We caught a taxi from Bangkok international airport which was relatively straight forward and easy after showing the driver a map on our phone of where we wanted to go we were off. After nine months practicing spanish in Latin America we are back to the sign language charades game again with the locals. Already I forgot how exhausting of a task it can be to communicate in foreign countries at times but that’s the price one must pay to play abroad.
We had planned just three days in Bangkok because as some of you are aware big city lights just aren’t our thing so we decided to head downtown to the well known backpackers haunt of Khao San road. We checked into a hotel just one block from the action bit of a flashpackers hotel with pool and free breakfast ($38cdn) and headed out to look around.
I think Jenn and I may not have felt such culture shock this time round after spending last year abroad in foreign countries Thailand just seemed to be another “different” from home experience and nothing to shocking. The area surrounding Khao San road was bustling with backpackers and tourists and many of the local Thai people spoke very good english here to accommodate, sell and offer anything a passing by tourist might need.
Tailored suites seemed to be the big thing here and every two minutes you were being handed a business card or sales pitched outside a tailor shop to come in and have a suite custom tailored to fit. Suites ranged in price from $80 to $200 dollars depending on quality but all were custom cut and tailored to individual size so I guess if one needed a new fresh cheap suite wardrobe this would be the place!
Food was everywhere and the aroma of asian spice filled the air. Of course we had anticipated great food here in asia and couldn’t wait to try things out.
We sat down to our first meal and went for it… yep we ordered it SPICEY! Now Jenn and I both consider ourselves more then capable of handling spicy foods and always eat moderate+ on the spicy meter but here in Asia spicy can mean anything from averagely warm to blow your hair back and pop out your eyeballs hot so it was only fitting that my very first asian stirfry came at the latter level of eye popping hot!
I sat in my own pool of sweat while my eyes turned funny colours leaking tears down my face and with each mouthful of the fiery stirfry I reminded myslef that what burns going in may also burn coming out. I prayed that the tears escaping my watery eyes today would ease the pain and suffering to come tomorrow, I guess we’ll see. Jenn sat quietly enjoying her rather mildly spiced seafood coconut based soup (Tom Yum Krung) laughing at me while I suffered. Asians have a whole new level on the spice meter and can easily reach 10+ on the dial, I might need to show some spice respect over here!!
After flaming out the fire we took a little walk down by the water and caught our first sight of long boats.
The engines looked like four cylinder car engines with the props extending way out from the back of the boat running merely inches below the waters surface obviously designed for running in very shallow water. There seemed to be sharp contrast here between the rich and the poor around Bangkok as simple modest homes stood amongst towering highrise condominiums.
We spent the next few days just looking around Bangkok trying different spicy noodles, asian stirfrys and generally just admiring the cultures.
Massage shops were everywhere from dedicated shops to basic street side chairs all offering Thai massages for around $8-$10cdn per hour.
Thailand also has a large ladyboy population and day after day we would see lots of ladyboys. It became apparent they were just another part of the Asian culture excepted and comfortable in their surroundings. Some ladyboys could easily be confused for attractive woman while others look like men in drag and gave us a chuckle.
After three days wandering around the city we booked a bus ticket to the west to the smaller city of Kanchanaburi so we could visit the Erawan national park 1.5 hours to the north. A minivan carried us from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi filled with other westbound travellers. It was fast and comfortable and we arrived into Kanchanaburi after a quick two hour ride.
In Kanchanaburi we had read about some floating guesthouses down by the river and decided a floating hotel room would be neat so we walked on over to the rivers edge and booked into one of the many floating hotels along the shoreline. The hotel we picked was nothing overly fancy and the $20 room was sufficient with a/c, hot water and a mildly soft bed it was all we needed for the night. We unpacked which is more like throwing your backpack on the floor and headed out to take a look around.
Kanchanaburi has only a few tourists sights to see and the main one was the war cemetery located in the center of town. The grave site is a memorial to the 6,982 POW’s buried here that died while being held by the Japanese as POW’s to build the Thailand-Berma railway during WW2.
Below you can read details about the grave for yourself in the picture of the memorial information plaque at the grave site.
We just spent one night in Kanchanaburi but lucked out as this coming weekend is the king of Thailands birthday and during the week there is festivals and parties all throughout the country. Tonight in Kanchanaburi there is a large fair/expedition taking place just down the street so we headed over to take a look. The fair ground was large and impressive and thousands of people were out and about taking in the music, sights, lights and foods.
