Monday, 10 January 2011

Arrived in Chang-Rai

Monday 10th January 2011

MP3 track of the day: I don't want to miss a thing – Aerosmith

Weather: Overcast, raining and for once quite cold

I was correct in thinking that I would be woken early today; from 7:30am onwards hostel guests came down to have breakfast … and they weren't particularly quiet considering that they could see me trying to sleep on the sofa. The sofa was much more comfortable than I had previously guessed and, considering that I had only five hours sleep, I felt rather good.

I got up, tried once again to book some accommodation within Chang-Rai (unsuccessfully), then headed to the local shop to purchase some 'bus snacks' before eventually getting a cab to the bus station. All went well and I was an hour early for my coach; the hour past quickly and my coach turned up ready for me to board.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the coach was remarkably clean. Further more the seat next to me was vacant, which meant I could stretch out a little. There was a driver and a young gentleman all 'suited and booted' giving stop information over a microphone, however only in Thai. We hadn't gone far when 'Mr suit' brought around free water and snacks. I was a little annoyed that I had used my own money to purchase two packs of biscuits when I didn't need to as complimentary snacks where on their way, however that annoyance soon faded when I was handed one small pack of dry crackers … and that was it.

The scenery was pretty cool; we gained height very quickly and, due to the road conditions, the first part of our journey was quite slow. Looking out of the window the terrain reminded me of the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia; the vegetation was the same light green and trees, mountains and the occasional small dwelling dominated the landscape. After about an hour we stopped for a break; I didn't need anything to eat or drink and so I stayed on the coach, waiting for about fifteen minutes before we departed again.

Once back on the coach it started to rain; I continued to look out of the window; the land had become pretty flat however that didn't make the view any less dramatic; high mountain peaks and vegetation still dominated the back drop with the occasional temple coming into view. 'Mr Suit' then made another announcement; I have to say that this was the most professional bus service I had been on within South East Asia; continual information given by 'Mr Suit', snacks and a very clean bus made it a very pleasant journey … I almost forgotten that I hadn't booked any accommodation within Chang-Rai … until we arrived at the bus station.

Yet again the bus station we where dropped off at wasn't anywhere near town, however I didn't know that at the time. Once off the coach I got all my stuff together and prepared to march into town to look for somewhere to stay. Luckily I saw this British girl waiting at the bus station who, first of all, told me that town was 19km away. When I then asked her if she knew of a good guesthouse to stay at she said yes. 'YY' guesthouse was her suggestion and she said that it was brand new, 150 baht per night and that she stayed there nine nights. She did tell me that it was located near the 'clock tower' and then she started to go into further detail however I stopped listening, within my mind 'brand new' meant like the hostel I stayed in at Krabi. I thanked her, went off to find a truck into town, looking forward to staying in a replica hostel to the one in Krabi.

The truck was packed and I sat on the final seat, with my smaller bag on my knees, and my bigger bag resting on the step outside the vehicle (which I held onto for dear life). Luckily the journey wasn't long and soon where were in town; I got out my guidebook, found the map of Chang-Rai, and headed to where this girl said 'YY' guesthouse was. After fifteen minutes of walking, and asking two people, I found the guesthouse … or at least I thought I did.

Firstly the guesthouse was actually called 'Ti Amo cafe house' but it's logo were two 'Y''s. Secondly the dorm room was only 100 baht a night, however a single was 150 baht, but most important of all once I was shown my room it didn't look 'brand new' and I don't think I could spend nine nights there. There where a few positives though; firstly the owners were very nice, they had herd of the girl I spoke to, the guesthouse is in the center of town and they also run a small restaurant with CAKE for sale … though sadly not as nice looking as the cake in Chang-Mai.

I dropped my bags off within my room and, considering it was 4:30pm, I decided to go for a short walk north to the tourist information center and then loop back, even though it was still raining. Chang-Rai is not Chang-Mai; I currently can't put my finger on it but the vibe I get from walking around the town isn't as good as Chang-Mai. As I look around the place it seems to be a lot more run down than Chang-Mai however it seems to have everything I need. On the positive side there was a 'tourist walk', taking in all the sites of Chang-Rai (which I fancy doing once the weather's better), and it's lovely and cool here making trousers a good option … for once!

I went to the tourist office, picked up a free map of the area, before looping back to my guesthouse (still checking for another 'YY' guesthouse within the area). Once back I got out my netbook to find that Matt and Rachael where still in town, though only for tonight, and just down the road. We arranged to meet up for drinks later.

I continued surfing on the internet for a little while, checking Laos visa requirements etc, wondering whether I should just forget Chang-Rai and head out with Matt and Rachael tomorrow. I debated with myself for a few minutes; it would be nice to have a look around Chang-Rai first, and I have plenty of time plus if Matt and Rachael head off first they can tell me how it went and wheres good to stay in Louang Phabang … more decisions to be made!

I shut down my computer and looked at my watch, 7:30pm. I had an hour and a half to grab something to eat before meeting up with Matt and Rachael. I went up to my dorm and blew the dust off a piece of clothing I hadn't worn for a month … yes people, it's pretty cold up here in the mountains and so my coat was out … I was very happy to see that it still fit. My first port of call was the night market, about a five minute walk away. Now every night market, I've visited within South East Asia, has had a good selection of food stalls at reasonable prices … not in Chang-Rai it would appear. I went down the few rows of stalls, that where in the 'night market', to find that most sold clothes and other items that I didn't want to purchase. I went around the whole market to find only a handful of food stalls and none of them looked very appetizing. I decided to head back to my guesthouse as there was a restaurant next door, which looked good.

On the way back I saw a spring roll stand which, knowing me and spring rolls, I had to stop off and grab a bag. Twenty baht later I had six spring rolls in my possession … but not for very long, they where good. I then made my way to said restaurant only to find Matt and Rachael there; I joined them for a meal and we caught up on what we had been up to. As mentioned above Matt and Rachael where off to Laos tomorrow taking the slow boat, they still weren't fully packed so they couldn't stay out long however I did pick up some tips on what to see around the area.

After an hour or so we departed and said our goodbyes, however I hope to see them in Louang Phabang within the week. I came back to my hostel to go through my options; I've decided to stay in Chang-Rai for at least three nights, maybe four. I want to see the town tomorrow (weather depending) and Matt and Rachael told me that I must go and see the while temple (about 13km from here). That I reckon will take two days and so I might be heading to Lao, on the slow boat, on Thursday … I think. However now it's time for sleep, I'm pretty tired.

Toodle Pip!

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