Now that the price of petrol is still reasonable, it’s a good time to get away from the city and take a drive to see the beautiful scenery both natural and manmade in northern Thailand. Our suggestion is a one day trip or if you have time you can stay overnight in at a national park.
Leave the city of Chiangmai after your breakfast and keep driving on Route 107 until you see Km.18 before the coming curve, turn left toward Wat Chedi Sathaan (วั"เจ"ีย์ส-าน), if not, turn left later at Rim Nua market 50 meters away.
Mural Paintings of Rural Life at Wat Nohng Guy (วั"หนองก๋าย)
Two kilometers away to the local road, Rte. 3010, and keep going toward north until Km 16 at Wat San Pateung (วั"สันป่าตึง) and turn left. Now the village road is even narrower than Route 3010. Two kilometers later, it is Wat Nohng Guy with its interesting mural paintings of rural life. The colorful mural panorama depicting village lifestyle from how the villagers celebrate holidays, construct new building in the temple grounds and even how the men make moonshine is very amusing and charming. It was good foresight the abbot has encased the long mural in wide glass wall to protect from the elements. The next stop will be 17 kilometers away, up and down through isolated area in the forest. Anyone, who loves nature, will not be disappointed. Your destination is now the Temple of Four Buddhas’ Footprints (Pra Buddhabaat Zee Roy = พระพุทธบาทสี่รอย).
The Legend of The Four Buddhas’ Footprints
Past generations believed, the Lord Buddha Gotama along with his followers traveled to spread the Dhamma philosophy through the region of present-day northern Thailand. Once he arrived at the mountain top of “Verabhanpote”, he discovered through his transcendent vision or perception that the three previous Buddhas before his time, namely, Buddha Gooksantha, Buddha Gonakomna and Buddha Gassapa visited here. It was obvious that the footprints of three Buddhas from different times had accumulated altogether on the boulder. Buddha Gotama decided to add his own footprint which is visible at the present time, thus, known as “Four Buddhas’ Footprints” A prediction was made by Buddha Gotama that the next Buddha, named Buddha Pra Sri Ariya Mettrai, in the future will come here, erase the previous footprints and put the future Buddha’s footprint in place. At the time, Buddha Gotama was about to leave the mountain top, he wished that a group of divinity would carry his relics to the spot of the four footprints. The discovery of this place was yet to be 2,000 years after he reached Nirvana.
Two thousand years later, the group of divinity transformed physically into eagles that flew down to the village nearby the mountain top of Verabhanpote. The eagles tried to frighten not only the chickens that belonged to villagers but an animal hunter. The eagles flew back to the mountain top meanwhile the angry hunter became berserk and followed the eagles to the top of mountain. Right there, he discovered the four footprints. He came down to the village announcing the phenomenon. All the villagers paid respect and prayed at the four footprints since then. The villagers named the respected site as “Buddha Footprint of Rung Roong” (Rung means nest, and Roong means eagles)
The story spread around and some how reached King Mengrai (พระเจ้าเม็งราย) of Chiang Mai who made the trip along with his queen and aides. Thus, a tradition began that every king who ruled Chiang Mai must visit and pay respect to the Four Buddhas’ Footprints. Until 1928, Princess Dara Rasmee (เจ้า"ารา รัศมี), the consort of King Chulalongkorn, made the visit and built a wiharn (Chaple) over the footprint. In the following years, Pra Kruba Sriwichai, the revered Buddhist pilgrim of northern Thailand visited and, later, renovated the place so that it would be in appropriate respectful condition.
Again in 1993, the renovation was made during the life of Pra Kruba Pornchai who led a group of 11 monks and novices. The temple has been continuously developed and new facilities built. The latest phase was finished in time for the 50th Golden Jubilee Celebration of the King in June 1996.
The Disintegrating Mural Heritage of Wat Tha Khaam (วั"ท่าข้าม)
After leaving the Buddha Baat Zee Roy, you will approach the Wat Tha Khaam near the Km 26 marker. You will see a sizable construction project going on to complete the Ubosote. It’s a pity about the aged building left to deteriorate and inside are the forgotten ancient murals that are now beyond repair. This is an example of Buddhism that teaches nothing here on earth is permanent and the fragile murals will soon be a memory to a very few who took the time to visit the remote temple such as the editors of this magazine.
We drove further for another 2 kms to the main road, or, route 1095 (Mae Malai_Pai_Mae Hong Sorn) climbing up and down curving pavement cutting through natural wooded scenic views and small communities on both sides of the road. Once we approached Km 42, there was a big sign indicating Pong Duad Hot Springs on the right and we drove another 6.5 kms on a narrow curved road in the shady jungle. As a matter of fact, this hot spring is the beginning of the southern area of Huay Naam Dang National Park (อุทยานแห่งชาติห้วยน้ำ"ัง) that covers the western area of Mae Taeng District in Chiang Mai and the eastern area of Pai District in Mae Hong Sorn.
The Pong Duaed (โป่งเ"ือ") Forest Geyser
Pong Duaed Geyser also known as Pa Pae Hot Spring (น้ำพุร้อนป่าแป๊ะ) is a powerful forest geyser that spurts up from underground at a temperature of 99C and the height reaches almost two meters high. The spring’s geysers themselves are in the middle of a forested area, high up on the north face of a mountain. It has the distinction of being the highest hot spring in Thailand. The boiling hot water flows through the forest creating clouds of steam in the woodland. There is an in tense smell of sulfur in the vicinity of the hot springs as the surrounding dense forrest cuts down the strength of the wind. Its natural properties are good for the skin’s complexion and there is a mineral bath (50/20 Baht adult/child) to soak all the road weariness away and there is local Thai traditional massage service available.
From the parking area, it’s a 2- minute walk to the boiling cauldrons. The water jumps continuously, half meter high. You can bet it’s hot! Boiling Hot! The water then starts flowing downhill. A path follows the river downhill for about 15 meters ending at a bridge near the mineral bath area. You can use the river for soaking (for free) before the bridge, bit it is still very hot. For a small amount (20 Baht) you can use the public pools. Inside the private cubicles one can bathe ‘au naturale” inside four concrete walls. Better though are the outside pools, you have a beautiful views and the baths are huge, the water is hot enough, but not always a private.
Another highlight is the Pong Duad Nature (เส้นทาง ธรรมชาติ) Trail, which covers a distance of 1,550 meters. It’s best to call before your arrival at 053-229636 for information about the walk. Some may find the local spa irresistible so accommodations are available right next door. Each of the eight bungalows can accommodate four people at a cost 3,000 Baht per night.We did not stay overnight and drove back to the city that late afternoon. Not far from the exit of the park was a sign offering hot coffee. Because it was a long drive back to Chiangmai, we stopped and enjoyed hot coffee and snacks on an open air bamboo terrace facing the valley. We lingered enjoying the fresh air, sunset and cool breeze. Soon the stars appeared in the dark sky and with candles lighting the table we had a meal with steamed rice. During the drive back to Chiangmai, we fondly spoke of the sights we saw. We are looking forward to returning to Pong Duaed hot spring again soon with friends.
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