We watched a snake show, spied on some food stalls and purchased a couple of chicken skewers only seconds later to find out that however it was chicken it was chicken livers and to which my taste buds didn’t seem to enjoy.
Everything and anything was being sold here and from chicken parts, to fish parts, to creepy crawlers could be bought cheapy cheapy!!
I tried on a pair of shorts in my usual 36 size and soon found out that 36 in asia and 36 in north america are extremely different things. The young man at the clothes stall didn’t know what to think when I asked him if he had something around 42-46 that might actually fit me he just smiled laughed and walked away. We continued to wander around the fair people watching and breathing in the smells of the different culture following our ears towards the much louder side of the fair. As we approached the bright lights and pounding base of techno music we were surrounded by a bad ass car stereo competition.
We found 50+ custom built cars displaying their impressive sound systems with tight shirted, short skirted asian girls dancing to the beats. It was like something out of a fast and furious movie!!
Thankfully all the cars were wired into the same audio and were all pumping their heavy base beats to the same song. Having grown up as a kid competing with my friends for car stereo supremacy I was like a kid in a candy store strolling down memory lane admiring all these high end audio offerings and very impressed.
We couldn’t help but laugh at these asian dudes with their cell phones all out recording and taking closeup videos of these girls doing their sexiest/dirtiest dancing for their young perverted minds to enjoy.
We had fun exploring the sights that night and retired back to town to our floating cabin. We woke up in the morning and we both felt like we just spent the night on a cruise ship while the room rocked back and fourth as the boats began running the river for the day. We opened up our screen door and seen a large monster like creature swimming our way. We sat quietly and watched as this creature came closer and closer before climbing aboard the floating rooms pontoons next door. I believe this is what you call a komodo dragon?!? although not exactly sure.
We packed up our packs and made our way over to the bus stop where we would catch the morning bus to Erawan national park.
The short 1.5hr bus ride took us directly to the parks front gates and along the way we made friends with a young American fella named Kevin.
We had planned on renting a cabin at Erawan but all cabins were full when we arrived and the only available accommodations left for the night was at there campground. Fortunately for us and other tourists the park has tents already set up along with sleeping pads, sleeping bags, pillows and anything else you might desire for a good nights sleep all for rent.
All together it cost us $12 for tent, gear and this view!
We also camped next to our new friend Kevin and after some lunch together the three of us headed out to explore the park.
Erawan park has a sequence of seven waterfalls/pools along the hiking path and the furthest falls are up the trail about two kilometers in. We decided to do the 2km hike to the top falls and work our way back from there hoping the crowds would shrink later on in the day.
As we hiked along the falls ranged in different sizes but the turquoise blue pools remained consistent.
Trees along the trail had colourful womens clothing attached to them as an offering for the female spirits of the park to enjoy.
Arriving at the top pool we were ready for a swim and joined the moderately sized crowd already cooling off. We could hear shrieks and giggles from the other bathers and soon discovered that the small fish living in the pool were actually meat eaters and would swarm you to eat the dead skin from a bathers bodies. Soooo this brought on a whole new aspect of cooling off here. If you jumped into the pool and kept your arms, legs and body moving the fish wouldn’t be brave enough to nip at you but if you sat still for just a moment or two then you would have dozens of small fish treating your dead skin cells as their all you can eat buffet!
As seen thus far throughout Bangkok people will actually pay money to submerge their feet into a fish tank full of these hungry fish and the term is called a “fish spa” apparently it helps exfoliate your feet by removing the dead skin cells. Well I wasn’t to sure about the fish eating me as usually it’s the other way around but Jenn not wanting to pay for this service in Bangkok took the opportunity as a freebie and dangled her toes to the fishes delight. It took her some time to stop giggling as the fish swarmed her toes nibbling her feet free of any lifeless skin cells she had while I jumped in the pond continuously kicking my arms and legs to keep the human meat eaters at bay.
Watching peoples reactions as the fish attacked unsuspecting bystanders was comical and we spent about an hour up there enjoying the waterfalls and feeding fish.
We headed back down the trail admiring the pools until we made it back to the first pool where there was a movie shoot now taking place. We lingered around watching the movie being filmed and discovered this was a film crew from India filming some parts of their movie here.
