How to Navigate the Vicious Soi Dogs of Chiang Dao
Updated: Jan 21, 2020
This story is a cautionary tale about why you should always read the reviews, people!
In Northern Thailand, I randomly stumbled across the website for Chiang Dao Nest 1 and 2 whilst deciding to make a side trip from Chiang Mai to either Pai or Mae Hong Son.
Pai seemed like a cute little grungy town, but over-touristed even by Thailand's standard. I kept imagining Digital Nomad Hubs co-existing with Hippie Drum Circles (There is a circus school there, for context) and it just felt all too much for me.
Mae Hong Son seemed like an excellent gateway to explore remote Hill Tribes and to support their industries by buying unique handicrafts, but the journey by public transportation seemed a bit convoluted.
So, after reading about these cute little cabins in Chiang Dao nestled in the mountainside with renowned restaurants serving high-end Thai and European food, I made a spontaneous decision to visit there instead, and stay at the Nest for two days of clean air, rest, and cave exploring, as the region is known for its Buddhist temples subterraneously located.
After securing my booking and researching the sights in town, I came across a link to the reviews section for Chiang Dao Nest on Trip Advisor. They started innocuously enough, glowing reports of the excellent food, extensive wine selection (a rarity in Thailand), and how amazing the grounds were.
I kept perusing the reviews trying to ascertain whether to change my reservation from Nest 1 to Nest 2 when I came upon a report from a lady who had encountered nasty Soi (street) dogs. These dogs were so aggressive they held her hostage in front of the entrance to the road leading to Nest 1, and she had to hitch a ride with a stranger to get through. A guy responded to her post with the advice to ask the hotel for a walking stick to keep them at bay!
I am not a fan of stray dogs after being bitten by one in my youth. So, thank you, Universe, for providing me with this information. Now I know what tools I needed to survive my stay in Chiang Dao! I hope my story will continue to spread the word because you do not want to be caught unawares by these aggressive beasts!
After a relatively uneventful local bus ride for 1.5 hours costing .40 baht, we arrived in Chiang Dao town, and I took a Songthaew (local truck) to my final destination at the Nest. While waiting for my room to be ready, I ate a most delicious lunch and began the check-in -in process. I was led to my accommodation, a delightful little cabin on the outskirts of the property by the lovely manager Sang.
Oh Sh*t, I almost forgot, "Wait," I asked Sang. "Do you have a stick? You know, a dog deterring stick?" With a slight smirk, he handed me a polished piece of bamboo and an adorable hand-drawn map of all the sights, with streets that were labeled ‘pretty street,’ and ‘mean dog.’
Ah ha, I know where to avoid, I thought as I put the map in my pocket and promptly forgot all about it.
With my newfound courage, I set out to enjoy my new hood.
Nest 1 is the original, with 14 cabins, a pool and an award-winning restaurant serving European fare, located amidst towering teak trees. Nest 2 has fewer cabins and has a more open grounds plan, affording you magnificent sweeping vistas of Doi Luong, the 3rd tallest peak in all of Thailand. Also featuring a delicious restaurant, serving elegant renditions of traditional Thai foods.
My first day of exploring was pretty uneventful, so encouraged, day 2 I geared up for more remote walks climbing across cool trees and taking in the fantastic views all around. My ambles led me to an alley that I could tell was a shortcut from the main street to the other side. What could go wrong?
The passageway was very serene, with chirping birds and locals quietly working in their gardens as I meandered through. There was even a cute doggo sleeping peacefully behind a fence.
CRUNCH, was the noise I made while stepping on a fallen leaf, though it could have been a bomb blast the reactions it engendered. Said sleeping dog jolted awake, let off a piercing shriek of alarm and to my dismay 4 canine beasts of varying breeds hurtled towards me, barking their displeasure.
The awesome power of the dog deterring stick was wielded as I banged it on the ground. The sound that silenced a thousand dogs! I never would have imagined that a simple tap to the ground with this 5 ft tall skinny stick of bamboo would be enough to stop a large dog in its track, but it worked like a charm. For about two seconds anyway, as the willful animals began snarling and advancing again.
Ever so slowly I began backing away, making good use of my street smarts growing up in the mean streets of 1970's Harlem:
(1)Never Turn Your Back on an Aggressive Dog.
(2)Retreat Slowly and Calmly.
(3) Do Not Run!
But, the dogs were still advancing, and I was quite far from the main road. The stick had lost its initial shock and awe power, so I did what I had to do, to show them who was the bad-est bitch in town.
Facing the biggest dog, with walking stick raised high, I uttered a deep dog-like growl and lunged towards them, with a sudden motion. The element of surprise really worked in my favor. Startled, the dogs jumped backward and looked at me in stunned silence. I used what felt like 60 seconds but was indeed just a moment, to back further away from them, so that by the time they recovered from their shock, I was almost at the main road. At this point, they wisely decided I was too much trouble to fuck with, and they did not advance any further, so I took this appropriate moment to capture their angst for my Instagram stories.
As I passed a few of the houses along the alley, I noted that the same locals who were working in their yards had been quietly watching the whole time. I began to wonder if locals purposely trained the dogs to be aggressive towards strangers. Maybe there was some unspoken pact with the locals to figure out ways to offset the tourist growth happening all over Thailand by making this place inhospitable in any way they can?
The dogs were more active during dawn and dusk, and honestly, most were just curious. But enough were vicious that it was frankly surprising that nothing has been down to curtail their aggression. In some parts of the town, there were a few signs warning tourists of the dog perils, but as they roam freely, the signage doesn't really restrict where the dogs spend their time.
Anyway, get a walking stick if you are planning to visit Chiang Dao, and you are good to go.