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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Blood & Tea & Me

Updated: Jan 18

The day finally came when I had to move out of my HappyNest. On the date of my departure, I was still the only one in my dorm... and as I descended into the lobby to check out, it appeared that I was still the only one staying at the hostel. It just seemed unfathomable that the place was going to suddenly fill up completely.

Clear as mud.

I moved to my new hotel, The North Hotel.

It was predominantly purple, the staff were overly friendly and they offered a free cookie buffet every morning between 7am-10am.

How can you beat that?

You can't.

It was fabulous.

I had signed up for three more evenings in Chiang Rai before I headed into Laos. I was originally planning on only doing two more, but plans changed when I found an elephant sanctuary I wanted to visit. They were full for visitors on the 20th and asked if I had the flexibility to come on the 21st instead.

With a couple more days to explore, I thought it might be a good idea for me to head into the outer regions of Chiang Rai. There were a few places nearby that I was keen on visiting, as well as the beautiful mountainous landscapes of Northern Thailand.

All I needed was wheels. Again.

When I first arrived, the girl at the shop was not so confident that I was an eligible candidate for her line of motorized minibikes. The interrogation began. When I had passed her rapid-fire questions, proven my identity and presented proper authorization to be behind the wheel, she relented and finally agreed to rent to me. She was not without her own share of rules though and one of the stipulations was that I hand over my passport. 

That's a big demand... for any traveler.

Handing over my passport is usually a deal breaker for me. I do not like to be without it at any time while I'm traveling and the thought of putting it in the trust of a stranger seemed foolish. It was a harsh no... mixed with a 'but I want a moped'...

My desire for transporation finally triumphed and my passport was whisked away...

“Please”, Begged. “Please take care of my passport.”

She was hardly empathetic to my plight.

“You take care of my bike!” was her only response. Harsh!

Guess it seemed reasonable... and a fairly good trade, albeit temporary… but it was still very tough. I bid my passport adieu and rolled away.

My first stop of the day was Baan Dam Museum, commonly known in the area as the Black Temple. Having frequented many temples by this time, I almost skipped it... but decided against it after I'd read that it was a must-see in Chiang Mai.

"It's just another temple," I initially thought. "Probably pretty ordinary."

Apart from missing shimmering gold and vibrant colours... it was just another temple. ? Or was it?

There were no chedis, no prangs and no nagas... so maybe it wasn't really another temple afterall. As I entered the main building, I was struck with the indisputable difference. It was dark and somewhat dismal in its obscurity. Whereas the other temples had provoked a peaceful, thoughtful, almost pious feeling, this one emitted an almost creepy vibe.

It was as if a murky shadow loomed overhead.

If the White Temple represented heaven… there was only one counteractive representation for the Black Temple... and that was hell.

It was a true creation of darkness.

Some might judiciously describe the temple as being mysterious... but I found it to be much more on the dark and... satanic side. The entire temple was filled with taxidermied animal hides, horned furniture and blood-affiliated works of art. As grotesque and bizarre as it sounds, the artist even managed to turn crocodiles and snakes into tablecloths. I can't make this stuff up. It wasn't until after my visit that I learned the Black Museum prides itself on having the world’s largest collection of animal remains made into furniture and art installations.

Quite the accomplishment. 

Or not.

Ok... I will admit that it was artistic… if you're into dramatically drastic & dreary, deathly design. That particular style of 'art' was everywhere. The extraordinary exhibit of offbeat and outlandish was splattered all over the gholish grounds. Cow hides were hung and ornamented with depictions of skeletons, fire, bloodshed and death.

There was a lot of death.

I did try to take it at face value, appreciating the time and effort put into the creations. I tried desperately to appreciate the craftsmanship through the eyes of the master... but it was difficult.  Maybe it wasn’t necessarily designed to be seen as evil or frightening, but let’s just say... I wouldn’t want to be left here alone at night.

One minute, you were flooded with doom & gloom, and then the very next, it was almost futuristic. There were buildings that looked like large whales vats, George Jetson pods and spaceship shrines. 

Very unconventional meets very freaky.

"Dorothy, we’re definitely not at the White Temple anymore…"

I did wander around for quite some time, trying to make heads or tails of the place... but finally made the decision that I'd had enough.

You can watch my little video here ⬇️⬇️⬇️

I definitely needed something lighter. Something more bouyant.

Looking to clear my head and bring in a little more light to chase out the recent darkness, I headed into the mountains. It felt good to be out of the city... and into nature... putting along the highway with the wind in my hair.

Using the word, mountains, is funny to me. They are more like bumps. Tall bumps. That’s what they remind me of. Bumps. Entangled lush and lavish green overgrowth sprawled over the lumps and bumps of the luxuriant landscape. I know that doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.

Think; really green, tangled up hills..

