Bangkok to Chang Mai
I checked out of the hotel this morning after breakfast, then took my luggage with Nat at the Stray office before heading out for some sightseeing, this time to visit the Giant Swing, which has an interesting story behind it, apparently in the past a ceremony was held where people would swing, trying to grab a bag of gold coins placed high on one of the pillars.. I then met with Oggy and we took his luggage to the Stray office before having a late lunch.
We met the rest of the group at 15:00 before heading to Hua Lamphong, the train station to catch the sleeper train to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. This time around, the original group was quite small, apart from Oggy and I, there were Simon & Kamilla, a couple from Denmark, Sanne, a Dutch girl and our Lao tour leader Chao, and Beet, a Thai girl who was our local guide for the first leg of the tour.
The train service was very efficient and clean, and shortly after leaving Bangkok an attendant went around converting the seating into reasonable comfortable beds, the motion of the train was not unlike what I experienced at sea, although the noise level required earplugs, and that they didn’t dim the lights during the night meant that I didn’t get very much sleep on the way to ……
We arrived around 08:00 and boarded a modern-day ‘Jeepny’ to take us to our accommodation, the Hugner Hostel, as I had booked a single room option, I was allocated a single room which was very nice in a funky sort of way, all polished concrete on the walls and floor, but the bed looked comfortable and there was a good shower which I made good use of when I arrived.
I discovered that the city loves street art and that there was plenty around, *which can be seen in the Street Art Around the World section of the site) I also discovered a company offering a bicycle tour, so off I headed to their shop, only to be disappointed when told that they weren’t running one that day. Not to be downhearted, I found a map showing where most of it was and headed out on a search after lunch, this took me to some interesting parts of the city, I even found a shop run by one of the artists so I bought a nice sticker for my suitcase.
On my return to the hotel, I met up with Oggy and we went down to the market for his lunch, it looked so good I had one too (my second lunch of the day!), we then returned to the hotel to met up with the others for a beer.
In the evening, after a good dinner in a local family-run restaurant we headed to the boxing area to watch the Thai Boxing matches, it was a fun and interesting evening, but a bit strange to see the 8-10-year-old boys boxing.
A fun-filled day today, after a morning stroll around the market, Oggy and I were collected and we had a long journey in a Tuk-tuk, to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. We had great fun feeding, giving them mud baths and allowing them to play around in a river pool. We met with the rest of the group and we went for a meal in a local Japanese restaurant before visiting the night market and a Lady Boy cabaret show, a couple of beers finished the night off.
Chiang Mai to the Laos Border
We left Chiang Mai after breakfast this morning with a larger group and headed North to Chiang Rai, stopping at the Mae Khachan Natural Hot Spring for lunch on the way, once in Chiang Rai we picked up a few more people. Once we were together we visited the spectacular White Temple, with its mirrored mosaic work looked brilliant in the sunshine. We had lunch there then continued North through torrential rain heading for the border.
After our visit to the White Temple in Chiang Rai, we continued North towards Laos, leaving Thailand was easy but our entry into Laos was a bit more problematic as we were delayed quite a bit at the visa office in Chiang Khong, they made us wait until after 5:00 pm, we think so that they could charge us a dollar extra for overtime!