Time to leave Pai and start heading over towards Laos. So on 23rd January I left Pai and headed over to Chiang Rai via Chiang Mai. For 150 bahts (£3) and a three hour minibus ride I was back in Chiang Mai and met up with Ole, who was also on his way towards Laos. We booked a bus for that afternoon to go to Chiang Rai which would be a two and a half hour trip over. The scenery heading east was pretty and very green. Eventually we made Chiang Rai and checked into our dorm room at Baan Bau Homestay before heading out to explore the town. There is a large night market with a big food market that has plenty of choice from pad thai to bugs. We plonked ourselves there for a couple hours eating pad thai and drinking smoothies and watching some local traditional dancing going on on stage. Then had a few beers at the Peace Bar whilst watching the live band, granted the bar was a bit grim and after the first beer stopped using the glasses when we saw mould at the bottom of them. Nice!
The hostel didn't have space for us for a second night, so after breakfast we headed to Akha River Guesthouse which was a cheap decent place albeit a bit basic. To make the most of the one day we had in Chiang Rai we hired a scooter, again I choose to go pillion. We headed out of town to the infamous white temple which is a modern brilliant white and hugely elaborate temple. The place was swarming with tourists and whilst it was impressive, it was just another temple. So we decided to head away from temples and find Mae Kok National Park to go for a walk and find the Huay Mae Sai waterfall. After about a kilometres walk up in the national park we found the waterfall and it was large and falling at an impressive speed that you could feel the wind from it at the bottom. On the way back we managed to go and get a puncture in the back wheel, but so coincidently this happened right outside a workshop...maybe too convenient? The guy was brilliant and repaired it in no time and then only went and charged us 40baht. Back on the road next was the search for a cocktail bar we had seen online - The C Word. After a lot of looking and exchanging emails with them we found it. And it was worth it, the paninis and cocktails were amazing. They had only been opened a couple of months but it was a great find, so we decided to head there later that evening. Lise and Andrew were due into Chiang Rai that evening but we missed then due to problems with their bus getting there. So Ole and I went for a walk around the night walking street full of stalls similar to that in Chiang Mai. Again we located the food area and grabbed some pad thai. Sadly I had to bin mine as a huge moth decided to dive bomb into it. Mind the locals might have liked that better looking at some of the bugs on sale. As promised, after that we headed back to The C Word for several more cocktails. The owners are a lovely young couple and had a good chat with them all night and as we were staying quite a way from the bar, they kindly gave us a lift back.
Again, time to head closer to Laos. So the following morning we did a juggling act to get both our rucksacks and ourselves on the scooter to head to town and drop it back off before getting the bus over to Chiang Khong. We grabbed some food, changed some baht to dollars ready for visa and went to find the bus. It's a local bus and takes four hours to get to Chiang Khong but at only 65 baht it's worth it. The bus was already full and the conductor made us squeeze onto the back seat which was designed for three people, but we made it five people. It was certainly a bit on the tight side. Luckily the monk got off after an hour so we could 'spread out'. We got dropped off just outside the town of Chiang Khong and went to find Funky Box Hostel which was a bargain at 100 baht. It was easy to find and check in, it's a 16 bed dorm and only 3 of us staying there. As it was our last night in Thailand, we went and found a nice restaurant on the river front for some good noodles and beer. And it was still cheap. So with extra baht to burn we headed to the hostel's bar - The Hub, which is an awesome bar and the owner was brilliant. She kept serving us free shots and even joined in and cooked us some of the best garlic bread I've had in months. She taught us a few Laos words and how to get across the friendship bridge for the cheapest. She even got very open with me and pulled me aside to tell me if there's one thing I do in life it's not to have children and enjoy life. I loved this woman. As we had a border to cross the next day we left her at 2am and went I crash. Unfortunately the other person in the room was a very strange American guy who kind of freaked me out even though he seemed nice and friendly.
Anyway that's me done with Thailand, time to explore another country.