Well, this is the first entry on our trip, although we are a week into it.
So far we've been having a great time, especially since arriving here in Northern Thailand.
We spent our first 5 days exploring Bangkok. I think its fair to say we were both pretty happy to leave. Our hotel was in a great location, walkable to all the amazing temples, the river transport and the side roads near Kho San Road for cheap and tasty eats. In our 5 days we saw plenty of old Bangkok, a whole heap of Buddhas... big Buddhas, little Jade Buddhas, standing Buddhas, reclining Buddhas.... and apparently extremely lucky Buddhas ... they tended to be a little less flashy... guess they needed a good reason to be visited.
We came across a whole host of scam artists... generally driving a Tuk Tuk at the time. Sometimes the length to which people will go to, to get you in their clothes shop, souvenir shop or travel agency is really quite mind blowing. One day 3 different guys were in on the scam trying to get us into their shop. The most audacious one pretending to be a school headmaster... who happened to be walking past us, yet also happened to have visited the place we were planning to go to and had lots of tips... which ended in us being dragged to an apparent 'independent travel advice' centre, and being given the hard sell. Very frustrating!
Anyway, we left Bangkok on the overnight train to Chaing Mai. Its a very slow way to get here, but loads of fun. You get a 3 course thai meal freshly cooked brought to your table on the train which was actually pretty good... not to mention a fairly endless supply of Singha's if you want them. Then come bed time, the man in charge of our cabin came in and made up two bunk beds for us, which you then pull a curtain across for privacy. You wake up a few hours later to beautiful jungle landscapes as you slowly make your way into Chaing Mai. I'd definately recommend it.
So once in Chaing Mai, I think its fair to say the holiday feeling has kicked in. Its another Thai city, but a truly lovely one. The city is actually the second largest in Thailand but it feels really small and low key. The centre of the city is surrounded by a moat, and a few remains of what must have once been a wall the whole way round. Most of the traffic remains outside the moat, leaving the middle really peaceful. Inside the walls are pretty little guesthouses, tons of book shops and lots of coffee shops all down tiny little streets. We are staying in a place called CM Bluehouse, which is really lovely.
Chaing Mai sort of feels a bit like a Thai version of Queenstown, in that they are clearly building up a market based around eco/outdoors/extreme sport tourism. You can do the works here, bungy jumping, white water rafting, zorbing, not forgetting the more typical past times of Thai cooking schools and hill tribe trekking. We chose to go whitewater rafting yesterday in the Mae Tang river, which was brilliant. It was a beautiful day, and the river flows through an incredible valley. It probably wasn't the most challenging white water rafting you'll ever do, but that didn't matter at all, as the scenery was beautiful - and during the lulls in the river, we just fell out the raft and floated along in the water, drifting with the current.
Today we went to an Elephant Conservation centre just outside of Chaing Mai. The elephants there appeared to be really well cared for and looked very healthy. You can buy a bunch of bananas and sugar cane, and as you walk around the centre you become pretty popular with all the elephants. Feeding them is really strange. The elephants put on a bit of a daft show - I'm hoping the training for it isn't cruel - I didn't get the sense that they were mistreated. The highlight being when they paint some pretty good pictures. The centre actually has a gallery of 'Elephant Art' - which has been displayed all round the world. Very, very bizarre. The nicest bit was watching them bathe. The centre has a lovely river running through it, and the elephants wade in and clearly enjoy themselves wallowing under the waterfalls.
Off to see the Night Bazaar this evening, and then catching a bus to Pai (a small town in the mountains) tomorrow. Apparently, a local person told us it is cold up there... we've checked the weather forcast... its a refreshing 28 degrees!
Hopefully get some piccies on here in the next few days.