All tired out from our hiking we climbed into our tent and dozed off before 8pm that evening.
Following morning we jumped the morning bus back to Kanchanaburi and caught a connecting bus eastwards to Ayutthaya.
The local buses here in Thailand run quite frequently and the bus stations are very organized ushering tourists to their correct buses easily. Bags go on the roof, floor, underneath the bus or on the seat next to you if available and people hop on and off the bus along the route. A ticket person walks up and down the aisle collecting the appropriate fair from passengers joining the herd and somehow the ticket collector keeps us all straight even telling the unknowing when it is their turn to jump off. The bus rides in Thaland are not only for people and large sacks of rice are thrown on and off the bus along with any other forms of cargo heading in the same direction. Arriving in Ayutthaya we grabbed our bags and set off on foot to locate a hotel nearby. Only three blocks away in the heart of the downtown action we found a nice guesthouse named Lucky guesthouse and the sign summed up the place. Owned by a local Thai family the place was clean and cheap ($20) so we unloaded and considered this home for the next three days.
Ayutthaya has many temples called WATS in Thai so we rented up some pedal bikes the next day and went off on a pedal to explore.
Biking around the moderately sized city was fun and quite easy using our offline favourite app called Maps with me. If you haven’t already downloaded this app trust me and do it now, it will be the last gps you will ever need and it’s free!!
We peddled our way past a bunch of different wats and temples and without getting into much detail about the structures (basically I don’t have much info to share anyways lol) here is some more of the sights found around Ayutthaya.
At the furthest point away from our hotel easily 10+km away I noticed I had a rear flat tire on my bike. We were a bit screwed this far away so we pulled over at a food stand and began pointing at the tire while trying to explain that it was flat to the three woman that worked the food stall. The group of woman around the bike soon figured out what I was trying to explain and made a phone call to someone. We decided that it was time to eat anyways and had the ladies cook us up some delicious stirfry while we contemplated our problem. Five minutes later a young man arrived to carefully inspect the tire only to say something to the other ladies to what I believe was that he could not repair it because it looked like the valve stem had torn and the tube would be un-patchable. Moments later I see one of the ladies running into the streets trying to flag down a passing tuk tuk for us. It was a very kind gesture and not long after she had a tuk tuk waiting for us to finish lunch before we loaded both bikes and ourselves into the back of the already tight fitting tuk tuk.
We arrived back safety to our hotel and considered the day a success.
Following day we took the rather long hot walk over to the local floating market to have a look around. Jenn and I both expected by the name “floating” that there would be hundreds of boats floating amongst a river but this was not exactly the case more like some floating house boats that contained shops and restaurants.
To get there we first had to take the water taxi across the river.
The afternoon was fun and the sights unique.
We spent a few more nights in the working mans town of Ayutthaya enjoying the cheap street foods and cold beers while we sat and people watched.
The food thus far has been for the most part delicious and cheap. We can easily purchase a tasty meal from a food cart for $1-$3.00 and a 630ml beer runs $2.00-$4 depending where you buy from. This is so far my favourite dish called Pad Krapow which is fine chopped pork or chicken stirfried with fresh basil and spices served over rice with a fried egg, maybe a bit to much fry going on here but with the right amount of chilly peppers it can be a darn tasty under $2.00 meal.
It was time to leave Ayutthaya and we wanted to head north to Chiang Mai. Unfortunately to do so it is a 10-12 hour bus ride and so we booked the overnight sleeper bus that has chairs that recline close to 90 degrees. The bus left at 11pm and we arrived into Chiang Mai sometime around 9am feeling like a couple of stiff pretzels.
With no hotel yet booked and nowhere to be we decided that now was/felt like the perfect time for our first Thai massage and it just so happened that we had heard about a must do experience when in Chiang Mai which is to get a massage at the womans prison! Yes you heard right at the womans prison!
We read they have a program in place to train prisoners that are within six months of their parole to gain work experience and build a small cash account for when they are released back into society. At first reading about this was strange to us to but after reading other travellers positive reviews it seemed a must try experience so off we went. We arrived just as they were opening the gates and a good thing too because within the first fifteen minutes the place was filling up fast. We got in straight way and were instructed to change from our street clothes into hospital scrubs.
