Choice Chiang Rai

Trip Start Dec 30, 2006
Trip End Mar 15, 2007

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Swaaasssseeeee Krrraaaaapppppp

(this is a longish one by my standards)

Thats (phonetically by my understanding) how you greet people in Thai. You have to say the second word for a little bit longer than the first word. The first one is 'hello' and the second one you say if you are a male or female (Kaaaaaaaaaaa) or you can be done with the first word and just use the second. So, welcome to Chiang Rai and the northern part of Thailand.

We've actually been up this way for almost a week. After the 'V.I.P' bus trip to Bangkok (not sure the Thai's understand what V.I.P stands for, they may think its Very Ignorant Person - we had no leg room for 6 hours, and then they put on 'Snakes on the Plane' which is the worst movie I have ever seen. I'm not going let the secret out of the bag with regard to the plot, but perhaps if you don't already know you should re-read the title a few times) we arrived. After some fluke, I ran into Kat and the Aussie/Irish team were once again reunited after some weeks of separation. It was great to see those two and hopefully we'll see them before they head on the beach.

We flew up to Chiang Rai on the 9th and stayed two nights. Chiang Rai gives the impression of being a small country town in rural Australia. With wide streets, wide footpaths and large shop verandahs, it feels like you could be in downtown Kyabram with a large Asian population rather than Thailand. We really liked it here. It is also pretty chilled out, to the point where speaking in whispers at night seems to be too loud. They have a great night market here and we wandered around that before dinner. It is also here that you can do treks into the local mountains and see local tribes, elephant, hot springs, etc etc. We opted not to do this, instead we packed a little backpack and headed off on our own trek for a few days.

We started in Chiang Khong, the border town with Laos. Its here we saw the Mekong once more after a few weeks. We were for the night, with comprised of dinner and Dodgeball the movie, which gave me enough ammunition to keep myself amused for the next few days with funny recounts from that great film. Next was Chiang Saen, and the Golden Triangle. Its here that the Mekong spilts Thailand, Laos and Burma and also here that opium was/is grown for about 400 years (Thailand has rubbed out its part, mind you). More of a tourist trap than a historical point, it was good to see and we said our fond farewells to the mighty Mekong as it snaked its way into China. We headed then for Mae Sai, Thailand's northern most town and also its link with Burma. This place is one big market, and you can get anything from jewellry to hand guns (fake I'm sure). We were on the river here, and whilst it was pretty hot by day, at night it cooled down to a pleasant temp.

The following day, we local bussed it to the main highways intersection with the road to Mae Salong. High up in the mountains, a village stood that was settled by Chinese forces escaping their country in the 1950s. So Mae Salong has an interesting mix of local tribes, Thai and Chinese culture, they also grow tea. Making the last 30 odd km was tough though, as you had to rent a pick-up at extortionate rates to take you, stay the night at the intersection or find someone. I found the third option, and after some seriously steep inclines, more twists and turns than a political apology and 45 minutes later, we arrived. It was a real find, a lovely spot. We went for a pretty ambitous walk to the local Wat, whilst the view was impressive, we should have taken the stairs not the road and relaxed with a well earned Chiang Beer and a Panang Curry and fried rice rounded off with some green tea.

The following morning, we took off once again for Tha Thong, where we would get the boat back up the river to Chiang Rai and the circle would be complete. The pick-up took 1 and a half hours, but was ok. In TT, we spoke to a Monk from Brazil, Teresa met some of the local tribes-women and we wandered around the local Wat. The boat left at 12:30 and took 4 hours. What a way to spend 4 hours though, snaking our way back to CR, we came across villages and stopped to check out the local wildlife - thank the lord those snakes were in cages. One boa constrictor was 10m long and 120kgs!!!! Needless to say I needed a new pair of shorts after seeing that. We also saw some elephants and a monkey.

Back into Chiang Rai, and we're off to Chiang Mai tomorrow.

Hope all is well at your end. Till the next installment.

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