Today saw a seriously early start after I had only cat napped since 0100 for fear of missing all three alarms. However, I needn’t have worried as I was up in time to answer the phone at 0400 – our wake up call. Claire on the other hand was her usual comatose self (at this time in the morning) and took awhile to get going.
Nonetheless, we were out the door and downstairs to check out 10 mins ahead of our 0500 deadline (the two hours packing and sorting everything – including the clothes we were to wear – the night before may have helped!). 15 mins later we were on the minibus and on our way to the airport for our first internal flight to Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand to visit The Golden Triangle, eating our takeaway breakfast of tuna mayonnaise sandwiches and mini bananas!
Flying with Bangkok Air – with the biggest leg room I’ve ever had on an aircraft (with at least 20cm space to the row in front), we snoozed our way up to the North. Quickly off the plane, we collected our bags and slapped on the bug cream to protect against the dreaded mosquitos! Zipping out to our minibus, Claire suddenly turned into Ninja Claire, wafting her shoe around inside the minibus in a vain attempt to kill the imaginary mosquitos inside! (Editor-in-chief note: they were not imaginary Anthony as others saw them too).
We drove for about an hour to The Golden Triangle, so called because it was once the centre of the opium trade across Asia. It also is the point at which three countries (Thailand, Myanmar (old Burma) and Laos) come together at the Rivers Ruak and Mekong. We saw this from a high point looking over the ‘no-man’s land’, a territory in the middle which technically belongs to no one! A quick slip down the hill to the nearby village and an hour was spent learning the oddities of the Opium trade and it’s indigenous roots in local Asian cultures.
Lunch was at a buffet restaurant before a trip to a nearby 800 year old temple after which we transversed some amazing valleys bordering the river to Chiang Kong, our hotel for the evening on the riverbank. Checking into our plush chalet accommodation, we relaxed and played a card game or two before going for a wander along the riverbank and through the local community. Sweltering in the heat (and avoiding the stray dogs!), we retreated to our chalet to shower in cold water (not through choice!) in advance of our group evening meal overlooking the river.
Food was nice but took a long time to serve (16 of us after all!) and Claire’s paranoia regarding all things with more than two legs continued, much to everyone’s amusement! Nat came to the rescue to remove the large stick insect that attached itself to Claire’s yellow jumper (mosquito protection) before we retired for the night and to catch up on some much needed sleep!
Another early start tomorrow as we’re crossing the border into Laos and leaving Thailand behind – two days spent on the river to reach Luang Prabang with a ‘basic’ overnight stop – no WiFi or mobile phone reception there; how will I cope!?!
Anthony & Claire
P.S. We’ve only spent a few days in Thailand and we’ve barely scratched the surface of this amazingly beautiful and culturally-rich land. This was deliberate as this is an easily accessible country that we would like to spend more time in then this trip would provide. Having been here, we know that this is a must to return to – the people are friendly, costs are low and transport is fairly good; we’d happily come back independently and explore by ourselves without hesitation and spend some time getting to grips with all it has to offer.