Two weekends ago (Feb 2-3.....Geez! I'm really falling behind here! I wish I could say it was because I'm so busy doing important things, but that would be a lie!) we decided to take the motorbike to Chiang Rai, a popular tourist destination about 3 hours (we were told you can get there in 3 hours in a car) northwest of where we live.
Ethan had looked up cool things to do/see near there and (surprise, surprise) found a national park (Phu Chi Fah) with an awesome view point. Ethan loves planning anything that involves the great outdoors and great sunrises (in case you couldn't tell). We were going to leave Friday afternoon, but after finding out that all his classes had been cancelled and that I only had class first period, we decided to leave after first period. It was good a decision since it ended up taking us 5 whole hours to get to Phu Chi Fah. We stopped for lunch and a couple other times very briefly, but it was a very, very long ride. Our butts were almost as sore as they are after a day of actual biking - that's pretty sore. Painfulness aside, the motorbike didn't get a flat tire and was only making slightly weird noises - WIN!
I'm not sure that the town there is actually a town or if its just a collection of bungalows on the side of a hill. Either way it was pretty neat. Every guest house (there were several) had detached bungalow rooms and most of them had a great view of the hills below. There were a few restaurants, which also had great views, convenience stores and several souvenir shops all selling almost the exact same stuff. Anyway, we found a place to stay (wasn't the nicest/cleanest, but it was supposedly cheaper than all the others), got dinner and went to bed early so we could get up before the ass crack of dawn to watch the sunrise.
Ethan's alarm rang promptly at 4:45 and we were out the door by 5. It was very, very cold and it had just rained so everything was damp. Despite the cold we made it back up to the top - very slowly. On the way up there were a few Thai kids singing with little donation boxes. We felt bad that they were out in the cold at 5am so we gave them all money. They were so cute! When we reached the top we set ourselves up on a rock and watched a layer of fog on the ground below swirl around over the little town and around the hills. It was just like we had read about - a sea of clouds. So we waited until the sun was supposed to come up, but it never showed. The clouds were too thick. We were bummed, but it was still a great experience. (E- Phu Chi Fah is famous for the "sea of clouds." Even though we missed out on a sunrise, we were still treated to the main attraction.)
It didn't exactly stop raining, but we had a few places we wanted to see before they closed so we headed out in the drizzle. It was quite the miserable afternoon in northern Thailand - cold and wet. Felt like we were in Michigan! The first place we went was a place called The Black House. Its a temple-like house with a bunch of smaller buildings that all house a bunch of really old and rather strange things. The main building had 5 tables in it - one that ran the length of the house and 4 smaller ones on the sides. Each was decorated with snake skins, huge chairs with horns and fur and random animal skulls. It was very weird. The rest of the grounds had a bunch of small buildings with more random artifacts....most of them were closed though. We walked around the grounds and eventually spotted an owl in a cage. We were looking at the owl when I noticed another cage. I looked over and saw something huge lurking in the corner of it. I stared at it for a while before I realized it was a giant snake. I pointed it out to Ethan who quickly rushed over to get a look at the monster. We soon realized that the gigantic python was actually two snakes, each about 10 feet long. We walked around their rather small enclosure and saw that there was a little door that we assumed they used to get the snakes food. Then Ethan realized that the padlock on the door that was keeping it closed wasn't actually locked. Hmmmmm. That's not right. Two giant snakes capable of taking down a grown man in an unlocked cage. We looked around for a worker to ask if this was normal or if it should be locked. We saw someone, but he didn't speak English so Ethan showed him the lock. He just kept saying no... soooo we didn't really know what that meant, but we left it unlocked. We hope that no one gets any crazy ideas about letting those snakes out because things could get really awkward for that worker.
We left the temple feeling a bit disappointed, but glad that we had the chance to see it. We headed back to Thawangpha after we left the temple. It took us 5 hours to get back and our butts hurt pretty bad, but the bike held up the whole way!