Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chiang Rai and Chiang Khong

February 19, 2011—We woke up the morning of February 16 and found that we were still quite sore from riding the elephants plus we were a bit tired from our travels so we decided to spend an extra day in Chiang Rai. We enjoyed our breakfast and then returned to the room so that I could work on the blog, and Steve could write in his journal.

Around noon we walked to the main street looking for a place to have lunch. We ended up at da Vinci’s where we enjoyed a Hawaiian Pizza and beer. After lunch we again returned to our room, which was nice and cool because of the air-conditioning. I was able to finish the blog and catch up on my journal as well.

For dinner we walked to the Night Bazaar, which was only a block away. I ordered two shish-kabobs, and Steve ordered grilled prawns, which turned out to be overcooked. We also found some yummy looking fried insects—cockroaches, caterpillars, etc.

We then took our time walking around the bazaar looking at all the lovely things for sale. Steve bought a woven bracelet, and I found an elephant necklace. We then treated ourselves to a Swenson’s ice cream, and as we were on our way back to the hotel, we saw a barber shop that was still open. Steve went in and had a haircut and full shave for 120 baht or $4. The barber was quite a "ham" when I took the picture.

On Thursday, we walked to the post office to mail some postcards, and on the way we discovered the Wat Klang Wiang (more temples). Then we walked until we found the Central Market, which was very interesting. From there we went by the new Mosque, which was very impressive. Next we discovered the Golden Clock that was very ornate and beautiful. I wanted to have my hair cut so we returned to the same barber, and he cut my hair and gave me a shampoo for 120 baht or $4. I was very happy with the cut.

We enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant and made our next stop the Peak Spa where we scheduled massages for 4 p.m. We didn’t have time to make a trip up to a hill tribe, but we did visit a museum in town that had excellent displays and a video about the hill tribes. As we left the museum, we passed the remains of the prison so we walked around to have a look at it.

Now it was time to return to our room to change for our massage. We returned to the spa and enjoyed a head/neck/back massage, as well as a foot massage. An hour later, we were done and felt much better. Around 6:30 we walked to the Phu-Lae Restaurant for a spicy curry dinner.

The morning of February 18, we got up early and ate breakfast. We had packed our bags the night before so that we would be ready to leave at 9:15 to catch the bus to Chiang Kong. Luckily, the hotel was just two blocks from the bus station, so we loaded our backpacks and headed over there. A lady asked us where we were going, and when we told her Chiang Kong, she directed us to a bus; however, this bus did not leave until 10 a.m., but that was fine so we loaded our bags and picked a good seat by the door.

We left on time and enjoyed the ride on the third-class bus filled with locals. There was no AC, but the open door gave us plenty of air, and it even got a bit cool for me. We realized on the ride that these buses are privately owned so the woman had sent us to her bus that was driven by her husband and not the 9:30 bus. The ride took two hours and the scenery along the way was very pretty. It is the end of the dry season, so things are starting to become dryer, but when the rains begin in April or May, I am sure that things will become much greener.

We arrived in Chiang Kong at noon and hired a motorcycle tuk-tuk to take us to our hotel. When we put our bags in the back and climbed in, the cycle came up off the ground. We had to move our weight forward and when the driver got on the cycle, it came all the way back down. It was worth the fee because the hotel was further than we thought.

We checked into the Nam Kong Riverview Hotel, which is situated right on the Mekong River. Our room looks out over the Mekong and Laos on the other side. It is a nice facility with a restaurant. We enjoyed lunch there and then took a quick walk just north of town. When we returned, we enjoyed some time sitting on the deck overlooking the river.

At dinner time, we decided to have a light meal so we returned to the restaurant. Unfortunately, two buses of tourists had arrived and filled the hotel. We arrived at the restaurant before the hordes descended, but we received only our drink order. After an hour of waiting for our soup, we just got up, paid our bill, and left. We ended up at the Bamboo Mexican House where we enjoyed pumpkin soup and chicken quesadillas. The food was marvelous, and it was nice to have some good Mexican food for a change. When we returned to the hotel, the tourists were really enjoying themselves and were setting off fire crackers well into the evening so it was difficult to get any sleep.

In the morning we waited to eat breakfast until the large group was finished. Unfortunately, by the time we could get a table, the food was basically gone. We decided not to stay another night if another bus would be coming in. While the buses were being loaded, we walked up the street and found a lovely new hotel that had a room for us. Knowing that, we returned and asked to speak to the manager. We told him about the problems we had the night before and asked if another bus was coming in. He told us no, so we said that we would not check out but would stay another night. After that he offered to serve us a hot breakfast, and we agreed.

We walked through town after breakfast, but there is really very little to see here. It is a small town, and the only real reason people come here is to catch the boat ride down the Mekong to Luang Prabang, which is what we will do tomorrow morning. Therefore, we decided to buy some wonderful home-made bread at the Bamboo Mexican House and go back to the hotel so that I could write this blog, and Steve could check into our schedule for tomorrow.

In the late afternoon we walked down to the Mekong so that we could dip our feet in the water, and a little later we enjoyed a delicious dinner of green chicken curry, which would give green chili a run for its money. Tomorrow we leave to take a two-day boat trip down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang, Laos.

On another note, the news regarding the Somali pirates taking a U.S. flagged yacht, and the fact that the world governments are hesitant to deal with the situation, we are now rethinking our plans for continuing west through the Suez Canal. We are monitoring the news carefully and following the boats that we know are crossing this year. Our other alternative is to go to South Africa, which involves sailing more miles but a lot less stress; however, it will mean leaving Malaysia this year instead of next January. We will decide within the next month what we will do.

No comments: