The rice fields of Pa Pong Piang

The Ideal Season

How many times have I visited the northern regions of Thailand... always in March/April, due to the long school holidays that take place at that time, I've never had the opportunity to see beautiful green rice fields offering dreamy panoramas.

How many times have I asked myself the question: Thailand is one of the biggest rice producers in the world and I never see large, beautiful rice fields.

Obviously, like any crop, rice has its good times and it's up to the tourists to adapt and organise themselves, not the other way round. 

That's what I did this time. So I organised my trip across the country around the rice paddies, in too much of a hurry to discover them and to tell myself that you don't need to go to Bali to see this kind of landscape, even though I have excellent memories of my time in Bali.

The most visited, best-known and most beautiful site is Pa Pong Piang

To get there, take the road to Doi Inthanon. A few kilometres before the summit, a small winding road in very good condition leads to Mae Chaem.

Whether you're coming from Chiang Mai or the east, this is the road to take.

The small village at the foot of Doi Inthanon is called Mae Chaem, where we found a decent little bungalow.
From there, it's just a few kilometres to the rice fields.

This visit can also be made from Chiang Mai... the trip takes around 2:30 hours.

Coming from Kampaeng Phet (400km to the south) we decided to go straight to Mae Chaem. 
My GPS showed me the road leading to Doi Inthanon (Thailand's highest peak: 2500m), which we had visited a year earlier (you can see it here).  Doi Inthanon

Coming from the south of Kampaeng Phet, our route takes us almost to the summit of Doi Inthanon. A few kilometres from the summit, a fork in the road takes us on a small, winding mountain road in very good condition that will lead us to our bungalow.

Almost at the foot of the mountain, we've already discovered some superb spots where a photo stop was in order.

It's exactly the kind of view I'd been imagining for a long time and dreaming of discovering.

Arriving in Mae Chaem, we take possession of our bungalow booked for two nights, leaving us all day the next day to explore the area. Price of accommodation: 500THB/night or around €13/night.
They're not the most luxurious bungalows, but on the assumption that we'd only be sleeping there and wouldn't be spending much time there... it was the ideal solution for us. Everything was clean: shower with hot water, air-conditioning, clean sheets and all in a very pleasant, peaceful setting, on the edge of a local rice field, which already put us in the mood...

Behind our bungalow, this rice field whets our appetite for discovery.
Early in the morning, we leave our base camp. I scan the sky: it's cloudy but not threatening. The temperature is perfectly normal, around 33°C. I'm sure we'll have a fine day with sunny spells... which I really hope we do, because taking photos without the sun is never ideal.
On leaving Mae Chaem, the road is fine and in very good condition... but as we go on, the road becomes narrower and narrower and a little less well maintained...
At one point... I wondered whether my GPS was taking us into a completely abandoned and wild area, with perhaps some wild elephants...

Not being equipped with a 4x4 vehicle, I wondered in places if I was going to get stuck and in a bad way. I was reassured a little when I twice came across some quite ordinary old pick-ups with only two rear-wheel drive... so I said to myself: if they pass.... I'll pass too.

Finally, the last few kilometres to reach our goal were a bit of a 'rodeo' and seemed rather long... a classic case when you don't really know where the road is taking you......

Along the way, we were treated to a number of panoramic views.

We finally arrived at Pa Pong Piang... and in a second our eyes widened as we tried to make the most of every corner of this magnificent landscape. 

We'd already forgotten the stress caused by the road, which was quite chaotic in places and quite risky all the same...

Many local farmers' houses offer tourists the chance to stay overnight. Their idea is simple and practical: you pay a price per person that includes accommodation, a typical Thai meal in the evening and breakfast in the morning.

This time, I opted for a bungalow in the neighbouring village, but I think this solution must be pretty good because in the early morning with the sun rising at 5.30/6am... the views must be exceptional.... 

Give it a try next time.

At one point I came across a photographer and his model... They were obviously in the middle of a photo shoot, and the setting was ideal.
While we waited for these people to finish their photo session, we took our turn to memorise our arrival in this earthly paradise.
And then... I also had my photo taken...
Others, after us, have used these little wooden benches to photograph themselves...
And here are "my two ladies" enjoying these fantastic views.

For the first few minutes, it's not exactly easy to walk on these little raised paths that are no more than 25 cm wide. On either side, you have a small difference in level of 40 to 50 cm... this was not designed for tourists but simply to organise water irrigation. 
After a few minutes, we got the hang of it and moved on without any problems.

Here, a local house is offering visitors the chance to spend the night...
Before leaving this sublime place, we stop off at a small roadside stall... to taste a local tea, the famous Oolong tea...
The man where we drank Oolong tea was very friendly.

Mae Chaem Gate Restaurant

The first evening, we didn't really know where to go. Discovering a Thai village at night is not easy... then, the next day, taking a random path to discover more rice fields, we discovered this restaurant on the road to Doi Inthanon... the Mae Chaem Gate.

To our surprise, we met Jean-Luc (a Frenchman who moved here in 2018), and his wife. We stopped there for lunch, then returned in the evening and were not disappointed.

If you find yourself in Mae Chaem, don't hesitate to pay Jean-Luc a visit...

So much for this new adventure/discovery... it's a place that amazed me, that I loved, and as soon as possible I'll go back there to discover other equally beautiful places. Nature is so beautiful...