you are, you don’t know where anything is, and there are very rarely maps to help you orient yourself. We started walking around and once we figured out where the lake was, everything started to make a bit more sense. We walked along the lake for a while and tried to read some of the maps but didn’t have much luck. We walked by the dragon statue in the water which was really beautiful with mountains behind it, but there were tons of very aggressive fish near the shore (because people were feeding them of course) so we didn’t get too close!
We kept walking along the lake and eventually crossed over to find a little souvenir shop that sold postcards from all different parts of Thailand. This was the first time we saw normal postcards, crazy right!? I decided to buy a bunch not knowing when I would see them again, and luckily the shop sold international postage too (keep your eyes peeled fam)! Afterwards, I got a coffee and we kept making our way around the town. We decided to look for a taxi to head about half an hour away to a temple that our friend Dani who teaches in Phayao had told us about! We walked around for about 40 minutes before finally making it back to the bus station where we found a tuk tuk that would take us. Thirty minutes later and we were across the lake, halfway up a mountain, and at the entrance to the beautiful Wat Analayo Thippayaram Temple.
The path to up to the temple was slightly daunting: a long, steep staircase with no view of the temple in sight. We headed up the stairs and admired the beautiful, handmade sculptures on the sides leading up to the entrance. Eventually, we got to the top, where we were greeted by 10 or maybe 15 temple dogs, many of which looked very different from each other. This is somewhat common in Thailand as the monks at the temples may feed and take care of the dogs, so of course they stay! The temple was huge! There were many different sections and it expanded far back into the woods. It was full of different animal statues, Buddha shrines, and many other statues and idols. It always amazes me how these places are so old and were all completely built by hand before heavy machinery was around. I always wonder how they were able to get all the materials up the mountain in the first place! We walked through the whole temple and admired how beautiful it was, but then the time came for us to head back to our tuk tuk to ensure we had enough time to catch the last bus back to Chiang Kham.
To our surprise, we had a bit of free time when we got back to the bus station so we stopped at a little cafe across the street and got some gelato. I had strawberry and some type of mocha flavor and it was very good! I appreciated the sweet treat after a somewhat hot day!
We caught the bus back to Chiang Kham at 4:15 PM and got back just around 6. The perfect amount of time to get dinner and relax before another crazy week of school at Sathit. Although this trip was short, it was nice to get out of town for a few hours and see another town in our province. I’m sure we’ll be back to Phayao City at some point, and hopefully next time the other teachers from our program will be in town!