Thailand: up north in fun capital Chiang Mai.

I travelled back south from Laos tubing-town Vang Vieng to capital Vientiane where I needed to transfer to the international bus that would take me to the Thai city of Udon Thani where my onward coach would take me to Chiang Mai.   However, arriving in Vientiane around lunch-time I found the international bus was sold-out until 5.30pm which would be too late for me to catch onward travel to Chiang Mai.  The alternative option I was forced into taking was the international bus to the Thai side of the border, then a tuk-tuk to another bus station and a local bus to Udon Thani!   In 37 degree heat this was not that enjoyable, especially when I got on the non-air-conditioned local bus in Thailand and had to perch above a kind of bench over the boiling hot engine next to the driver.  Although after several minutes I realised I was the lucky one to have a seat as more and more passengers were crammed into the aisles until it appeared there was no more space as people were stood on the entry stairs but amazingly another 15 or so people were jammed in!

The upside of the journey was that I met 3 guys that would be good travelling buddies over the next week or so: Sam from England, and Trang and Jessie from Vietnam.  Sam was also making the trip to Chiang Mai whilst the girls were staying in Udon Thani for a while but would be travelling to Chiang Mai in a few days.

After what seemed like an eternity squished and roasting on the bus we got to the station in Udon Thani to find out that the night bus was sold-out.   A night in grotty Udon Thani was the last thing on Sam and I’s minds and after a bit of hanging around the ticket booth looking like lost puppies the lady gave us a lifeline (and an extra bit of cash for her and her co-workers!) by offering us the drivers sleeping cabin!  We checked it out and it seemed ok so we snapped up the tickets.  It wasn’t until a few minutes later when another Thai chap and a family were also stuck in there that we realised it might not be as cushty as we thought.

We travelled in the drivers cabin as the bus was sold-out:

Nevertheless we arrived in Chiang Mai the next morning having at least caught a few winks and found ourselves a cheap and cheerful hostel with air-con where we could catch up on some sleep.

The rest of the afternoon we headed out with new yank room-mate, Eric and explored the old town which is set out in a really simple grid-system and is surrounded by a very attractive wall and moat which dates back to the  13th century and was built to keep out the pesky Burmese.

Elephant monument and outer wall of the old town in Chiang Mai:

That evening we attended a Muay Thai event (Thai kick-boxing) which was good fun but pretty poor standard.  There was only one knock-out and that was in one of the earlier matches which appeared to be between two 14-year-old boys (102lbs category)!

Kick to the midriff:

The following day was mostly spent avoiding the near 40 degree heat by staying inside the mercifully air-conditioned room planning some trips for the following days.  But as it cooled slightly in the evening we were able to take-in the huge Sunday market which stretches almost 2km from one end of the old city to the other.

Chicken bottom!?  5B is about 10 pence:

Cute puppies for sale:

Furry United fan:

Capped the evening off with a £1.20 foot massage:

The next morning Eric, Sam and I headed out early and hired scooters so we could drive out of the city and up the windy mountain road for 15km to one of Northern Thailand’s most revered temples Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep which many Thai’s make pilgrimages to.  At a height of 1,073m the temple also offers cooler mountain temperatures which was a real relief coming from the hot city.

After perusing the temple grounds and viewpoints we continued up the mountain to the top to check out the views and then raced back down to the city for our afternoon activity: bungy jumping!

Bike gang, from the left, Sam, Eric and me:

The temple centre-piece:

Outside the temple:

The view from the top of the mountain:

Just as we arrived back at the hostel for lunch I got a message from the two Vietnamese girls that they were at our hostel so they joined us as we headed out to the bungy jumping spot which also had loads of other activities like dirt bikes, buggies and zorbing.

When we arrived at the bungy place I saw the tower up at 50m and the main emotion I felt was probably excitement.  I wasn’t really scared as I knew the safety record of the place and that thousands before me had completed it so after a bit of administration we walked over to the lake over which the tower loomed and Eric stepped up for his jump.  After Eric it was me and I was amazed at how quick it all went.  They strap your legs up, you hop on a lift, you go up, walk to the edge, lean forward and BAM, you hit the water!  I probably expected the impact to be less violent than it was, and even though they told me to close my eyes it happened so quick that I forgot to and lost a contact lens!  The feeling coming down is like nothing I’ve ever felt and it most certainly kept me pumped with adrenaline for the next hour or so.

I Jumped off that:

I heard of a British guy slipping out of the strapping in another part of Thailand (he survived but was badly injured) so I made the guy triple check it was good and tight:

Hopping over to the crane:

Excited:

Pretty weird feeling at that stage as you’re looking over the edge:

Ready to jump:

Very unnatural feeling as you just fall forward:

Leap of faith:

Splash down:

Was pretty disoriented for a bit because of the lost contact lens, being soaking wet and upside down:

.

Certified bungy jumper:

After Sam had jumped the girls tried a spot of zorbing as the bungy was not something they fancied:

The excitement was all a bit too much for Eric:

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