inconsistent news from southeast asia

Thailand-Travelogue  |  Travel time: September 2005 - March 2006  |  by Matthew Audley

Pai-Thaton-Mae Sai-Chiang Rai

Sooo... this whole... documenting everday thing.. it's just not gonna fly. We've been on the move for a while, but really, not all that much has happened...

Day 25 i was still sick, but we did get to check out the best bar i've seen yet (though it was empty and there was no band at 8:30, the owner was very interesting and there was free pool)... AND he was playing early tom waits. Last thing i expected to hear that i miss. And there's a lot of music i miss.

free pool at b-bop bar, pai.

free pool at b-bop bar, pai.

Day 27 we left Pai. It was fairly precarious. There was a whole series of unfortunate events leading to it seeming impossible for us to get up to Chiang Rai without going back down to Chiang Mai. And our visas expired on the 12th, so time was limited.

Then we talked to the lovely man at the travel agency attached to our guesthouse. Though they'd told us at the public bus station that there was no bus to chiang rai, they didn't tell us we could get there anyway. That's the way things work around here and it can be frustrating as hell.

Sooo.. we had to take the public bus east to mai malae and then flag down one north to fang and then east again to chiang rai. It sounded like it might be interesting and it was.

We didn't make it. There's only one bus from fang.. and it left at 3:30.. just before we got there. And we'd just missed the bus leaving mai malae, too.

So, at least we weren't alone in our adventure. There was a Canadian couple along for the same crapshoot and we headed north in a songthaew (a sort of converted pick-up truck minibus) to Thaton. I'll have you know, i counted twenty people on/in that songthaew, too.

As it turned out, Thaton was actually a lovely town. Very nice scenery, and we killed quite a few hours having dinner and dessert with our new friends.

the lovely rural community of Thaton.  Some guy was nice enough to let us sample his homemade whisky that night, too.   But only the men.

the lovely rural community of Thaton. Some guy was nice enough to let us sample his homemade whisky that night, too. But only the men.

the public busses, of which we have seen so much lately.

the public busses, of which we have seen so much lately.

Found a nice guesthouse for 150B. Slept REALLY well until.... 5:30 a.m. Suddenly, music blares from loudspeakers somewhere. Then, a speech of some sort. For almost an hour, i swear. And LOUD. Earplugs do nothing. Earplugs plus pillow does nothing. Eventually i got up to go see what was going on, figuring i might as well know if i wasn't going to sleep. Most of the town was up already, as they're mostly farmers out there, and totally unconcerened.... The speech was coming from way up on the hill somewhere. Never really did figure out what it was, but the current theory holds that it was muslim morning prayers... the town did have a mosque and a significant muslim population. It's the second largest religious group here, with 5%, i think. lots of Buddhists.

We spent much of the day in Thaton waiting for the bus.  I played my melodica/on a lot.  Does the picture show how hot it was?

We spent much of the day in Thaton waiting for the bus. I played my melodica/on a lot. Does the picture show how hot it was?

Day 28 was pretty well our last day to make our dash to the border. 30-day visa is up the day after, so we take the bus out to Mae Sai, on the Burmese border. The scenery is nice, but these public busses make the train look awfully good.

Our place in Mae Sai is the Northern GH, described as being quite the find in LP. It is really really not. And it appears it's also a chicken farm.. or something. Worst place yet? Here's a descriptive photo.

There's not as much artistic licence here as you might like to think.

There's not as much artistic licence here as you might like to think.

Mae Sai is a border town with markets on both sides, and.. not much else. Crossing the border the next day is a piece of cake. Really ridicuolously easy. We get an exit stamp, we hand over our passports and 250B each in exchange for a flimsy piece of paper and we look around the market in Myanmar for half an hour.

The written word in Myanmar is even more exotic than that in thailand, the guys get to wear skirts, and the tour guides are even pushier. Other than that, i can't say i noticed too much. Oh, and there were lots of guys pushing cigarettes and pornography. And lots of street children begging.

So we head back across the border, half fill in another entry/exit card and bam, we can stay in thailand for another thirty days. But we won't. We'll be back to explore the south later.

Yes, the union of myanmar, complete with grossly corrupt military dictatorship and lots of shopping.  I don't think we left any money there.

Yes, the union of myanmar, complete with grossly corrupt military dictatorship and lots of shopping. I don't think we left any money there.

Catherine doesn't much like staying on the border, and i suppose i can't blame her, mae sai was shelled as recently as Feb. 2001. So the same day, we get on yet another bus. Another two hours out to Chaing Rai.

And here we are. This place has very little to offer as it seems to be largely set up for the convention crowd. Expensive restaurants for those with expense accounts and the market with nothing but meat as far as the eye can see.

So we'll stay here for a bit - i'm not much in the mood for yet more travelling right now. Hopefully we can see some of the golden triangle (gotta visit the opium exhibition hall), then, who knows. We may head to a village up north for a meditation course or we may head to the Laotian border to catch a slow boat into Luang Prabang.

October 15th

Alright, so Chiang Rai has something to offer. The night market here is quite spectacular, complete with live music and hundreds of people sitting around drinking and eating every night. It's the best place to get food, but it doesn't open until 6:00 or so.

the night market, chiang rai.

the night market, chiang rai.

So we're figuring this city out slowly but surely - even have a breakfasty place now. But those first few days were tough. A couple days ago it was 4:00 or so and we still hadn't had a real meal. We were desperately cruising the day market for vegetarian fare when we finally found something!

It's a milestone - our first meal in a bag. Maybe i haven't mentioned the in-a-bag phenomenon, but everything is served in plastic bags here, particularly juices of various persuasions from pop to weird herbal extracts.

can you tell how happy we are to have food... in a bag?

can you tell how happy we are to have food... in a bag?

Yesterday, the 14th, was a bit of a wasted day. We thought we'd head to the nearby Chiang Saen to see the huge Opium Exhibition hall there, which is apparently well worth seeing.

So we took a bus there, about an hour and a half ride.

Upon arrival, however, the hall is 9km outside of the town and it was going to close too soon and bleh. So it was a bit of a waste and we ended up taking the bus back, wasting most of the afternoon. Got to see some of a tiny little nothing town though.

Chiang Saen.

Chiang Saen.

If anything was going to stop me from smoking, it would be this sign!

If anything was going to stop me from smoking, it would be this sign!

The source of all our wake-up calls?  Well, okay.. only two so far. But STILL- 5:30!!

The source of all our wake-up calls? Well, okay.. only two so far. But STILL- 5:30!!

© Matthew Audley, 2005
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The trip
 
Description:
Leaving for bangkok on Sept. 12. Where we go from there is anyone's guess. Hoping to see Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. Be back in six months or so if everything goes well. There really isn't much of a route planned - we'll see what happens.
Details:
Start of journey: Sep 12, 2005
Duration: 6 months
End of journey: Mar 19, 2006
Travelled countries: Thailand
Canada
Laos
Vietnam
Cambodia
Southeastern Asia
Malaysia
The Author
 
Matthew Audley is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 13 years.
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