Pai - Chiang Dao - Thaton - Chiang Rai
I left Chiang Mai feeling fulfilled and ready for the next stop - Pai. This seems to be part of the travellers trail though not always travelled due to time restrictions. I have some time, so I go. Tuk tuk to main bus station I get a ticket for mini-bus B150 again cheap cheap for the 3hr (or so) journey. Met 3 Germans; Thomas, Henry & Frederica on the bus who were very friendly and we all had the same idea, let's check out Pai. Years ago used to be a laid back, hippy town where people used to go and end up staying for weeks. Now, it has more bars than before and of course a 'walking street'. Note: I mentioned ‘walking streets’ and not sure if I described it properly – typically a dirt road that used to be lined with local shops & markets, pleasant. Now, poured concrete with many more shops, restaurants and brightly lit. What happens when a place becomes popular – wee bit touristy.
We arrive in Pai after a 2hr journey through 'very' winding roads – lots get sick and the bus station sells motion sickness pills before you set off. A nice ride (hang on) through mountains with scenery. I stayed @ my first dorm and for B100 a night, cheapest yet - only need a bed. We all meet up later for some beers and end up bringing couples from Quebec and UK in our group for a drunken night. Pretty cool place with a fire pit in back the bar – bamboo floor. Lots of laughs. The only way to see Pai is by renting a motorbike which I chose not to and walked around taking in the local sights the next day. They do have a good night market with all kinds of food to fill the belly; along with a table full of varied insects to choose from, yum. Everyone was leaving the following day so we met up for more beers and said our good byes.
I was told Chiang Dao was supposedly a place to see on route to the north so bought a bus ticket to Mae Malai where I had to connect to a local bus to Chiang Dao. It took sometime to sort out ‘where’ I had to get this next bus but after many hand gestures and talking with the local tourist police – found it. A good bus for short distances & was the only white person on it – excellent. Arriving in Chiang Dao there was some confusion as where my stop was so jumped off anyways. I ended up walking 7km with pack to the area of my choice – up near the mountain.Tried the first place, full, though luckily Malee’s Nature Lovers Reserve had a room in back for B300 a night – bonus. Quiet with a beautiful backdrop it was the right place to catch up on the blog and just relax for a bit. I did go check out the Cave that is worth it if staying in area with temples of course, especially one that is crumbling dating back to AD 191.
The next day, I head for the local bus station to catch a ride to Thaton. From here you can catch a longtail boat along the river for the 4 hr. journey B350 to Chiang Rai – which was my plan all along. I wish I had more time in the north as there are some gorgeous spots to see, Mae Salong being one of them. Thaton also has a huge temple on the hill with views of the local countryside – looking @ it right now while typing but I’m enjoying being lazy. A real pretty area but my main focus is to get to Chiang Rai which I’m flying out of to sort myself for the next trip; Vietnam.
Was thinking last night have I experienced Thailand like I wished & more or less, certainly. What I do regret is not meeting more locals; head into villages or just spending time getting to know the Thai people off the travellers trail. However, this can never be forced and 'have' met amazing Thai throughout my trip.
Caught the public long tail boat from Thaton to Chiang Rai -well worth it. Takes you down the Kok River with beautiful scenery of the local farms and villages along its banks. And as a bonus, an elephant or two. Beats the bus by a long shot to be assured. United nations (yes, boat full of around the world) arrive in Chiang Mai port and walk into town. Have no idea where to stay so pick Orchid Guesthouse which is close to sights & sounds of downtown. Take off for my last night in Thailand - bitter sweet. Night Bazaar is definitely a place to see with great food and nightly entertainment of Thai music & dancing. Next day walk to Temple - lay my bracelet from Koh Lipe (far south to far north) and say a l'il blessing of further safe journeys. Not quite sure if proper etiquette but monk said nothing - think he understood.
Family from guesthouse drove me to airport - waited a couple hours boarded my flight to Bangkok. Th CIQ sticker got me - passenger in transit - once landed in Bangkok had to find Qatar Airlines transit desk to get boarding pass. Did find but not very clear - to me anyways. Qatar was late but looking @ all 12 stewardesses in the gate made it bearable. Quick flight 1 hr - Saigon, Vietnam. Next!