I have an exciting announcement to make: I have discovered an actual, real-life, honest-to-goodness paradise in Thailand.
It wasn’t on any of the islands or beaches, or even in the jungles or cities.
My Thai paradise came in the form of a small lake about 25 minutes outside of Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand.
I had read about Huay Tung Tao before coming to Chiang Mai, and knew that I had to check it out. There aren’t all that many pictures of the lake online, but there were just enough positive reviews that I felt confident it was worth exploring.
I was not disappointed.
To get there, we rented motorbikes and
nearly died made our way through the city streets, out onto the open highway and down a quiet, empty road until we reached the gated entrance to the park. To enter, you’ll have to pay a small fee–only about 20 baht (60 cents in USD).
Once inside, you’re free to circle the lake and stop where you please. It’s a highly scenic and peaceful drive, and a safe place to test out your motorbiking skills. However, to get the true lake experience you’ll want to stop at one of the many lakeside huts where you can order food, relax, and enjoy the mountain and lake views.
Be warned: at the place we stopped, there was absolutely zero local understanding of English. I had assumed that the lake saw just enough foreign visitors that the Thai people working in the food huts would be able to accommodate taking an order in English, but this was not the case. Hopping off of my motorbike, I approached the food stand with a smile and said loudly and clearly “We would like to order food.” Cue the blank stares and confused glances.
I tried again. Pointing to the huts along the lake, I asked “Food?”
Luckily, this kind of worked. One of the younger guys pulled out a menu questioningly. I quickly nodded and smiled, and accepted the menu from him. I decided to take the simple route: garlic chicken, sticky rice, and a Coke.
We took our seats at one of the lakeside huts, which were mostly empty. There were two Thai men in one of the huts a few spots down from us, and a larger group of talkative, laughing Thais a bit farther away. Other than that, it was very secluded and ultra peaceful.
When our food came, I was surprised to see that my Coke actually came in the form of a 1-liter bottle. The food itself was pretty good–not the best I’d had in Thailand, but perfect considering the extremely cheap cost. We sat cross-legged at the table and ate our lunch in silence, listening to the wind moving across the water and the sound of the Thai people chatting in the other huts.
The view from the huts is incredible. The lake is encircled by trees and nearby mountains, and the huts add a unique Thai element to the scenery. This is definitely a place where I could see myself wasting away an afternoon, resting in the shaded hut and enjoying the proximity to nature.
Like clockwork, as soon as we finished our meal a group of small, sweet kitties that had been eyeing our food from afar hopped up into our hut and onto the table. I have a feeling that these cats are no strangers to eating leftovers here–and yes, I did sit back and take pictures of them instead of trying to stop them.
I tried to hold a few of them, but they really were not having that. You win some, you lose some.
When we had had our fill of lakeside relaxation, we headed back up towards the food stand to hop on our motorbikes and return to town. We decided to take the long route back to the park exit, by driving around the entire lake. It was during this drive that we came across two small black puppies running happily through the grass.
Yes, Huay Tung Tao has a peaceful lake, mountain views, cheap Thai food, almost no foreign tourist activity, and kittens and puppies running amok.
What did I tell you? Paradise.
Have you ever heard of or been to Huay Tung Tao lake? What does paradise look like to you?