Pi Mai and Chiang Mai

23 Apr

It has been, I know, horribly long since I last wrote a travel post, so I thought maybe the time had come.  What can I say, Jim does such a good job, and in such glorious technicolour. It has been an eventful week, however, so hopefully we won’t overlap too much.

Those of you faithfully following both our offerings will have no doubt seen Jim’s account of Pi Mai, Lao New Year, an extravaganza of water-throwing and facepaint-smearing.  After the first three days of New Year, this died down a little (this was something of a relief, I was running out of dry clothes) and the festivities became more focused on religious ceremonies and family time, so there are less colourful pictures to show from the remaining week.  We occupied our remaining time in Laos by bidding prolonged and fond farewells to Beer Lao, exploring some more far-flung parts of the town, and by finally succumbing to the tuktuk drivers’ incessant call of “Hey sir!  Wanna go waterfaaaall?”

The Kuang Si waterfall turned out to be well worth a visit, even if the tuktuk driver did in all seriousness, with the shamelessness of his profession, attempt to explain that it would cost more than visiting the “small waterfall” – not because it was further away or harder to get to – but because it was “bigger, more money”.  As if the price were determined by quantity of water.  Still, it was a beautiful spot, beautifully blue in a way you usually only see at the beach, and blissfully cool to swim in, given the blistering heat.

Not only that, but the area also plays host (behind a very high fence, that is) to a large number of bears who have been rescued from various abuses at the hands of poachers and “the restaurant trade” (no more information was proffered, and frankly I don’t want to know more), so as well as enjoying a pleasant dip we also got to watch some very relaxed bears lounging in bear-friendly hammocks and wallowing in pools.  Here is one particularly chilled looking chap.

Then it was on to country number four, via a long, painful but relatively undisastrous bus journey over the Thai border (no breakdowns for once, nor full electrical failures: the driver coming round at the beginning of the journey with plastic bags for everyone – eww- seemed positively civilised compared to some of our bus journeys out here).  Even at the border we only had to pay the Lao official a small “overtime fee” because it was the weekend.  Well, it wouldn’t be a SE Asian border crossing without a little semi-official bribery.

We have had a peaceful couple of days ambling through Chiang Mai’s charismatic streets , visiting numerous wats, getting massages (see Jim’s blog for more on that ) and enjoying the bustling and real-worldly Sunday market, and tomorrow we’ll be heading off to an elephant sanctuary near the town which has won awards for its pachyderm-friendly policies.  More photos will, I am sure, be to follow (but Jim’ll probably get there first!).   Peace and Love 😉

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