I got the Cambodian bus from Battambang to Phnom Penh, took about 6 hours and was so much more comfortable on a pukka road than the Seam Riep-Battambang trip. I had one night in transit back at the New York Hotel where I had one more evening drinking one to many at the FCC club on the Riverfront. Then another night in transit in Bangkok, followed finally my flight up to Chiang Mai on 17 Jan. For some reason for these two days I had a very nervy feeling something would go wrong, silly really.
I got off the plane and into a taxi, and felt very excited - after 70 days of solo travel I was meeting up with Andy and Michelle from home. I'm not sure I've looked forward to seeing anyone more in my life - got to the excellent Maninarakorn Hotel, a real splurge after mainly much cheaper places and they were waiting for me at reception. Felt wonderful to have the effortless comfort of being with good friends.
After trying not to talk constantly with excitement we went out and booked some trips round the area, but sadly not a 2-3 night trek as I had in mind. Andy and Michelle didnt fancy that, and I didnt want to say hello to them and then shoot off on my own again! We had a good few beers that evening until there long flight from England took its toll. Our first day trip included a Hill Tribe visit, climbing hundreds (well, 306) steps up the Phrathat Wat Temple and then the less enjoyable Jade Factory. That night I lost my phone in a tuktuk, and no I hadnt been drinking (well, then anyway) which was very annoying - lost numbers, videos, photos, calender with various travel plans - aaagghh! Never mind, we found the excellent River View Restaurant and drunk heavily.
Following day included a fantastic Elephant ride through the jungle and a river which was brilliant if a bit scary, a trek through lovely scenery and across some flimsy bridges, another hilltribe visit, and many waterfalls, then the highlight - an hours bamboo rafting trip where you most certainly end up with a wet bottom and go past some Elephants in very serene surroundings. Following day we went to the zoo not expecting much, but it was huge with as many animals as you could wish to see - the tiny lion cubs were my pick. The snake enclosure was not Michelles favourite, I could be brave as there was no spider house.
We only saw the first half of West Hams evenutal draw at Man City in the evening as we had booked a trip to the Doi Inthanon National Park - except for the scaffolding the two mountain top Pagodas were lovely, then we went to a sign declaring a spot to be "The highest point in Thailand" from there we climbed UP (?!?!) and went on a nature trail through an attractive plantation and went to several waterfalls after lunch. Found the excellent Good View Restaurant for traditional evening refreshment and didnt have to worry about an early start.
Top place Chiang Mai despite a dodgy smell from the river, the Night Market has a great rustic bar overlooking the stalls, there are various cafe's in there and a top Irish bar, plusher places are on the Riverfront with live bands. I can imagine the overnight treks are great, but if like us you dont do that there's plenty on offer anyway. Weather was great, always warm and sunny and food/tiger beer great, at least some gym and pool time may just keep my weight a bit reasonable!