Unfortunately I was unable to take pictures of the inside of the massage clinic but believe me this was a completely professional decorated clinic with around twenty woman working in a proper Thai massage setting. Soft music played in the background and the place had a delightful feel right up to the point when the little five foot tall Asian began to snap me around like I was a rubber band putting me in all types of wrestling moves I didn’t even know existed. My legs cracked, my back cracked and my neck cracked all the while the tiny little hardened criminal laughed and smiled to her delight. Actually it all felt amazing and Jenn and I both left feeling stretched out, cracked out and relaxed. It was a great experience and we would recommend it to anyone… total cost $8.00 each!!
Chiang Mai is a cool city with lots of visual stimulation and plenty of things to see and do but to us it is still just a city and aside from eating and wandering around we get bored to easily in the concrete jungles. It was however today the Kings birthday and the local people honoured him with a celebration in the cities center.
The main big market happens on Sunday nights and for a few kilometers the streets are closed off to traffic and the market sets up and sells everything you could possibly dream of. One pass throughout the market could easily take hours and so that’s how we spent our Sunday night.
Following day we went out to line up a motorbike hire so we could get lost in rural Thailand. We had stayed in touch with our friend Kevin from Kanchanaburi and he also showed interest in a bike trip so he also rented a bike. In one of the many bike shops in Chiang Mai we met another American named Brian and he too wanted to tag along for a ride so before long there were four of us on three bikes lined up to leave the following morning. We all met up the following day and saddled up the Honda crf250’s. The bikes comfort level was nothing close to our big comfy bmw’s seat back home but at only half the cost to rent versus a larger 650 bike it was gonna have to do. We left the bike shop all paid up for five days but told the shop owner he might be getting an email from the road extending our trip onto how many days we had now idea, he smiled in agreement and off our mini bike gang rode (bike rental per day $24.cdn)
The famous Mae Hong Son motorcycle loop claims to have 1864 curves and usually takes four or five days to ride the onroad portions. We however have planned a more off road adventure that could take much longer to complete exactly why we rented the little dirtbikes anyways. The first days ride was hardtop tho and was going to take us thru Doi Inthanon national park past waterfalls all the way up to Thailands highest point 2,565 meters above sea level.
The ride was fun and although the little 250’s lacked any real giddy-up the light weight of the bikes made them nimble and powerful enough to slash thru traffic and carve the twisties. It felt sooo damn good to be riding again! We found our way up and into Doi Inthanon national park and stoped along the way to check out the waterfalls.
From there we continued to climb higher until we reached the temples of the king and queen.
Perched high up the hill overlooking the valley below the temples were surrounded by lush gardens and tiled murals.
Jumping back on the motos we climbed even higher until we reached the end of the road atop Thailands highest point. There were no views of the valley below from here or anything else worth mentioning besides a sign to let us know we had arrived atop Thailands highest mark.
Leaving the mountain top we headed west carving through the tight paved curves of Thailands narrow roads. Perfectly set up for scooter and motorbike riding we remained cautiously alert rounding every corner as trucks, cars and buses took up most of the narrow roadways.
We arrived into the quiet farming town of Mae Chaem and found some cozy $16.00cdn bungalows for the night.
After a tasty hot pot dinner Brian and I wandered off to look for entertainment while Jenn and Kevin felt played out and went back to sleep. Brian and I stumbled into a group of older Thai locals playing a game similar to bocci ball and they invited us to join. We made some new friends and enjoyed cold beers and limited conversations in thai while we threw steal balls down the dirt track in hopes of earning a high five for a good shot. After about two hours we were half in the bag and still didn’t exactly know how the game worked but we were certainly having fun with these warm inviting people.
Following morning after a 7/11 yogurt, banana and peanuts breakfast we shoved off heading off road into the surrounding farmlands where rubber trees and corn fields dominated the landscape.
The asphalt quickly gave way to gravel roads shortly after leaving town and soon after that the gravel turned to narrow dirt trails leading into the farm lands high up in the Thai mountains.
We passed thru tiny villages far removed from the tourist trail and the locals gazed at us with curious but friendly eyes smiling and waving as we passed.
We stopped along the way in many of the villages to take pictures and enjoy the beautiful scenery that Thailands backcountry offered.
