“It will only be a 20 minute walk…” I did the math in my head, and it didn’t quite add up, but I started walking towards Chiang Dao Nest anyway.
We had refused the first offer of a taxi at the bus station (assuming that a taxi man that was preying on the Farangs (a special Thai word for Western Foreigners) getting off of the bus in a foreign town was probably charging us too much) leaving us to fend for ourselves and start working our way towards our accommodations (for which I had no useful information about the location other than the fact that I thought that it might be near the caves.)
The air was warm and we walked past groups of huts and primitive local restaurants. Periodically, we saw a sign that told us that we were on the right path towards our accommodations. We could see dramatic mountain vistas ahead of us and on our left, which became more dramatic as we got closer, making us near giddy with excitement that we had gotten ourselves to such an incredible paradise. Is it really possible that we had left the hustle and bustle and dirty of streets of Bangkok just that morning and could be in such a beautiful place by lunchtime?
Finally, we had arrived at Chiang Dao Nest, a mini resort that had received great reviews on both Tripadvisor.com and from our car driver who had taken us from the airport in Chiang Mai to the bus station and had told us that he goes there frequently and that it was lovely.
Our room was not finished yet, so we sat down to a lovely lunch at the Thai restaurant at Chiang Dao Nest II (Chiang Dao Nest I is just down the road and has a lovely European restaurant.) Once our room was clean, we were given a ride down to Nest I, where we were welcomed and given a map of the area (with enthusiastic explanations of the nearby sights).
Our bungalow was beautiful, the view from my bed of the mountains outside incomparable. We particularly enjoyed the small basket of fresh local oranges and bananas that was in our room upon arrival.
The staff at Chiang Dao Nest are immensely welcoming and helpful, and you can truly tell that they enjoy their jobs. While both Nest I and Nest II are beautiful, I felt that the staff at Nest I went above and beyond to make our stay enjoyable (so much that even though we were staying at Nest II for our second and third nights, we still walked to Nest I for breakfast and to relax during the day.)
They arranged an incredible couples Thai massage for us in their private massage pavilion by the pool (and while it certainly cost more than a Thai massage in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, it was still cheap by western standards for a two hour massage with Thai herbal compresses and the setting couldn’t be beat.)
Just a side note about the quality of the food-as I was sitting here writing this, I just saw some of the Nest employees picking fruit from a nearby tree to replenish the fruit that had been eaten at breakfast.
The rooms were extremely reasonably priced for the level of service received, but the restaurants are not in a budget backpackers price range. The restaurants had great food but we felt that they were pretty expensive by Thai standards (Chiang Dao Nest seems to cater to western tourists, as one of its owners is from the UK, and the prices reflect this.)
We still found ourselves eating most meals here because of convenience, but there are other restaurants at other small bungalow operations nearby that only explored a little. The price came as a bit of a shock after getting by so cheaply on street food in and around Bangkok.
The Nest is about a 300 baht taxi or songthaew ride outside of Chiang Dao, so one could also venture into town for lunch or dinner.)
So, in short, I have decided that this is heaven on Earth and that it might possibly be one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been. I will make a bold statement and say that no trip to Thailand should be without visiting this quiet, relaxing, out of the way retreat.
TIP: Try to plan your stay at Chiang Dao Nest over a Thursday, as this is barbecue night. Both restaurants are closed, but no one will be in want for sustenance as the Chiang Dao Nest staff puts together an incredible barbecue with many different varieties of skewered meats and grilled vegetables as well as incredible sides.