After getting back into the civilisation of Chiang Mai, we had a nice last night there meeting up with a couple of fellow ex tattoo residents, Shany and Jenny. The following day, like proper backpackers, we headed off with nothing booked and made our way to Chiang Rai, nearer the Laos border. The bus was surprisingly on time, and after 3 hours we were in the town, where we found a nice guesthouse near the centre.
If Chiang Mai was a breath of fresh air compared to Bangkok, Chiang Rai is the same again to CM. Every other building in CM is a tour office or western restaurant, and while it was nice, CR feels a lot more relaxed. We went to the night bazaar on the first night, which was a much more pleasant experience compared to the miles long packed intensity of the CM night market. We had some excellent, and cheap, street food and then watched a hilariously bad show of miming and ’dancing’.
The following day we visited the (in)famous White Temple, a bizarre building apparently designed to make Buddhism more relevant to young people. It’s still being constructed, but you walk around most of it and it is really weird – bright white, with mirrored glass mosaic’d onto all the walls. There are some pretty gaudy statues outside along a bridge, and inside the walls are painted with a mix of Buddhist and modern images, including superheroes, Star Wars and 9/11. It was a few KM outside the city, but fortunately the local bus was easy to take there – worth a visit but I’m glad we didn’t pay any money for a tour!
Later that day we visited the Hill Tribe Museum, which was a really interesting place and gave a lot of good insights into the people who in around the jungles and mountains.
We are planning to head into Laos tomorrow, but decided to spend a last couple of nights in the jungle before leaving Thailand. Law found us an amazing place outside CR called the Bamboo Nest, and we relaxed there with no internet, electricity or roads!
We trekked an hour or so to a nearby waterfall, via a small village where we finally succumbed and bought some handmade bracelets (the Museum in CR told us this was okay…). It was beautiful there, and especially nice being able to hike around on our own without a guide, and to lie in a hammock overlooking rice paddies.
We are currently in Chiang Khong, looking over the river at Huay Xai in Laos. Tomorrow we attempt the border crossing, and possibly could have timed things better… A bridge over the river opened today (11 Dec), and apparently this is the way we now have to cross. What used to be a simple 5 minute, 40 Baht boat ride, now seems to be a 10km trip over the bridge. We will be amongst the first tourists to cross it tomorrow, so there is no set amount for Songthaews (minibus like things), with no way of knowing whether or not we will make it to the town in order to catch the slow boat down the Mekong. Exciting times (maybe) ahead!