The gravel road turned to mud trail as we ventured deeper into the mountains passing by rice paddies and lush green farmlands.
After a great day of dirt riding we found blacktop near the small town of Khun Yuam. With empty fuel tanks we went looking for a gas station and after asking around we were pointed in the right direction. We drove past the “gas station” at first and again needed assistance locating it because it wasn’t exactly what our eyes were trained to look for in a fuel station.
Fifty gallon drums held gasoline and a hand crank drew the fuel into a measuring canister above where it was measured and sold by the litre for about $1.30/ltr.cdn. We filled up and decided to call it a day when a local woman offered to show us some bungalows we could rent cheap for the night.
We all cleaned up and went for dinner before crashing out early exhausted from the days ride.
Following day after coffee, breakfast and kevins paint can bench press we shoved off on the hardtop until we located some more dirt roads to explore.
During a quick fuel stop to top off the tanks before heading offroad we met a German guy also on a honda 250 named Haagon heading north on the loop and so we invited him to join us for the day.
We shoved off and soon found dirtroads and more of Thailands beautiful countryside.
Same as before we found ourselves riding thru small villages and rice paddies where the local people worked and lived.
Venturing to say these villagers do not see many tourists here and the confused curious looks told us that we were exploring places that most travellers were not fortunate enough to enjoy.
The children waved and most of the adults smiled as the muddy 250’s carrying wide eyed tourist past thru their part of the world.
After another long day on the bikes we arrived back into civilization into the midsized city of Mae Hong Son a popular tourist stopover for other travellers tackling the famous “loop”.
Today happened to be Kevins birthday and after locating a hotel we enjoyed a cold beer and wandered off into Mae Hong Son to eat, drink and celebrate Kevins birthday.
Following morning it was all blacktop as we twisted our way through some of the 1,864 whindy Mae Hong Son loop curves towards the touristy backpacker town of Pai.
Arriving into Pai we found a jam packed tourist town loaded with people, restaurants and bars set along a small river. Pai wasn’t exactly what I had imagined it to be not that it was a bad place to hang out just that it was completely crowded and overrun with travellers denying it of any authentic thai experiences. Pai reminded me of a “spring break” atmosphere and didn’t exactly leave me wanting to stay for any length of time.
We managed to find a $16.00cdn bungalow along the river and booked to stay two nights to allow some downtime from the dirtbikes ass chaffing seat. We had arranged to meet up with a fellow traveller named Brent that we had made friends with last year in Guatemala that now is living in Pai to get the skinny on Pai’s hotspots. After meeting up with Brent and filling our bellies on his restaurant recommendations we were rested and ready to roll on out. Our riding mates Kevin and Brian have both had enough seat time and decided to complete the loop and head back to Chiang Mai today while Jenn and I were just getting warmed up. We parted ways and solo we set off to a fish pond called Piranha park just twenty minutes from Pai to rent a room there for the night and to try our luck fishing.
We arrived to the Piranha park fishing pond to find what we were told to be a common attraction here in Asia. This is a private stocked fishing pond where one can rent all the fishing gear, bait and tackle needed to fish the stocked ponds. After a quick breakfast we were more then excited to hook up with any one of the catfish species lurking in the water.
Apparently there is also a few Piranha in the pond but are almost impossible to catch accordingly to the owner of the place and because it is mid winter here at the moment the fishing was not promising to be hot at all but we didn’t care we were just giddy with anticipation. We rented two rods each and bought all kinds of bait that the owner recommended to us (bread, chicken liver, smelly paste, etc..) surely we were going to catch some fish!
WEEELLLLLL if you have been following this blog since we rode off towards central/south america you can probably guess based on our previous fishing abroad luck what happened next!?! Yep! absolutely nothing! We fished and changed baits and fished some more all day from 10am until 6pm. From the ponds open until close and we managed to catch sweet f*ck all! Other travellers showed up and as the dozen or so people around the pond launched bait, hook, line and sinker into the pond creating loud splashes the fish were easily warned of our presence. We just sat on the ponds edge staring at our floats begging for one to be pulled under signalling a strike but it never happened. A few other fisherman however around the pond did manage to catch a fish or two but in total no more then 4 or 5 fish were caught by all anglers today. We just laughed at our typical lack of luck as our fellow fisherman reeled in a catch. Although we didn’t have any luck at Piranha park we did enjoy the quiet vibe of the place and the nice comfy bed in the bungalow made us forget the days woes.
