Chiang Rai

It’s been a while since we blogged last. This is partly because we have been busy, partly because our Internet access has been hit and miss and mostly because we’ve spent the last 3 and a bit weeks 543 years in the future. Sort of. Not really. Thailand uses their own calendar which matches ours for day and month but currently is in the year 2555.

In the end our visit to Thailand consisted of a two night layover in Bangkok before heading to Chiang Rai in the far north where we stayed until today when we left for Laos. While it wasn’t our intention to stay quite so long in Chiang Rai itself, it was nice to stand still for a bit and really get to know a place. Our first two weeks in Chiang Rai was spend volunteering with IHF Foundation which you can read about when we finally blog it.

It may or may not be possible that we spent a few days post-volunteering hiding in our room, taking advantage of air conditioning and hot showers, but that’s neither here nor there.

The Thai people are outstandingly friendly. As an example, while we were at IHF we took the scooter down to the servo (petrol station/gas station/garage/whatever it’s called wherever you’re from) to put some air in its tyres. There looked to be a queue and when the guy parked in front of us didn’t pick up the hose I gestured that he should go first. He shook his head like he wasn’t waiting to use it and then picked it up and started trying to do our tyres for us. Poorly explained I know, but you get the idea.

Having come from Vietnam our impression of Thailand, or at least Chiang Rai, is that even though there is less English everything is easier. There are not only road rules, but people follow them. There are shopping centres and supermarkets with clearly defined checkouts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to bad mouth Vietnam, it is special in its own way. But it is nice when things work in a similar fashion to home because you get to spend less brain power on making it through the basic parts of the day leaving more room to take in everything else.

We spent most nights eating at a night market where you could find
Phad Thai and Thai beef salad as well as deep fried or roasted anything. It. Was. Awesome. At the weekend night market (which was even bigger) we trawled the streets buying anything that looked edible and still could only manage to spend $3-4.

One of the days we set out on a hired scooter planning to go to Wat Rong Khun, a modern contemporary Buddist temple. As we turned into the street we realised that Gen was in shorts and singlet which is temple inappropriate, so rather than give up and turn around we started following roads signs to a waterfall. 40km later through some of the most astonishing countryside I’ve seen and we came across a national park that was home to a jungle complete with semi-delapidated bamboo bridges, a decent trek and of course, the waterfall.

The next morning we made it, appropriately dressed, to the temple which was creepy on the outside and a little bizarre on the inside. The mural on the walls incorporates traditional Buddist designs as well as themes from modern and contemporary sources, such as pictures of the Twin Towers burning, Michael Jackson three albums whiter than Thriller, Yoda, Angry birds and Keanu Reeves from The Matrix to name a few.

I think Thailand might be my favorite country so far. But just to be sure we’ll visit some more first. Next stop, Laos.

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