Chiang Mai 11th to 15th October

Much like Hanoi, Chiang Mai just seemed welcoming from the moment we arrived. We werw staying in the old town, a mile and a half square inside the old city walls. You can’t walk more than 100 yards without passing a temple, and within hours, a local Buddhist had filled us in on the best ones to visit, and the best way to get cheap fares around. It’s that friendly.
The original temple was HUGE, but then an earthquake made it just big
Jenny disapproves

We went to the Night Market by ‘tuk-tuk’ (a motorbike with a couple of seats attached to the back) in the evening. Ben bought vests (shock!) and on ‘Halal Street’, the Muslim section of the market we bought the tastiest and hottest dish made from rice balls, made fresh in front of us.
A picture cannot capture the sheer amount of chilli in this!
We washed it down with much needed Tiger beer, and watched a fan dancer in the middle of the market. The beer was lovely, and the fan dancing odd, but very watchable.
 

 Later in the week, we arranged a trek through our guesthouse, involving an elephant ride, which was a little scary, as our elephant liked running up hills to fetch bamboo, but brilliant;
There are very few pictures where Ben isn’t looking terrified…
This was followed by a trek through the jungle, with our guide Neo. He was a very funny chap, and had loads of info on the local wildlife (and what it tasted like!). We saw a chameleon, which was bigger than expected;
Some creepy spirit houses, where the local villages encourage evil spirits to stay out;
Shudder
A huge waterfall;

Some amazing views;
And rickety bamboo bridges;
We stopped off for a swim in a little lagoon by a waterfall, which was much needed after the walk, and was beautifully secluded. On the way to get some lunch, our tour guide showed us how to blow bubbles using plant sap!

After lunch, we went down the river on bamboo rafts. Ours was piloted by a 10 year old boy who liked hitting rocks!
And then we went and drank a lot of mojitos. There is so much more that’s brilliant about Chiang Mai, but I think this post is now a little long. So I’ll just put some food pictures to sum up the rest!
Mussaman curry in a coconut
Som Tam (papaya salad)

Bangkok 8th to 11th October

 BANGKOK

So to start, Qatar Airways is AMAZING. A 747 with comfy seats, good films and a delicious green curry wrap! This was tempered slightly by Ben messing up at immigration…

Anyway, we got to Bangkok late as a result, and got a cab to our hotel. The cabs here are lurid pink, which is strange. The Khaosan Road is anarchic, but was subdued by an enormous downpour on our first night (we now know what monsoon season means!), so we spent time in our room at Buddy Lodge, an amazing boutique hotel in the middle of everything- the towels are folded into elephants!

Worth every penny for this!
The following morning, the weather had cleared up, and we went for a wander to Sanam Luang, the park leading up to the huge Grand Palace complex, it was surrounded by a million little market stalls selling every manner of trinket, and a fair degree of pirated DVDs and games!

We spent the evening wandering Khaosan and the surrounding alleys- people sell hard here, and the people selling trips to ping pong shows make hideously graphic noises to let you know exactly what that is… Jen had coconut ice cream from a coconut shell- it was delicious. The fruit stands sell bags of fruit for about 40p, and you can get pat thai (glass noodles, chicken, egg and chilli) for about 60p. At the end of the market, some kids were playing strange Thai autoharp type instruments- we saw them play Coldplay and Lady Gaga!

The next day, we explored Bangkok by boat along the river. There are so many temples and amazing buildings you lose track of what they are.

They know wat is wat…

We stopped in Chinatown for vases full of iced coffee, then headed home for dinner at Mai Kaidee, an amazing vegetarian restaurant hidden on a little back street. The spring rolls with peanut sauce were mindblowing!

MINDBLOWING

Next stop- Chiang Mai!