Following morning we packed up and mumbled one last curse to the fish gods before rolling out on our way north into the hills that will take us along the Myanmar/Thailand border.
Riding along this close to the borders we passed through many border control checkpoints and it was apparent that the Thai government took their borders security seriously with the numerous checkstops. As we approached check points I would simply raise my helmets visor exposing my face and with a smile and a “sawatdee” (hello in Thai) I was promptly waved through every time. I was however a little nervous each time we approached the checks because I was aware that an international drivers license is required to operate a moto in Thailand which I was not currently carrying and I have heard of other travels paying a bribe to the Thai police for being caught without it. I however was lucky enough to have not been questioned and we just kept our heads down and rode on through. Arriving into Tha Ton not far from the Myanmar border over 700km from Chiang Mai our asses were feeling the full effect from straddling the little 250’s dirtbike seat for the past seven days.
The Honda crf250 has been a fun bike to ride on the tight Thailand on/off roads yet for the long haul the narrow ass numbing seat has been anything but comfortable. I wish I was riding my Husqvarna TE630 with its soft seat concepts seat and strong torquey engine which in my opinion would be the perfect Mae Hong Son loop slaying machine!!
Alas another day comes and we drag our sore backs and now chaffed asses out of bed and back onto the moto for another day of back roading as we make our way to the iconic location known as the Golden Triangle.
Golden Triangle is a border town located directly at the crossroads of the Thailand/Lao/Myanmar borders. The ride there is a mix of dirt backroads and paved highway and as we get closer to the Golden Triangle the mighty Mekong river comes into sight.
Long boats motor up and down the river and we can see Laos on the other side of the Mekong.
Golden Triangle is a cool little spot to spend the night and we find a nice cheap room and enjoy the scenery along the river.
Next morning we make our way to a place we heard of from a passing by traveller called Phu Chi Fa.
Phu Chi Fa is a mountain view point that is said to possibly have the most amazing sunrises. The valleys clouds apparently sit lower then the mountains top in the early morning thus creating an inversion and with the sunrise is said to be a beautiful experience. Sounds interesting so we decided to head over and check it out.
Arriving into the small town at the bottom of Phu Chi Fa we find many hotels and guesthouses available to tourists and so finding accommodation is easy but what we forgot to do today was finger test the bed mattress before paying up the $16.00 and after it was too late to turn back we discovered the bed was in fact only a boxspring without mattress and what would become our ply wood based bed for the night. Luckily for us we were only needing the bed until 4:30/5:00am as we plan to do the tourist thing and hike up the mountain early to catch the sunrise. First we have some food and then decide to take the quick thirty minute hike up tonight instead to see if the sunset might rival tomorrows sunrise and so off we go. After a short but continuous upward hike we reach the top of the renowned Phu Chi Fa just in time to catch a beautiful sunset where we can see Lao down in the valley to the north and Thailand to the south. We hope tomorrows sunrise will be as good if not better then tonights sunset.
5:00a.m. came and I was actually excited to get up early. I wasn’t all that excited to hike the mountain in search of the legendary sunrise but more excited to get vertical and escape the back breaking torture of that box spring bed. Wiping the sand from our eyes we opened the bungalows door and stepped outside into fog so thick we could barely see ten feet in front. The fog was so dense that in only a few minutes our jackets were wet with moisture. At that moment we became even more excited to see the sunrise as there surely was going to be a very heavy cloud inversion in the valley. We put on our warmest clothes as it was quite chilly at this elevation early in the morning and set off riding the bike slowly and carefully through the thick fog up to trails start.
Starting up the trail around 5:30am still in the darkness of the early morning we climbed cautiously through the dark on a slippery hard packed clay trail. To our surprise we were climbing with easily over one hundred plus other tourists heading to the mountains summit to see the big event. As we climbed along the cold dark trail we could hear singing beyond the thick fog and as we approached closer we found young children sitting alone in the darkness singing carols. The young girls not possibly older then five or six years old were singing like angels trying to earn a few coins for their families. It was sad to think that these young children were dragged up from their warm beds this early before school to hike up a dark cold foggy mountain to sit in the cold forced to sing to earn money for their family. So now one is faced with a dilemma, if you give them money it only contributes to the cause of child solicitation encouraging their parents further to force children to continue doing this sort of thing and if you don’t give them money then your heart sinks in your throat for these poor wee souls. Today however my decision to support or not support this was made for me because I had forgotten to bring any money with me when we left half asleep from the bungalow this morning. I guess if I had of had some money on me I surely would have given the singing angels something… however unfortunately contributing to the problem I suppose..
