Us in Buak Hat Park
Arriving back in Chiang Mai from our fantastic weekend break to Pai invoked a mixture of feelings in us. Daft as it sounds it felt like we were coming home, staying at the same hotel, same room, straight into our favourite veggie restaurant for lunch etc. That in turn made us feel as though we'd never been away and the trip to Pai was a figment of our imagination. Our focus is now turning to our next leg of travels and we spent quite a lot of time in internet rooms trying with varying degrees of success to book flights. We've come to the conclusion that budget airline websites are the worst on the entire internet. We had problems with Jetstar (very, very slow and terrible navigation), Tiger (Dodgy payment facilities, expired security certificate) and Air asia (slow, so the best of a bad bunch).
Buak Hat Park
With Tiger, half the time we got through the purchase stages and for no apparant reason when we try and pay it declines our cards after we've spent half an hour entering all the required info. We think they should do the card authorisation first to save all the hassle, especially as the day before it accepted one of our cards without a problem. We ended up calling our bank who said that they hadn't even requested authorisation for any payments!! Eventually we ended up calling the service centre and the brilliant woman on the other end booked and authorised the payment with no fuss and in much less time than the internet system took!!!
One legacy from our trip to Pai is the need for frequent dips in the swimming pool. Our hotel 'Awana House' has a small but nice pool which we found really cold before but have come to really enjoy.
Superb vegetarian buffet at Gap's House
The sticky heat in the afternoons makes the pool even more refreshing. The drift into low season seems to be having an effect as even in the short time we've been here we have noticed fewer tourists around the city.
We keep on finding more veggie restaurants and last night came across Gap's House which offers an evening all you can eat buffet for 80 baht. It was excellent and the temptation to stuff our faces was narrowly staved off in our new spirit of self restraint (we've decided to go on the wagon for a few weeks as it's far too easy to find reasons to have the beautiful cold beers here). The restaurant is part of a really atmospheric guesthouse set up which has very attractive looking darkwood rooms and they also run vegetarian cookery courses.
We headed out one evening to check out the Muay Thai / Thai kick boxing.
145lbs Muay Thai; the red opponent was an English guy
The fights were not exactly the championship class bouts advertised and consisted of a mixture of boys and womens fights but it was very interesting and quite vicious (especially the womens fights). The experience was quite surreal as the fights were staged in a stadium shared by lots of very dodgy girlie bars. Practically the entire audience were tourists sat at ringside tables and plied with drinks by ladyboy serving staff in impossibly high heels with incredible surgical breasts!!! It was very amusing to watch the reactions of the men (Adam included) at the fight as the leggy, lowcut top wearing, transexuals served their drinks and the eyes were darting from legs to boobs to the Adam's apples. The confusion, guilt and fear was written all over their faces.
The Cabaret Show after the Muay Thai matches
The fights themselves seemed a bit staged compared to some we've seen on TV but there were a couple of fights which involved westerners which really showed how skillful the sport is as the westerners, despite being twice the size of the Thais they were fighting, were totally outfought and both lost woefully. Both during and after the fights the ladyboys put on a cabaret performance and couldn't resist the temptation of showing off their plastic charms to the crowds, as we say it was quite surreal!!!
We also had another day on a motorbike as we had to collect our Indian visas and book our train tickets. We had a bit of spare time with the bike so drove around town photographing some of the many Wats (temples) and we found yet another incredible veggie restaurant.
Adam and our flash motorbike for the day
This time called "Khun Churn" in an area of the city which is becomming a bit of a new tourist haunt outside the old city walls. We had an awesome buffet lunch for just 80 baht each. Needless to say the bike could have done with some extra air in the tyres coming back as we'd eaten so much. We stumbled into one Wat and parked up the bike only to find dozens of Buddhist sayings on plaques fixed onto trees and posts. We're now armed with lots of inane stuff to write up in the bars that encourage traveller graffitti which we hate so much (see our other blog on the subject).
With our time in Chiang Mai at an end we've realised how much we've enjoyed our time here. Fantastic veggie food options, a really nice hotel and a great weekend away all add up to a very happy Stephanie and Adam.