Friday, December 18, 2015

The Thailand Winter Getaway Series 2015: Sunrise and Sunset on Doi Patang, Chiang Rai

It's that time of the year again, when I sleep without air-conditioning and wake up feeling totally blessed by the cool dry breeze blowing into my apartment. It's also a reminder that I have to do my customary annual post/s to beef up my Thailand Winter Getaway Series.

The stars have aligned this year to allow me to go to Chiang Rai for a charity trip with the Singapore-Thai Chamber of Commerce. Even though the schedule was pretty tight, as we often had to make distributions at villages in the early mornings before breakfast and even at night after dinner in the pitch-dark under a night sky FULL of stars, I cannot help but admire how beautiful Chiang Rai really is.

The usual captivating view during our drives.
As we drove through the mountains from village to village, the scenery reminded me a lot of South Africa, while to others, Switzerland.

So of course, even though it was a charity trip and a lot of work had to be done, our team took the opportunity to admire the sunrise and sunset when we were staying for a night on Doi Patang. When we arrived, it was already evening, and sunset happened right outside our rooms. We literally watched the sun disappear into the mountains, changing colour from deep yellow, orange then finally red in a space of 15 to 20 minutes.

The beginning of the end
My camera cannot do the view justice, but I hope you understand what I am trying to portray anyway

The following morning, at 5.15am, we began a short ascent up Doi Patang to experience sunrise, and boy was it an experience of a lifetime. We were basically above a sea of clouds awaiting the morning sun to pop out, and the entire atmosphere was just amazing.

My comrades looking like they were sitting on the moon
Above a sea of clouds. Photo credit:onghq

Following this experience, I do have a few things for you to take note of if you are considering a winter getaway in Chiang Rai.

1. Be well-equipped

It will be cold. Especially in December and January. Temperatures can easily drop to around 10degC or even less in the mountains. You will be waking up at 5am in the morning to start your journey up, so not only will it be cold, it will also be windy. It helps to be well-prepared for the cold.

It will be pitch dark during your ascent, so some good hand-held lighting is crucial for a safe climb.

Lastly, you need to be confident of every step you take, whether its during the ascent or descent, and trust me, the way down is a little more exciting than the way up. I was nursing a twisted ankle and wore leather shoes, so I had to be extra careful every step I took. The right footwear is absolutely crucial for such an expedition.

The careful descent. Photo credit: strikingjacqpot

2. Be mentally prepared

Even though the sun rises and sets everyday, it does not necessarily mean you will get to enjoy it. The sea of clouds do not form everyday. Sometimes, it will rain, and the terrains will get too challenging to overcome unless you are really very fit and used to such treks. We were lucky we got to enjoy the best of both worlds, but my advice is to be mentally prepared, especially if things do not work out. There is still a lot to savour in Chiang Rai and you can always go again.

Finally, I want to emphasize the fact that this does NOT have to be a winter getaway. You could do this anytime if you are in Chiang Rai. I just happened to be here during winter, when the chill gives it a whole different feeling compared to other times of the year.

Till next year folks, enjoy winter while it lasts!

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