As we reached the top of Phu Chi Fa we were surprised to find a jam packed mountain top with a hundred plus other tourists already atop the mountain waiting for the show. The cloud cover was still extremely thick up top and I was hoping by sunrise that it would burn off.
Jenn and I sat amongst the crowd and watched the group of Asian tourists click away hundreds of selfies with their cell phones and cameras. It was comical and nothing like I’ve ever seen before. The Asians sure do enjoy taking their own pictures and the peace sign duck face pose seemed to be the big favourite. The darkness slowly gave way to the grey light of day and as we sat shivering in the cold it became apparent that we were being robbed of anything picturesque. The fog never lifted and after two plus hours sitting and waiting we were rewarded with absolutely nothing! Bummed out and disappointed we along with the herd of other Phu Chi Foggers descended the mountain and headed back to our boxspring bed to catch a few more hours of backbreaking sleep.
Sometime around noon we decided that we would roll out and click a few miles that afternoon. Again opening the bungalow door we were met with the same thick fog that had not burned off during the morning. Not wanting to stay in Phu Chi Fog any longer we decided to head out.
I was forced to drive very slowly into the fog and as we rolled away mother nature decided to laugh at us one more time with a nice cold rain shower.
After about an hour the rain stopped and the clouds finally parted and we found ourselves riding along tight twisties amidst golden farmlands.
Only a few hours of riding before we arrived into the small city of Phayo and found a nice guesthouse for the evening. After a warm shower and a rest we headed out into the city to try some food and look around.
Following morning we started off on the home stretch headed for Chiang Mai.
We spent the day searching out the “long way around” on the hunt for tiny backroads that eventually made there way southwest. The riding over the past eleven days has been fabulous and the Thai roads are certainly small bike paradise.
Twisting through the countryside we passed thru small towns and rolled up on this guy lazily crossing the road.
This green snake was over five feet long and was a beautiful bright green colour but we didn’t know if it was poisonous our not so we made sure to stay out of striking distance. After a quick google search I concluded that this was a red tail racer a very common non poisonous tree and bush loving snake.
Approaching Chiang Mai the cities traffic started to show and as the congestion built the locals took it upon themselves to find alternative routes to slice through traffic. As the saying goes “when in Rome” so with a laugh we joined the line and blasted our way down the sidewalks weaving through pedestrians making good time once again
Arriving back to the bike rental location the owner of the bike shop was pleased to have his bike back and when he looked at the speedometer he smiled and asked Jenn how here backside felt once he seen the 1,500 kilometers that we added to the bikes clock. We had a blast touring Thailands north country and with the perfect bike I think we could get lost amongst the Thai countryside for a long time exploring. Nevertheless it was back to busing it and that’s exactly what we planned to do the following day.
We found a hotel near the bus station and went out to eat in one of Chang Mai’s many food markets. The food selections here are endless and for only a couple dollars you can enjoy tasty thai dishes. Eating in the food markets however is not for the faint of heart, often times you can sit and watch rats running about pulling leftovers out of the near by trash piles to dine on. It is a very common sight to witness here in Thailand seeing rats running amongst the streets or squashed dead street side by the last passing bus. We have come to laugh at these sights but if mice or rats put you off you may not want to explore this part of Asia.
Leaving Chiang Mai the next morning we jumped the local bus and made our way again to the small riverside town of Tha Ton. Having already spent the night there a few days before on the bike trip we noticed that they offered a boat shuttle from Tha Ton to Chiang Mai down the Kok river. So instead of busing it to Chiang Rai we decided this would be more scenic and fun. The short three hour bus ride was made fun by people watching as the locals jumped on and off the bus with every sort of cargo imaginable.
Arriving in Tha Ton we had a few hours to kill before dark so we took a small hike up to the local Wat (Buddhist temple) located above the town to enjoy the views.
