Monday, 26 April 2010


We got back to Chiang Mai on the 10th to see in the Thai New Year (Songkran). The Thai celebrations last about a week and consist of street parties, parades and to top it off a huge water fight. The old town of Chiang Mai is surrounded by a moat which makes it the perfect setting to hold such an event supplying unlimited ammunition. We had no idea of what to expect but the scale of it was huge! Almost every single person in the city got involved armed with supersoakers, buckets and hosepipes. It was probably the most fun you can possibly have and I have never laughed so hard in all my life!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


Pai is a small village about 3 hours drive from Chiang Mai to the North East through the mountains. The teacher at the cooking School we had attended on the previous day had recommended a guesthouse called Mountain View which was about 10 minutes outside of Pai centre.
On arrival one of the guys from Mountain View came to pick us up from the bus stop with our luggage and I decided to hire a scooter and follow behind so that we didn't have to walk back into town later. Half way up the final hill to the digs the scooter started to splutter and as I looked down at the fuel gauge I realised I had ran out of petrol. The bike came to a stop and I had no choice but to coast back down the hill then push the rest of the way to the garage. Gutted!

Our home for the week

Pai is a really nice place and both of us liked it straight away. Despite its small size Pai has a wide range of bars, restaurants and excursions/activities to go on during the day. Included in the cost of our accomodation was free daily entry to Fluid Bar's Pool and gym so most days we lazed  around there most days.

We took a trip up to one of the many local waterfalls not far from Pai which was beautiful. The cascading waters had smoothed the rock so much that kids used it as a water slide. I covered myself in mud for a laugh but when I got out of the water I discovered I was covered in tiny leeches! Alba had to spend ages picking them off. Another waterfall we visited was really dry with the water only about ankle deep as the hotter than average temperatures have caused a lot of the water sources to dry up and there has been a number of forest fires too.

One afternoon exploring on the the bike brought us to Pai Canyon which was suprisingly good. Huge drops and precarious cliff edges on all sides without the slightest hint of safety precautions what so ever. Alba didn't enjoy the danger element as much as I did so I didn't clamber along the edges or across any gorges but it was still fun.

We rounded off the week in Pai with a trip to The Piranha Fishing park. After an hour of nowt, Alba caught the first fish of the day, not sure what it was but it was small and white. We didn't have much more luck after that so we moved to the next pool where I caught a Piranha. Alba then hooked the biggest fish of the day out of anyone at the park- a 3kg catfish while I was at the bar (on my line I might add!). Me and another bloke ran back round with a net and tried to get the beast onto dry land. In the melee that followed the 2 rods got tangled and the fish managed to get off the hook much to Alba's disapointment. She is now quite a keen fisherman (or fisherwoman if you're getting all P.C)!.


Thursday, 1 April 2010

Chiang Mai

I was pleased we had set off 1 and a half hours before our train was due to leave as we were stuck in traffic for 45 minutes during rush hour. Even though the train station was less than a mile away from the hotel it was impossible to get anywhere quickly in Bangkok.
We made our way through the crowded station and found our platform with enough time to spare for a cigarette or 2. Finding our seats brought us both a new wave of excitement- the feeling of the unknown, moving on to somewhere new. We had tickets for the 2nd class sleeper car and the journey was to take 13 hours, arriving in Chiang Mai at 7am. We both had top bunks which were a tad small and uncomfortable but I was out like a light at 8pm. Alba wasn't so fortunate and hardly slept a wink!

Sitting in the tuk tuk on the way to our guest house I looked out at this new city and quickly came to like it; it was cleaner, quieter and more peaceful than Bangkok for a start.The old town has kept its old buildings intact surrounded by a moat and castle walls that once protected them. Buildings in the old town must be built at no higher than 4 stories  which also helps keep the feel and authenticity as there are no glass skyscrapers next door to old sandstone temples.
I had planned on hiring a bike to explore the city but upon checking the prices I found that a half decent mountain bike was double that of a scooter so we opted for the latter. Aside from the price of a bike everything else is noticabley cheaper here than any of the places we had been previous; accommodation, food, booze and internet are all dirt cheap. After the blowout in Bangkok we had planned the week or so here to be one of detox and relaxation but these ideals were short lived and we went out on the first 3 nights. Oh well. 'We're on holiday' was the excuse used most often for our lack of commitment to our healthy vows.

Those 2 lads are Seb and Charlie your stereotype textbook travelers. Charlie is a posh lad and was in India before Thailand and wears beads and a headband. Seb is from Sweden and can stretch a simple story into a 2 hour monologue. Both of them never stop going on about weed. Alba summed it up best ''They are just a pair of tossers man, they are trying to sponge money off you cos there're tramps and anyway smoking weed is for knobs!"

Since seeing some peoples work that had been done in  Koh Chang I was keen to get a  traditional Sak Yant style tattoo done with bamboo. I checked out a few places here and found a place that had a design I liked and got booked in. The tattoo came out great and healed within 4 days without any bleeding or scrabbing. I was so pleased with it I got another one a few days later. I had them done at Magic Tattoo.

Of all the temples and touristy things we have done so far this trip the humorously named temple of 'Wat Umong' was the best. Within a large and quiet park sits a 800 year old temple surrounded by small ponds full of huge carp. The temple has a system of underground tunnels which were built to keep a mad monk from wandering off into the forest and the whole place is still lived in and maintained by Buddhist Monks. This was in contrast to Doi Suthep which is dubbed the 'holiest sight in Northern Thailand'. We found a tourist trap with as many street hawkers as any market in Chiang Mai.

Another good day out we had was at the Zoo and Aquarium. The Zoo was a fair size and had the usual array of animals that you would expect and all of them seemed well looked after and happy enough.

Our next stop is Pai before maybe coming back to Chiang Mai for the Thai new year and giant water fight Songkran before nashing over the border into Laos before our visas run out!