We survived the overnight sleeper train, and even managed to get some sleep – quite luxury really, they give you duvets and pillows, and even do an ‘at bunk’ beverage service. I write this to you now at the beginning of a long bus journey to Chiang Khong, from where we will cross the border into Laos later this evening. This bus is most certainly not prestigious (we managed to miss the earlier, more comfortable bus!), and I do not look forward to the number of hours ahead. It did however cost 250 baht (about £5) for a 6 hour journey, so one cannot complain! Pads is very much enjoying the onboard musical entertainment, for now at least.
So – Chiang Mai! The second stop on our journey. Not quite as crazy a city as Bangkok, but deceptively large nonetheless. Seemingly used as a hub for hundreds of different activities for tourists, activities within the city itself aren’t so extensive.
We did continue to visit some more Wats, the nicest of which were Wat Phra Singh, only a short walk from the hostel, and Wat Chedi Luang.
After an afternoon of wandering the old city within the city walls,and taking in the atmosphere, we headed out for dinner and to visit Chiang Mai’s main attraction – the night market.
We dined at another spot recommended by our travel guide, called Riverside. Not the greatest food we’ve had so far, but the location is a beautiful spot on the riverbank (surprisingly!) where you can relax and watch the sunset over the mountains.
The night market was only a short walk away, and made up of hundreds of stalls to peruse, where you can easily find yourself quite lost, and a few hundred baht down very quickly. Similarly to most markets, the items for purchase did become quite repetitive quite quickly, but that does have the benefit of making bartering easier as the competition is so fierce. Definitely a good spot to pick up some random gifts to take back home (if you don’t have another 3 weeks to carry them in your backpack…). We did however purchase 3 pairs of elephant pants in the brightest colour we could find, and I found myself a kaftan (for a mere 100 baht – £2!) to use as a cover up in Wats. As knees and shoulders must be covered, it was becoming a bit much in the heat taking trousers and cardigans on and off! A trip to the market is definitely recommended for anyone visiting, and would also be a great spot to find something to eat, or enjoy a few beers on bales of hay.
Our second day was spent on an epic kayaking trip, with a company recommended through the hostel. After a serious briefing and lesson on how to kayak, we were driven about an hour north, where we began our mission. The river begins with fairly little to see, but our guide put us through our paces, with us performing 360s with style very quickly (naturally, I was a pro!) soon after we found ourselves in the midst of the jungle. The only wildlife sighting was some water buffalo, and an array of random brightly coloured birds, but it is an incredible experience to be surrounded by the sounds of the jungle, and it’s easy to forget to keep paddling when there’s so much around you to see. The day finished with a delicious lunch at a little restaurant on a mango farm, and we were then taken back to Chiang Mai more than ready to dry off after all of the tropical downpours! The only disappointment was that we weren’t told when booking that there were waterproof cameras to borrow (with your own sd card), and clear waterproof bags available to put phones and cameras in, so we didn’t get any photos of our adventure. Our new American friends from the trip did kindly take some for us though! Look how adorable I look in a life jacket – quite the fashionista!
Our downgrade from hotel to hostel turned out to be worthwhile, and this time we stayed in the Green Tulip Hostel, located in the old city. We had a twin room which was very clean, basic, with reasonably comfy beds. The hostel itself is almost brand new, and every wall/door/window frame is painted in a different bright colour, a very cheerful sight!
(On a side note by the way, I have been brought water AND snacks, and the views from the bus of the forest and the mountains are stunning! It’s a shame the tiny Thai man next to me is asleep and missing it all. English buses are clearly in need of improvement!)
We had a basic breakfast each morning of toast, coffee and juice, but chose to add omelettes for only 40 baht (80p) to fire ourselves up for the day. The staff were super friendly (and slightly eccentric), particularly the female owner who immediately remembered our names, and always gave us a very warm greeting when she saw us. She helped us with anything we needed, and was more than happy to run and flag us down songthaew (charming red taxi buses – much more spacious than tuk tuks!) when we needed one. Another one to recommend – perhaps a little far from the bus and train stations, but this isn’t an issue when transport is so accessible.
Our last night we ate at Dash!, another recommendation from back home, which was absolutely delicious. We sat on a little table on cushions, and took in the atmosphere over a Chiang Mai iced tea, and kow soi – my new favourite Thai dish! Another amazing value meal – approx 500 baht (£10) each. It does seem difficult to find a poor, expensive place to eat here!
And so here we are, on our way again. The road ahead is to become a river, as the next two days will be spent cruising down the Mekong river in the second country of the trip. All these new places, such fun!
Let’s hope the Mosquitos in Laos don’t like me as much as the ones in Thailand…
With kindest regards,