Following morning it was time to board the boat and make way down river to Chiang Rai. The small long boat had no seats and we were each given a cushion to sit on on the floor for the four hour journey.
The boat started off from the pier nearly full with around 8 tourists plus our bags but as we chugged down river we continued to add local peoples to the boat along the way.
At one point the boat was severely over loaded and we sat just an inch or two above the waters surface. As the river began to narrow the current increased until the boat was splashing and bouncing its way through the rapids and we aboard were completely soaked from the rough waters splashing over the boats sides.
We arrived at the halfway point for a toilet break and stretch at a tourist attraction called big snake.
Properly named big snake because in the cages at the dock was four extremely large python and boa constrictor snakes and if you are brave enough you could take these massive snakes out of their cages and strike your best pose with them for a picture and a small fee.
Neither Jennifer or I could muster up the courage to do this unfortunately.
As we rested and stretched searching out sunshine to dry our wet clothes an elephant ride came walking down the river our way.
We eventually arrived at the pier just outside of Chiang Rai and tuk tuk drivers swarmed us offering rides to town for $5.00. We politely declined and walked only 500 meters down the road where we found a tuk tuk for half the price. We located a hotel in the main hub of Chiang Rai for $20.00 and checked ourselves in as the sun went down over the city.
Chiang Rai is like most other cities with lots of people noise and traffic but we were lucky and had found a quieter side street just off of the main street action. I have been craving some western food after many weeks of soup, rice, noodles, pad thai, etc.. so we goggled up a place that promised to deliver some goods. We made our way over to the Hungry Wolf restaurant only a few blocks from our hotel and were treated to one of the best pizza and wing experiences I can remember having in a long time!
You do pay a little more to eat western food of course but something like a large pizza. Wings and a couple of beers is still usually around $20.00cdn so not that bad at all. Following day we decided to try on a scooter for size and ride on over to the famous white temple about 15km’s outside of the city.
It has been a very long time since I last rode a scooter and either I’ve grown substantially since the last time or they just make scooters much smaller now a days.
With a top speed of like 60km/hr we hugged the roads shoulder for dear life as the large trucks blasted on by creating wind speeds that could rip the poor scoot apart. We however did survive and managed to locate the white temple.
This hot tourist stop was quite busy with many people snapping photos of the very picturesque Wat.
Heading back to Chiang Rai we stopped along the way for more Wat pics and then grabbed a tasty feed of $2.00 pad thai with shrimp for lunch.
All throughout Chiang Rai we have been noticing signs for buffet barbeques so that night we slapped down the $6.00p/p and went on to try this out. They set up at your table a propane fired flame and then atop of this a hotplate sort of thing that also has boiling water around the bottom outside of the plate. You place all your desired meats and vegetables on top of the hot plate and along the bottom with the water you can boil noodles, eggs, shrimps, etc.. This was a very fun way to spend a couple of hours cooking up our own tasty smorgasbord and after devouring more meat during this one sitting then throughout the rest of the entire trip we both left jam packed and over fed.
We were now approaching the end of our 30 day Thai visa and needed to leave the country so we jumped the bus headed to the Thailand/Laos boarder town of Chiang Khong where we will book the popular slow boat transport to deliver us down the Mekong river into Laos over a two day period.
I decided to surprise Jenn with a more private and less crowded boat then the typically over filled tourist boats as a christmas present to ourselves as we will be leaving Thailand on Dec. 25Th. I booked us aboard the Naggi of the Mekong instead of what I read could be a very crowded albeit cheaper tourist slow boat. The Naggi cost in total about $150 more then the tourist boat but aboard the Naggi we are provided with two meals a day and some visits to local villages and caves along the way and overnight accommodations in Pak Beng all of which are not offered on the other slow boats.
We were picked up at our hotel on Dec.25th by the Naggi operator driven to the immigration building on the Thai side and assisted through the boarder exit and entry process into Laos. To our dislike Canadian residents had to pay the largest Laos visa entry fee of all countries and with most visas costing between $20-$25usd we poor Canucks were charged $32usd each to enter. Once all paperwork was complete we were then driven only a few more minutes down the road into Laos and over to the to the pier where many long boats awaited to transport travellers down the mighty Mekong.
We were now offically in Laos and were excited to spend the next two days aboard Naggi adrift the mighty Mekong… upwards and onwards we’ll see you on the other side!!!