I had my sights on Choui Fong, a highland tea plantation about 45 minutes north of Chiang Mai. I had seen some pictures of the area and was immediately drawn to it. Choi Fong is known for their assam, green, oolong and black tea. 

The views of the landscape were stunning. Row upon row of bright and tiny little forests, made up of short little trees. Apparently I wasn't the only one who had the idea of visiting this plantation, as the place was absolutely mobbed with tour buses and visitors.

I thought there would be some kind of plantation tour or tea talk or cultivation presentation, but I was wrong. It was nothing more than a gift store, two restaurants and some lovely vantage points. Had there not been so many tourists mulling about, I probably would have stayed and enjoyed a cup of tea, but I made the decision to jump on my moped and continue my northern exploration before it got dark.

I'm really not much of a tea fan anyway...

What a glorious day though. The sun was shining, the colours were electrifying and I stopped a million times to take photos.

I really didn't have a specific plan in mind as to my destination. I'd pinpointed a few places that sounded like they might be interesting, but had not defined a specific route for the day. I let the road be my guide and it certainly did not disappoint.

My adventure took me through flourishing farmlands, small villages, rice fields, dense jungle and lush valleys. At one point, I ended up on a very remote and quite hazardous road up through a mountainous region. The road was narrow, littered with potholes and quite winding the entire way up... but worth every ounce of hesitation. I was up above the clouds and the panoramic views at the top were breathtaking. 

I'm quite certain the locals were wondering, "Who the f*ck is this random lady?"

I just honked, waved and continued on my way!


I managed to get back into Chiang Rai just before 6pm. My intention had been to return the moped that evening, drop off the moped and retrieve my passport... but inner city traffic put a stop to that. The Saturday Walking Street Market was in full swing and transportation was getting exceedingly more and more difficult. I have no idea how many times I was detoured.

The market was enormous... and horrendously claustrophobic with the amount of locals and tourists that came out to browse, buy, dance, socialize and predominantly, eat. It was almost terrifying getting through the crowds.

I had saved up my appetite all day for this moment and the moment I arrived, I hit the street vendors, filling up my tummy with siu mai (pork & shrimp dim sum), kor moo yang (pork neck), miang kham (salad bites), Sai Ua (northern Thai sausage) and kanom kai nok krata (sweet potato balls). I’ll tell ya, there is no shortage of food in Thailand. No shortage at all.

I was quite proud of myself for stepping outside of my culinary comfort zone.

Speaking of culinary comfort... something detrimental ALMOST happened...

Heidi, Scotty and Toom had invited me out to join them for lunch. Toom had found a local place with terrific reviews, an affordable and local experience restaurant called Larb Sanam Keela.

Not to tarnish its reputation, but a mix-up occured and the servers started bringing copious amounts of the wrong food to our table. Normally this wouldn't be much of a complication at all. Toom was arranging everything on the table as it arrived, while simultaneously trying to explain to us what each dish was. She lifted up her spoon and took a small taste of one of the dishes to figure out which one it was.

Suddenly a wave of terror swept over her face. 

The mistake became evident as soon as Heidi recognized some arteries in one of the bowls.


Toom bolted behind the table and began to spit out the repulsive taste in her mouth.

We had been given Lou. หลู้

What is Lou?

Let me tell ya... fresh pig’s blood... and not just pig’s blood, RAW pig’s blood.

That's a bit too far out of my comfort zone. I draw the line at blood. Thank goodness I didn't dive in, as I originally thought it was a red curry and I HAD A SPOON IN MY HAND, ready to taste it. 

The thought of it...

It was... Hilarious. Awful. Disastrous. Disgusting... and of course, I made a video.

Our feast, once it arrived and was all properly on our table, and void of blood, was delightful.

But... beware... pig's blood soup is out there.

We compensated ourselves by visiting Chivit Thamma Da, a small family run British style café & bistro, located right on the banks of the Kok River. We sat out on the veranda, enjoying a couple fresh pies and delectable frappés until we were so stuffed it was hard to move.

The next day, before handing back my bike, I took a short jaunt out to visit Wat Huay Pla Kang: Goddess of Mercy Chiang Rai.

Help me… another temple.

Honestly, they’re everywhere. You can't avoid them. After this though, I am seriously taking a break.

Wat Huay Pla Kang is an enormous complex divided in three very impressive parts; 1. a massive goddess, and obviously the Goddess of Mercy, who overlooks the land, almost demanding devotion with her powerful presence, 2. the shimmering white Wat and 3. the dynamic and colourful pagoda. 

The entire place was pretty impressive... right down to the pink Hello Kitty transport bus.

Once you’ve seen all the temples and toured all the demonic museums, there’s really nothing much left to do besides get foot rubs.


And that's what I did... twice.

Maybe three times... but who's counting?

I was tempted to walk by the HappyNest and see how busy they were, but decided I didnt really care.. They got my money. Time to move on.

Time to move on to Laos...


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