Our next stop was Chiang Mai in Thailand. Air Mandalay proudly boasts in their flight magazine and on their web site that they have a new service direct from Yangon to Chiang Mai. They lie. Instead we had to do a double flight from Yangon to Bangkok then Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Once in Chiang Mai we were soon in our hotel. Very nice it was too. With a bit of research you can get fab places for silly money.
Most people come to Chiang Mai for trekking and to see the elephants. For us it was a short rest before heading into Laos. We looked at the elephant attractions on offer but they felt a little like zoos so we decided against them. Luckily Jill had seen an article about an elephant conservation centre in Laos so we sent a few emails and have booked a couple of days there.
Chiang Mai also has 'Flight of the Gibbon'. This is a one day trip to the rain forest to zip line high in the canopy. I have to be honest I don't like heights but I've seen people do this and it looked amazing. Bite the bullet I thought. We booked it, paid the dosh and then both questioned our sanity. The whole thing is run by a New Zealand based company and it boasts a 100% safety record.
Once we arrived it was all very slick. New good quality harnesses and hard hats etc. The guys taking us out were very safety conscious. Having said that I didn't feel too brave stood on a wooden platform in a tree 200ft above a gorge being clipped on to a line. 1,2,3 go said Bee the sky ranger and go I did. It was a mix of fear, exhilaration and a bit more fear. I've ridden a motorbike at over 150mph but it was nothing like this. On a bike I'm in control but up here it's all different. After a couple of goes we were soon letting go and being spun as we soared over the tree tops. It was brilliant. Just when I thought I'd conquered my fear Bee said 'Next one is superman'. Instead of being clipped on the front they clip you on the back. Stand on the platform with 200ft beneath you and jump head first into the void. Oh f***. As you hurtle head first to the other side I realised there was no platform to land on just a cargo net hanging from the tree. 'Grab the net' someone shouted. And if I don't I thought. Climbing up a rope net is difficult at the best of time but when you have adrenalin and lactic acid flowing through you it's nigh on impossible. Phew made it.
Jill and I were both proud of ourselves but I don't think we will be bungee jumping anytime soon.
The following day we were both a bit stiff from holding on so tight during the zip lining so we went for a massage. I've had a bit of a thigh strain and Jill a shoulder twinge so we went for a deep tissue massage. I like massages but I find soft ones tickle. This was anything but soft. The lady was 5ft tall and 6 stone wringing wet but s*** was she strong. She bent me, pummelled me and bent me every which way for an hour. She had a grip like a blacksmith's vice. I'm not sure it helped my thigh but it was nice.
We didn't really do much else in Chiang Mai just mooched around. There are a couple of ways to travel to Laos. You can fly with Laos Air which is quite expensive and besides we had done a lot of flying recently. You can take a bus to the border and then take a speed boat to Luang Prabang. This is a 7 hour white knuckle ride with a lunatic. Lonely Planet advises against it due to a number of fatalities. We opted for a leisurely 3 day slow boat trip. It started with a 5 hour mini bus ride to Chiang Khong on the border. We stayed overnight there in a rather dingy hotel. In the morning we took a very short boat ride across the Mekong which forms the border. On the other side we had to get our visas and enter Laos. We then went to the river on the Laos side and boarded a long open sided boat for a 7 hour sailing down the Mekong to Prakbang for another overnight stay.