Arrived at Chang Mai quite late and was a bit worried about the accom issue. All guesthouses we had dealt with would close at 10pm and it was already gone midnight, so we checked in at a proper hotel instead (Top North Hotel, near the Tha Pae gate) with porter service and pool and TV in the room! Although it was more expensive than we were used to paying at 650 Baht a night (instead of our usual 200-300 baht), it still works out than less than a tenner a night so would be great for a short holiday.
Was up early the next day to book the seats on the minibus going to Mae Sai on the Burmese border and ambled around town for the day having transferred ourselves into a lovely guesthouse on Soi 5 MoonMueng Road called Blu House. Is run by a really friendly American guy and is very chilled out - they have a book next to the fridge which is stacked out with beer and coke and water and you just fill in the book with what you take and pay for it when you leave, all very civilised.
The visa run was also very civilised. It is a strange aspect of staying in Thailand for any length of time in that you must leave the country after 30 days, albeit only for a matter of minutes, before being stamped in with another free 30-day visa. So a lot of long-term visitors will factor in their monthly visit to the border into their business plans and book one of the hundreds of tour operators offering this convenient administrative travel arrangement. Only in Thailand...
I sat next to a couple of Dutch guys who were great fun and Cheryl was chattering away to a lovely Canadian chap. I took 4 hours to get to the border and we followed the Dutch chaps to be stamped out of Thailand and walk accross a bridge to the Burmese immigration. For 500 Baht you can get a 14 day visa (it used to be just a day pass but it has been relaxed recently) so we paid up and went into the market. We had been forewarned but it still struck as pretty desperate. We were mobbed by vendors selling counterfeit cigarettes, clothes, viagra, tuk tuk rides to a local temple, beggars with leprosy and little children and old ladies tugging your clothing for a few coins. Was a bit intense in comparison to the Thai style so we didn't stay long and stamped ourselves out of Burma into Thailand again and back onto the bus home.
The next day we spent a bit of time in a big shopping complex called Central in Chang Mai. It was very lazy but great fun and we watched a film called The Departed by Martin Scorcesse which was great. Not sure if Thailand gets to release these films any earlier than the UK?? The new Bond film - Casino Royale opens tomorrow so will have to check! The food courts are just excellent in the shopping malls, with hundreds of things to choose from and all very cheap. There was also live music from random people - including Elvis.
Chang Mai is a great place but we were starting to get itchy feet and wanted to move on. The next day we packed up and caught the bus to Lampang which was only 2 hours away just to the south of Chang Mai, where the adventure continues.
Dan & Chez x