Feb 19, 5pm

I’m writing this in the back seat of a taxi, which true to Bangkok taxi form, lacks a few minor systems, like suspension. The bumpy ride is making typing a challenge, but I always love a challenge.

Starting with last night’s “dinner.” Lime and chili chips good, lobster chips bad. This probably shouldn’t be surprising.

This afternoon, after checking out of the Trinity, I lugged the camera around Bangkok on Skytrain for a few hours, getting on and off at different stops and photographing a few different neighborhoods.

I met Sarah for Vietnamese lunch at the Siam Discovery Centre, a mall downtown. It was the classiest Vietnamese meal I’ve ever had. I’m used to Vietnamese restaurants being hole-in-the-wall type places with about five ingredients mixed and matched into about 100 menu items. This place was different. It had a vast array of interesting foods presented in a gourmet fashion. I wish I had a bigger stomach.

It was pretty late after lunch, so I rushed back to the Trinity for my card reader & hard drive then back to the MBK Centre to use one of the Internet café computers to dump card to hard drive. I had taken quite a few photos, and I wasn’t sure when I’d next have an opportunity to empty the card. While I was there, I booked my flight from Chiangmai to Bangkok. I had been thinking of taking a sleeper train back to Bangkok after my northern trip, but for the flight is only 999 Baht, and it saves me an entire day, basically. I’ve decided that for the short remainder of trip, I’m not going to spare the small expenses to make things easier or more fun. I’m not a starving student anymore, so there’s no need for me to travel like one. It’s true that 999 Baht could buy me a whole week’s worth of food here, but what it really boils down to is $30. I’m trying hard not to let my sense of value get warped while I’m here.

Anyway, after my MBK errand, I zipped back to the Trinity to pick up my small suitcase and camera gear. Again, they will hold my big suitcase until I return there on the 24th. I’m looking forward to spending some time up north. The receptionist at the Trinity smiled when I said I was flying to Chiang Rai today. She said, “Many flowers.” Sounds good to me.

Feb 19, 6:30pm

Wow i’m a genius. I just zapped my organizer. The switch beside “Turn on/off WiFi” is the “Format and destroy all information on your organizer” switch. Guess which one I switched when I meant to turn off WiFi before getting on my flight to Chiang Rai? Yeaaaah. So my schedule, flight information, confirmation numbers, etc. are all gone. Currently I’m a bit ticked off that there actually is such a switch on this stupid thing, but I really have no one to blame but myself, since I knew what the switch did, and just flicked it without thinking. It’s a good thing I’m paranoid and have all of that stuff backed up here and there, like in my email, or in my suitcase in Bangkok. There are a few annoying side effects to my little formatting escapade though. For one, the drivers for my Belkin keyboard are now gone, so the enter key and the arrow keys no longer work. You may discover that my paragraphs from now on will be longer and more poorly edited.

Feb 19, 11pm

I checked into the Golden Triangle Inn in Chiang Rai. It’s a comfy little place. It’s set in the middle of a garden, and there is the constant sound of crickets and other nighttime beasties outside. The inn itself is quite rustic, but not in a bad way. There’s lots of roughly-made, antique-looking wooden furniture in my room. Part of the wall, and the entire ceiling is made from woven rattan panels. The floor is made with honeycomb-shaped terracotta tiles. I’ve got to say, the place is kind of cute, and only 750 Baht per night.

The weather is much cooler here. Bangkok at night is still sweltering, with humidity that clings to you like Saran Wrap. Here, it’s pleasantly cool. I can walk around comfortably in long pants and a short sleeve shirt.

Right now, there isn’t much to do. There are some local restaurants and bars open in the market area across the street from the Inn. A few drunken Thai men are singing karaoke there. The ever-present convenience stores are open too. I bought a drink and was presented with an entirely different kind of coin in my change. The drink was 14.50 Baht, so I got a 50 Satang coin. I’m guessing things are a bit cheaper here if not bothering to round up to the nearest Baht. Surprisingly (to me) the only other businesses that seem to be wide open at this time of night are the flower shops. There’s a whole row of them, brightly lit and bursting with blooms of all types. I’ll go out and photograph them tomorrow night.

Feb 20, 5:30pm

What a long day! I got up at 7:00 for breakfast, then headed over to the tour office to book myself a hill tribe tour. They advised me that as a single traveller, my best bet was to rent a car and give myself a tour. I agreed, since that’s what I wanted to do anyway. They volunteered the new girl in the office to go along with me for free as a guide, since she’s in training. She and I were both surprised by this, but she seemed agreeable to it, so I will go along with it too. I’ll do that tomorrow.

I had picked up a very useful map and brochure about the city for free from the Tourist Police office, so today I gave myself a walking tour of the city’s temples and markets. I like this city very much, actually. It seems far less touristy than other places in Thailand that I’ve been to, perhaps because it’s so far out of the way. It does have its tourist area, but the people who live here seem much more laid back and relaxed, and less likely to have their hands in your pocket all the time. Even the tuk tuk drivers mostly sit back and wait for you to ask them for a ride. It’s a welcome change.

The weather here is pleasant too. It reminds me of Southern Ontario in June. It’s warm, but not too humid. The air would be clear and clean if not for the local custom of burning small piles of dry leaves everywhere. I think it’s a Buddhist tradition of some kind, but it results in a pall of smoke hanging over the entire region all the time.

One thing I do notice about Chiang Rai is that it seems to be in a bit of a recession. There are a lot of closed shops, and everything looks a bit dirty and worn out. There’s very little construction happening here. Chiang Rai tends to play second fiddle to bigger and more popular Chiangmai to the south.

I hopped on a local bus at around 1pm and headed to the nearby town of Chiang Saen. The 1.5 hour ride there was beautiful. The road is flanked by green rice paddies and flowering trees. Chiang Saen is the jumping off point to the Golden Triangle. The Golden Triangle is the area where the Mekong and Ruak rivers converge, bringing the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos together at one point. I took a tuk tuk out to the Golden Triangle, and climbed a hill to a vantage point high above the town. There was a great view of the Golden Triangle, along with a lot of souvenir stands. Three kids playing nearby extorted 20 Baht from me for a photo of them making faces at the camera. Very cute. I just got back from Chiang Saen right now. I’m pretty tired and hungry, so I think I’ll find something to eat.