We hadn't even really planned to go to Chiang Rai until we met that bloke on the Laos trip, but we're glad we did. Chiang Rai is in the far north of Thailand a few hours north of it's more famous almsot namesake, Chiang Mai. Unfortunately the latter has gotten itself too touristy in recent years, in fact it was touristy when I was there all those years ago, and according to the books Chiang Rai is where those wanting a more authentic experience go.
We got a public bus (i.e with all the locals and no air con) all the way from the border which cost hardly anything and was good fun. All the local old ladies kept just smiling at us, we also loved the fact that the timetables mean nothing to them as the bus was held for ten minutes seemingly just for us to arrive fresh from the border as we got flagged down by a woman who turned out to be the conductor and it went as soon as we arrived. Although until it left the towns limits the bus crawled along at walking pace to allow anyone who wanted to, to flag it down in the street. No bus stop required.
We found a good place to stay in town, five pounds witha swimmingpool is not bad. But the real reason for coming was to stay in the Akka Village some 23km out of town. Having been picked of by Mr Akka who we met we took a bumpy as hell route all the way to his village and quickly turned the cheaper places he had down for being too gross and ended up in a VIP room, which meant, your own hot shower and a balcony overlooking the rolling hills. We have some photos, it was pretty cool.
On our first full day we did a day long trek in the hills with a German couple who spoke English and were a good laugh - obviously the Oktoberfest and the Hoff where brought up quickly. Also an older Malaysian couple who thankfully kept the walking pace down and gave us loads of tips on Malaysia. Our guides were really funny and the whole day was a good one. We walked up and down and up and down, had our meal cooked in bamboo and swam in a waterfall. We did get to another village to look around but no-one payed us any attention unlike in other treks where they exist just to sell to people.
There's more to tell but it will get boring and we want to bore you all in person in two months anyway! On our other day there we did a trip to the Golden Triangle with the two Germans. This was less good really and not worth what we paid for it I don't think. The Golden Triangle is an area where you can see the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma. It is also where there was a mass of opium smuggling years back, although all there is to show this now is a load of t-shirt stalls. It was interesting and our guide had some good knowledge but we both expected a bit more somehow. Glad we did it but wouldn't regret it if we'd missed out I suppose. The trip also included monkey caves, but thses were on the vicious side and bared their teeth aggressively at Amelie and we couldn't wait to get out in case we were attacked!
We were going to have a day just bumbling about the village but it was raining and the volume of bugs and massive insects led us to check out and head back to town. Same guesthouse as before and had a good night out in the evening in a German bar where two old German bar soaks were happy to talk football to me and the German guy whilst the girls went shopping.
In the guesthouse we met another great oddball. Dutch this time, he'd just 'escaped' from China. Having just got out with his life he claimed, although he never explained it properly and we thought he was just making most of it up. I got lumbered with chatting to him and he kept stopping sentences halfway through and looking at me as if he'd just made a point. He'd swear for random reasons "I was in Chiang Mai for a day and I said 'f*** off!' You know?" An odd man who we avoided for the rest of the day.
That was it. VIP bus to CHiang Mai the next day, but no blog from there as we have both been a bit ill so haven't actually done anything. It doesn't look that good anyway. So the next blog will be from one of the Thai Islands where we're going for even more relaxation for a while.