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Round-the-world in 2005

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Jan 10 - Jan 19, 2005

We are back in Thailand and now have time to do some more exploring in the north. To read about our two previous recent visits to Thailand, go here and here.

Hill tribe woman selling her wares at the market

10 Jan 2006 Chiang Rai, Thailand

Phone search

Border crossings are now a formality for us. We exited Laos, ferried across the Mekong, then entered Thailand (for the third time!) - no problems. It was a three hour bus ride from here to Chiang Rai. Though it is a pretty big town, there is not much to see here - we have stopped mainly to give Clare time to prepare herself for her phone interview and to find a telephone for the EIS in the UK to call her. We didn’t need to fret, as there was a perfect one in our hotel room. We mostly stay in budget accommodation which usually have nothing more than a bed and a fan, sometimes a bathroom. Fortunately the guesthouse we first headed to was shut down, and we had to go to a more upmarket one (still only $8 a night!). The interview went well, now the few days of waiting to see how our near future is shaped. We wound down after the stress with a nice meal and drink, and splurged a little buying gifts at the large night market. We are getting close to the end of the trip so we are starting to buy some more bulky things to carry home.

Clare focused on a bargain

11 Jan 2006 Chiang Mai

Getting bigger

It was another four hours on a bus to get to the so called Bohemian town of Chiang Mai, the largest town in this region in the north of Thailand. It is certainly the most touristy and westernised that we have been in for a while. There are fancy restaurants and bars lining the streets. First thing we did was sign up Clare for a cooking course tomorrow. It is a very popular place to do this, and there are many different courses on offer, making choosing a difficult task. We then saw one of the many temples in town, had some delicious Thai food, then spent hours exploring the huge night markets. Another buying spree.

INgredients for cooking class

12 Jan 2006 Chaing Mai, Thailand

Cooking and Looking

Clare went off to her Thai cooking class, while Rob enjoyed the time to himself. He had his first haircut in over a year, to surprise Clare and to look a little more respectable when he returns. Meanwhile Clare had a great day, first visiting the local food market to learn about the local ingredients, then heading back to cook up six wonderful Thai dishes and eat them too! Absolutely scrumptious, but she had to roll home as she was so full. In the evening we went back to the night markets to continue to explore. They are so big we did not see it all last night, much of the same but still very interesting.

Our hotel balcony

13 Jan 2006 Pai, Thailand

Mountain town

We waited at our pickup point for half an hour for the minibus to take us into the hills, to the small town of Pai. We arrived at midday, as it was starting to heat up. It is a small town, less developed than Chiang Mai, and though similarly it is geared towards tourists, it does not seem as touristy. We found a very nice wooded cottage to stay in, with a private balcony overlooking the river. Here we relaxed for a couple of hours, enjoying the peacefulness while we can - our return to Australia is looming. We read our books, had a beer at sunset (as you do) and mentally prepared for our day of exploring tomorrow.

Bush bashing

14 Jan 2006 Pai, Thailand

Hot Pai

A first for us, we hired motorbikes to explore the area around Pai. They were automatics which made it a bit easier for us novices. The first stop was a temple on a hill, then onto some fantastic natural hot springs. The weather is much cooler overnight in this mountain region, and at this time it still had not warmed too much, so it was a delight to bathe in the warm water. Meanwhile, further upstream where it was 80 degrees in the water, the locals boiled some eggs in the water. We visited a waterfall and a canyon, before stopping for some Khaw Soi, a local dish of chicken curry and noodles. We continued onto another larger and more popular waterfall, where the water was too cold to fully immerse ourselves - our feet got a good soaking though. On our return journey Rob’s bike broke down, so we had to leave it on the side of the road and he had to be dinked back. There just happened to be a Reggae music festival on in the evening, to support the local school. It was great to see some local live music. Fortunately it was not all Reggae, but there were a lot of dreadlocks around.

Bareback elephant riding in Pai - taking a bath

15 Jan 2006 Pai, Thailand

Elephant Bath

A rare sleep in was required after last night. We hired a couple of mountain bikes and rode 6km up and down hills to the elephant camps that we passed quickly yesterday on motorbikes, to enquire about an afternoon trek. They mostly offered the same things, though we chose the group that had elephants that could also play soccer. While waiting, we rode out to a quiet village for a look. The elephant ride took us one hour slowly up a hill, then another hour in the river. We were riding bare back, clare just behind the ears and Rob straddled on its back. We had been given the young playful elephant, which constantly wanted to roll in the water and consequently continued to tip us off for a drenching. It was hilarious and scary at the same time - we were half scared that this gentle giant would roll on top of us. It was a long slog back to Pai on the bikes - we will need to do some fitness work when we return home.

BBQ fish

16 Jan 2006 Chiang Mai, Thailand

Round the World Golf Championship

We returned our push bikes, had a bite to eat, then onto a minibus back to Chiang Mai. We are not staying around, we have an overnight bus to Bangkok tonight, leaving us five hours to fill. We decided to play some ‘crazy golf’ - 18 holes of putt-putt, each with a different country featured. So on one of our last days of the trip, we were able to revisit many of the famous sites we have seen in the last year - the Eiffel tower, Las Vegas, Statue of Liberty, Taj Mahal and the Rome coliseum. Uluru and a kangaroo were also featured. It was a tough tussle between Rob and Clare, but in the end golf was the winner.


17 Jan 2006 Bangkok, Thailand

Final shop

We slept ok last night on the overnight bus – we must be getting used to it – but hopefully it will be the last one for a while! We were dropped off in the main backpacker area – Khao San Rd – at 6am. With the bus loads of other backpackers we wandered the streets surrounding here, only to find all the guesthouses full. Eventually we found one where someone was just checking out. A nice place for our final two nights. After a couple of hours sleep, we headed out to the markets in the streets nearby to spend our remaining Thai Baht.

Main tourist road in Bangkok

18 Jan 2006 Bangkok, Thailand

From market to market

After breakfast Clare decided to spruce herself up a little before heading back to Australia with a long awaited haircut, while Rob did some ‘housekeeping’. We got the local bus to another busy Bangkok marketplace filled with loads and loads of clothing, watches, souvenirs, bags, etc. We had a field day buying things, mainly for others! We even had to purchase a new suitcase to fit everything in to take home. Our return journey was via a water taxi along the canal, a bit more interesting than the bus. The roof of the boat, as well as us, had to duck to get under some of the low hanging bridges. In the evening we had a few beers – after our hard day’s work – in the busy Khao San Rd. We did a few last minute purchases as well as had a cartoon caricature done, which did not look much like us at all.


19 Jan 2006 Singapore

Mixed emotions

We quickly packed this morning, our last day overseas, for our long journey home. With a mid-morning flight, we had to leave our hotel at 9am. We are feeling many emotions, sadness at our RTW trip ending, happiness to be heading home to see family and friends, and anxiety as to what the next move will be for us. During our noodle soup breakfast we saw one of our travel buddies, Thomas, walking the street. We have made a great new friend bumping into this friendly Belgian a few times during our travels in South East Asia. It was good to be able to say a final goodbye. We had a two hour wait at the airport for the two hour flight from Bangkok to Singapore. After carefully spending the last of our Thai baht, we discovered we had an exit fee, only payable in Thai baht – so we had to change our leftover Indian rupee, which luckily was enough. At Singapore airport we had a six-hour stopover before the flight to Darwin. We occupied ourselves with internet, eating, duty free shopping, TV watching and wandering. Singapore airport is not the worst airport to have a long stopover.


Next we head back home to Australia.

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