I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. This was all I could up with for a title. If you don’t get the reference, pat yourself on the back, you may just have some music taste, unlike me.
I wanted to call this post ‘The Prettiest Cafe in The World’ but felt it was too much of a generalisation. I mean , I don’t actually know if it is. At least the title I chose is true, albeit a little cheesy. Here goes…
My Mum is visiting Chiang Mai at the moment, a stop over on her way to Europe. We have had a wonderful time showing her around CM’s restaurants, food stalls, temples and spas, but decided to escape the heat and head for the hills in a rental car for the day. It was a win-win, Tyrhone was pumped to drive a car for the first time in three months, and we were happy to be chauffeured around in air-conditioned comfort.
We headed up the mountain of Doi Suthep, retracing our cycling trip like our own ‘stations of the cross’. I went to Catholic school, and those pictures in church haunted me no end, but they were nothing compared to reliving the hell of my two-wheeled uphill battle.
Oh, look that’s where I nearly threw up.
And that’s where the elderly runner lapped me on his way back down the mountain, assuring me it ‘wasn’t far’…
That’s where I pictured punching him in the face, if only I’d had the strength to make a fist…
Needless to say the journey was much more comfortable with four wheels and an engine.
After perusing the gleaming Wat Prathat temple we continued up the mountain to unchartered territory, in search of a Hmong village I had read about.
The road narrowed to a sliver of black tar, and though we were thankful it was sealed at all considering some of the roads we have travelled in Cambodia and Laos, it was a little nerve-wracking winding around blind corners with only our horn to warn oncoming traffic. Thankfully we only came bumper to bumper with one truck, and in true Thai style it waited patiently whilst Tyrhone maneuvered our little vehicle onto the verge that we sincerely hoped wasn’t a leaf avalanche in waiting. It was a sheer drop off to the side, which I tried not to look at as the car edged closer to the precipice.
With our lives intact, we approached a sign for coffee and we were all relieved to have an excuse to exit the vehicle and rest our nerves, except Tyrhone who was having a blast putting the dubious car insurance contract to the test.
Nevertheless, his nicotine levels had dropped alarmingly low since the last smoke break, and we needed to keep the driver happy with his favourite things – cigarettes and coffee.
We descended the stone steps and found ourselves in a stilted wooden hut, overlooking a spectacular vista. Coffee and banana plantations stretched out before us, enhancing the already tantalizing aroma of freshly roasted beans.
It was mid-morning, and we were the only ones there, save an older Thai woman serving up the local brew. I wondered how many customers she would get through in a day being so secluded, but the rustic setting was so idyllic I assumed tour groups must include it in their itinerary.
After our delicious cuppa and a lighthearted debate over the process of coffee-making (“The beans are green aren’t they? I mean how can they be called Arabica? We’re in Thailand!”), we accepted our ignorance and strolled through the gorgeous grounds, thinking ourselves pretty lucky to be the only visitors to ‘The Prettiest Cafe In The World’.
We should have listened to the lovely coffee lady, who warned us against taking the unsealed road back to Chiang Mai, but we didn’t. We didn’t want to retrace our journey back to town (because that’s so boring), so after driving through an almost deserted Hmong village (save a few lonely dogs), getting chased by oversized geese (but that’s a whole other story), we took the road less travelled.
Less travelled for good reason.
The nervous passengers went unusually quiet as we tried to ignore the weird cracks and pops coming from the decidedly on road Honda citiz as it strained over the unsealed terrain. Tyrhone tried to allay our fears of breaking down in the middle of the forest with only poison berries to sustain us by laughing as though it would be a marvelous adventure. Mum gripped her seat just like she used to do when taking me for driving lessons about fifteen years ago. I took this as a bad sign.
We passed through tiny villages, and eventually got some reassuring directions from some friendly locals on motorbikes. We hadn’t seen another vehicle all day (except the truck) and were beginning to think that maybe there was good reason for that.
Thankfully after holding our breath for an hour or so, we exhaled at the sight of a large lake ahead which signalled the end of the down-hill, not-suitable-for-hire-cars-with-dodgy-insurance adventure.
Once at the lake, we celebrated our relief at surviving in one piece with a sumptuous lunch of fried fish, papaya salad and spicy pork with sticky rice. In thatched picnic huts by the water’s edge, it was easy to see the day as a successful adventure, even if our nerves were a little frayed from the drive.
Looking back, the hillside cafe, aggressive geese, glimpses of hill-tribe life and the amazing water-front feast was definitely worth a little anxiety. I think even Mum agreed.