Buses, long tails and numb bums...

Trip Start Oct 14, 2012
Trip End Mar 11, 2013

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Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Rai,
Sunday, October 28, 2012

We were up early today to make our way to Chiang Rai before heading on into Laos. Waving goodbye to Dao mountain, we caught our Sawngthaau to the bus station, driven by self advertiser Thon - he asked us to rate him on TripAdvisor! JUST missed the 8ish bus to Tha Thon but fear not...it gave me time to investigate the Chinese steamed bun stall - good breakfast!

Unfortunately catching the bus from this point means everyone is already on it, so when it arrived, it was completely packed. we resided to the fact that we were going to have to stand for 2.5hours(!) but then a sweet thai girl tapped Beth and squeezed over to make room for her to sit on the seat which already looked to have enough people on! The lady in the seat behind did the same for me but mine actually had two adults and a child on already, in what looked like space for two English fellas. Beth's third person soon got off so she got some extra space but I on the other hand, spent the next 2 hours with this lady jabbing her elbow into me as she clasped hold of her infant, all the while also being the only one out of all 4 of us making sure we didn't slide off the seat on every corner up the mountain! My buttocks were screaming by the end!

We arrived at thaton shortly after 11am and headed across to the bridge to start the next part of our days' travelling adventure - 4 hours on a long tail boat heading down the Mae Nam Kok river. Now Beth was less than enthusiastic to say the least. And to be honest, once I saw the tiny wooden boat along with how many people were getting on it (including all their luggage and 2bikes!) even I was a little sceptical about the decision.. However, it was exhilarating! And scenic..a great way to see the sparse areas around part of northern Thailand. Along the way there were some small rapids, water buffalo, cows, fisherman, lush fields, whilst all the way having the wind whipping our cheeks and the constant backdrop of stunning mountains. The conclusion was that is was worth the numb bum...but only just! It really was very uncomfortable.

We were both fairly relieved to arrive in Chiang Rai and jumped on a Sawngthaau to head to 'Ben guesthouse'. It was a little out of town but had to be done...this Ben chap was bound to have an impeccable abode to offer us. Despite not pre-booking, we were jammy enough to take the one final remaining available room. Phew! We were also informed on check-in that due to it being a sunday, the restaurant was closed in the evening but it just so happened that the night market was just a two minute stroll from the guesthouse -result!

Now 'Ben' had been kind enough to include a pool at this place too so we had a quick dip to cool off (trying to ignore the swarm of slightly mental Thai kiddies in the shallow end) before getting ready and heading to the night market.

Wow - what a night! This was a real highlight in our travels so far. The market was fantastic and huge and full of music and dancing and not a single other westerner in sight! All just Thai people shopping, mingling, eating and enjoying themselves. We had the most exquisite dim sum from one of the street vendors before heading into the unknown for a very bizarre dinner. From the street we had spotted all these tables with what appeared to be metal domed BBQ griddles with poker red hot coals underneath them. So in we trundled and started the very odd experience. What transpired (after a little bit of 'show and tell' from the waitress - no one spoke english!) was that you paid a fixed amount to have an all you can eat buffet, which you cook on your table of one of these cookers. You fry off your meat/fish/squid on the top and then pour boiling water into the lip around the edge to boil your noodles and veg. It was brilliant fun! Although we had no clue what we were eating and truth be told, some of the stuff was utterly disgusting, but it was such a superb experience and we really started to get the hang of it by the end. After sufficiently filling our bellies we headed home (stopping off for obligatory freshly cooked waffles with banana and chocolate, along the way).
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