So, how to travel back to Thailand? We visited a tour operator in Luang Prabang to find out our options. There were 4. It was like a question on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire", albeit a no-brainer, early one,the one worth about 100 quid.
How would you travel to Thailand from Laos...?
a. By local bus and minibus taking 22 hours.
b. By local bus and speedboat taking 11 hours.
c. By plane taking 55 mins.
d. By slow boat, taking 2 days.
I mean,you wouldn't exactly need to use up many lifelines on this one, would you?
We'll go for c please Chris, I mean Miss, we stammered, taking the easy option for the first time in the entire trip. I know, I know, "the journey is as important as the destination" and all that traveller blurb you hear whilst doing these trips, but we were seriously over all the loooong bus journeys. "Real" travellers would've probably taken the slowest, most painful option, in order to have a story to tell, but just for once we chose the easy option. We booked a flight.
It felt very strange to be in Laos one minute and then in Thailand less than an hour later, so accustomed had we become to laughably slow and bumpy bus journeys. It was a novelty, a nice one, to travel in comfort for once, and we arrived at our guesthouse fresh and happy. Weird.
Chiang Mai is a busy city, less frantic than Bangkok, but still teeming with traffic and life.There are over 300 temples, almost as many as in Bangkok, and there is a 700year old wall and moat which surrounds the old city, built to protect the Thais from Burmese invasion.
Our guesthouse was located on a tiny sidestreet, an alley really, which suited us just fine as it was cheap (7 quid a night, not to be sniffed at), had cable TV and was very quiet, despite the fact that there were loads of girly bars and cheesy "clubs" nearby. We found the cheapest restaurant in town (not difficult, just look for fleabitten travellers in tie-dyed cotton pants) and chowed down on pad thai and drank Chang beer for about fifty pence each. I turned my nose up at the many hippified "backpackers" (I hate that word) we came across as most of them had filthy matted dreds and looked in need of a good wash. I wanted to get them in a headlock and tip a giant vat of Head and Shoulders over their mangy heads. They were giving us travellers a bad name. You wouldn't catch me with unstraightened hair, let alone the lice-infested tresses they were sporting. As someone once said, "there are no ugly people in this world, only lazy ones." This lot must've been bone-idle.
We had agreed to use Chiang Mai as a base for our elephant trekking, plus we also wanted to go to a cookery class (Liam too!) to learn how to perfect some of the Thai dishes we'd really grown attached to over the last few months. I never thought I'd be eating noodle soup or pad thai for breakfast but I've actually loved the food here and we regularly choose noodle soup first thing in the morning.
We booked ourselves onto a few activities and got an early night, ready for our first excursion in the morning - climbing in a cage full of tigers....