What’s not to love about a country that is 95% Buddhist? The people of Thailand have welcomed us with warm smiles, plenty of questions, and delightful hospitality. First impressions were that Vietnam is the feisty, loud sister who has been bossed around too much. China is the older brother who is incredibly big, and spits a lot. Thailand is the elegant sister who is tidy, well traveled and prefers her bathrooms and beds to be clean.
We arrived in Chiang Mai just in time for the holidays. Being a Buddhist country, we didn’t expect it to feel Christmassy, but they did their best to make the Western visitors feel at home with plenty of holiday wishes, decorated trees, and even a gift on our doorknob when we woke up on the 25th. Of course we were touched, but any Westerners we spoke with were trying to get away from anything to do with Christmas. New Years Eve was a huge celebration in the city, and the sky was filled with lanterns lit and sent up to the sky – truly a beautiful sight!
After more than a week in Chiang Mai, we were ready to get out of the large, smoggy city and get on the road again. We received a sweet send off from our guesthouse and some of the Australian guests, and headed north right after the New Year. We have had some quiet back roads with little traffic and beautiful vistas – rural Thailand at it’s best. There are so many tables and benches in the shade beside the road, it is hard to choose where to have our picnics! In China we had such a hard time finding a spot to sit and rest when we needed it.
Bungalows are popular here, and it has been so nice to have 4 walls and no neighbors at night. Thai massages for less than $5? Check. Red curry with vegetables, brown rice and papaya salad? Check. Peaceful Wats (temples) to escape to in the middle of the city? Plenty of help when we are figuring out which way to go? Check and check. Life has been easy for us here so far, and it is fun.
We are still heading north, up toward the Myanmar border and the Golden Triangle, then we plan to cycle along the Mekong River until we catch a boat in Chiang Khong to take us down river to Luang Prabang, Laos.
In the meantime, we are getting really good at packing up each morning and moving on, happy to be on the road again.