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Only a consonant in the difference, but a world apart.

From Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

sunny 33 °C

Yesterday was our last day in Chiang Mai. We promised the kids we'd take them to the zoo and so we did. It was surprisingly devoid of tourists which was a nice surprise. Not content with one Giant Panda, Chiang Mai zoo has three of them. They must be a dysfunctional family as the three of them (Mum, Dad and daughter) have separate enclosures. Along with the pandas we got to see a plethora of other animals, everything from a jaguar to a wild boar. If you're a kid it beats being dragged to a temple, which funnily enough is exactly what we did to them following the zoo.

Chiang Mai is famous for the Buddhist temple at the summit of Doi Suthep. It's quite a jaunt to the summit and when you reach the top there's still a few hundred steps to climb before you reach the temple itself. If you think of the biblical tale where Jesus drives the merchants from the temple, well by jiminy, he'd have his work cut out getting rid of all the traders around this one. They're all over the place flogging everything from roasted corn to hand-carved soaps. While myself, Joe and Rosie checked out the inner sanctum the rest of the family watched the Muay Thai boxing on the T.V. in the waiting area outside.

This morning we took the express bus to Chiang Rai. Whilst waiting on the bus I decided to go for a smoke outside. There were 'No Smoking' signs everywhere but a Buddhist monk beckoned me over and both of us sparked up. In these here parts you're safe enough with a monk on your side. The journey to Chiang Rai was pretty uneventful save for when we nearly alighted at Chiang Rai Bus Station Terminal 2. The driver seemed disinclined to tell us that we were still about 20km from our actual destination - Terminal 1. Nevertheless we've made it here. There's a small-town feel about the place. Think Ballina or Drogheda in 33degree heat. Our accomodation is more An Oige youth hostel than five star hotel, but its clean and functional and serves our purpose. In any case, we're heading for Laos the day after tomorrow.


Posted by goldenmaverick 08:10 Archived in Thailand Tagged zoo chiang doi suthep rai Comments (0)

It's not grim up North

In fact its bloody delightful

sunny 30 °C

Yesterday we took a long boat through the side canals of Bangkok. It was incredible. Its cheaper to build your house on stilts in the water than to do so on land so a hell of a lot of people live on the waters edge. Our guide brought us around for an hour or so and in that hour she told me who lived where, how old the king was etc. More interesting was the obvious desolation that last Octobers floods had caused. The water rose to a level two meters higher than usual and the damage was pretty obvious to see. Being practical and poor everyone just moved upstairs (if they had one) and got on with it. If you didn't have an upstairs then I guess you stayed wet for a couple of months.The guide pointed out a water monitor (a kind of asian crocodile) and said that seeing one is good luck. Then I saw three more. I must be the luckiest man alive. We were also brought to feed the fish outside the temples. Hundreds of catfish swarming around the boat. Wen you move a hundred metres away from the temple there's a load of poor people trying to catch the fat fish.

Last night we boarded the overnight train to Chiang Mai. Whatever romantic notions we had of it were quickly dispelled. I sat down and the bugs started to bite at my feet.The on-board buffet car guys began an immediate hard-sell of their culinary selection. The 'special express' then moved at a snails pace until six o'clock this morning when everyone had to change to waiting buses. Unfortunately for all concerned there had been a landslide on the track due to heavy rains. We were moved on board buses at a train station about 200 km from Chiang Mai. Due to the kindness and foresight of a Thai man, he ushered us to the front of the queue, whereupon we were put into the downstairs VIP section of what could only be described as a disco bus. Alongside us was a monk and a couple of other travellers. The coach took about four hours to get to Chaing Mai as it only seemed to have two gears, the going up a hill slowly gear, and the going down a hill fast gear.

We arrived in Chiang Mai around lunchtime and despite not knowing where we our lodgings were we still managed to be there about ten minutes after we landed. This time, another Thai guy, hopped out at the station and googled our lodgings address. Into a red taxi and in ten minutes we were there. Nice one. Popped out for a stroll in the dead heat and had some nice Burmese stew for lunch. Fallon & Byrne it ain't but it was top quality stuff

I'm off to pick up the washing from a little shop down the road. I went in to buy some mosquito coils and ended up going back to use their coin-operated machines. Chiang Mai rocks, thus far.



Posted by goldenmaverick 03:54 Archived in Thailand Tagged canals water train chiang mai burmese long-boat stew monitors Comments (5)

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