I left Sukhothai on the 15th, and made the 6 hour bus ride north to Chiang Mai. I'm feeling much better about being on my own now, as about 20% of the people I pass on the street are white. Not that I feel uncomfortable around Asians or anything, but sometimes it's nice to know there are a few people out there who are in the same situation as I am (being alone in a foreign country). Anyway, Chiang Mai is a pretty darn nice city from what I can tell. I feel that I am in a pretty good situation to be making that statement as I spent almost three hours wandering around the city trying to find the hotel that I wanted to stay in. None of the tourists that I asked had any idea where we were by looking at a map, and it took me a long time to find someone who knew the city well and spoke enough English to help me out. In my experience, the people who speak English the best are usually the ones who want something from you, like taxi drivers who get a commission for taking you to a certain, or people trying to sell you drugs, or any other number of things. The guy who helped me out had some big long story about how he was from a small village, then came to Chiang Mai to learn to speak English, then went back to his village to teach them, and now had returned to Chiang Mai for afew days. As I expected, the story ended with, "now I need to return to my city but have no money for the bus. If you can give me money, not much money, maybe three dollars, I appreciate." I didn't have any small bills on me, and hated to give the guy a 500 baht bill (about $12), but it was all I had, and he had been really helpful, even walking me all the way to my destination (about 2 kilometers away). He offered to wait while I went to get a bite to eat, and then, when I received some change, I could give him 100 baht. He seemed nice enough, and wasn't trying to screw me too bad, or lie to me, so I figured I could stand to part with $12 dollars, and give him the whole 500 baht.
Speaking of money, that's one thing that I have been shocked to discover about Thailand. Everything is ridiculously cheap. Even compared to the Philippines, meals, transportation, accommodation, and everything else are all cheap. Being such a popular tourist destination, I figured Thailand would be relatively expensive, but no. I just finished a dinner of a big bowl of green curry, a plate of phat thai, a huge plate of rice, and two cokes all for under $3. The bus rides have been about the same price as those in the Philippines, but I've been riding first class, air-con, assigned-seat buses. My knees aren't even close to the seat in front of me, and I usually have two seats to myself (compared to having four people and a baby crammed into two seats). Sorry Virginia, it seems like travel here might be a bit more up your alley (and mine too). I paid for two nights at my current hotel, and it looks like I'll probably add another two onto that as well. The hotel rents motorcycles for $4 per day, and I passed a thai massage place that charged $3 an hour. Unbelievable. There are a number of things to do around Chiang Mai, and first on my list is a trip to one of the nearby national parks. I never ended up seeing any monkeys in the Philippines, or at the ruins in Sukhothai, so I'm thinking Chiang Mai might be the place. I have a feeling instead of a longer post every few days, I'll probably be making shorter ones almost daily. Without Virginia to entertain me, I have a lot of time on my hands, and internet is cheap and fast here. I'm uploading the rest of the pictures from the Philippines, and some from Sukhothai as well. Enjoy.