New Destinations! Thailand, Chiang Mai

There were a number of things that made us happy when we arrived in Thailand’s second city, Chiang Mai. All of a sudden we could walk out of our homestay and go into a proper shop – 7/11’s were on every corner. In the shops we could buy everything we might need such as tissues and personal items, insect repellent, bread, magazines and a wide range of snacks. The streets were unbroken and clean, and traffic operated predictably. There were a wide variety of restaurants serving different types of food. In the evening the streets were full of couples, families and groups of girlfriends instead of large gangs of young men. Possibly best of all, we could get a refreshing beer with our meal rather than constant coke or fruit juice. On our first evening we were agog at all these luxuries – who would have thought you could become so inured in only 3 months to the normal restrictions of life in India.

Chiang Mai is full of temples and we were very impressed with the first entirely gilded pagoda we saw. We intended to visit more, but got to the “been there, done that” stage by the end of day one! There will be so may temple spotting opportunities over the next few weeks, that only the best are worth our precious time and energy!

We were lucky to be in the city over a weekend as we caught both the Saturday and Sunday night markets! They were fantastic with such quality handmade goods, we wished we were taking home gifts for everyone. The street food was also the best!!

We wanted to explore some of the Northern Thai countryside so we booked a cycle tour to the “sticky waterfall”. It turned out to be 30 km of semi-serious off-roading on good Kona mountain bikes with some fairly fit people. We saw some great views as we took the bikes on a boat across a lake, biked through the forest and did some quiet road riding as well. Paul managed to keep up pretty well and our previous mountain biking experience even stood me in good stead, but some sections were up the mountain and I had to wimp out and get a ride in the van on a couple of the steepest sections. It was great to get some exercise and do something different; the people in our group were also fun company for the day.

At the “sticky waterfall” the limestone in the water has formed a smooth, steep stair over which the water cascades. It is well named as your feet “stick” to the surface so you can clamber up and down through the clear spring water. It was a lovely place to visit and the nice Thai lunch laid on by the excellent cycle tour company, didn’t hurt either.

We would have liked a couple more days in Chiang Mai but today (7th January) we got on a coach to the Northern Thai border with Laos. Very excited to be crossing the border into Laos tomorrow and taking to the mighty Mekong River for two days’ cruising down to Luang Prabang. Will keep you posted!