Chiang Dao Nest was that kind of experience for me. And I kid you not, I have told strangers on busses, prospective employers, friends, family, magazine readers, anyone who even thinks about mentioning the word ‘Thailand’ in my presence about this rare gem of a place.
Of course, if I were smart I would shut my mouth and keep it a secret. But sometimes the joy of a place is revisited (just a little) when you tell its story. Before I begin, I would like to point out that one of the (many) friends I told about Chiang Dao Nest actually took me up on the suggestion, and ended up proposing to his fiancé while they were there. So, you know. It’s that special.
Part of the reason for this is that it’s so close to Chiang Mai, and everyone goes to Chiang Mai. The overnight train from Bangkok is clogged with travelers of every shape, size and affluence, and it’s such a relief to leave them behind to navigate the streets of Chiang Mai, a city over-run with restaurants and hotels catering to tourists (but still, of course, imbued with Thai charm).
Chiang Dao, an hour and a half local bus ride away, overflows with charm. Not the town itself, of course, that’s small and rather dirty and a tad boring. But the surrounding countryside is simply breathtaking – vast and lush and green green green. Chiang Dao Nest was a songthaew ride away (a sort of open-backed van) and completely exceeded all our expectations, especially seeing as we were there in low season and it was ridiculously cheap. The small huts are dotted around an indigenous garden that’s filled with local orchids and butterflies and flowers and birds. The huts themselves are fairly basic, but the views on all side are nothing short of breathtaking – mountains shrouded in clouds and covered in untamed forest. Extraordinary stuff.
From Chiang Dao Nest, which just so happens to have a gourmet restaurant on-site, you can walk down a forested lane to a monastery with 500 steps, or a little further to the famous Chiang Dao Caves, filled with eerily-shaped stalactites and stalagmites, or explore the forest on challenging hiking trails. Those looking for adventure can take an elephant ride through the forest (an experience that remains one of my favourite hours ever) or simply lounge by the beautiful swimming pool and soak up the view.
Photo: Mark Peddle