It seems like ages ago that we arrived in Laos, but in reality it was only 11 days ago. But now we need to leave – our visa only lasts for a fortnight, and we’ve got other things to get to. We had 3 options – the two day slow boat to the Thai border, plus 10 hours on a bus to the city of Chiang Mai; return the way we came – 12 hours on a bus, then 12 hours on a train to Bangkok. Or fly out. Eventually, when we managed to get a flight for $70, we decided to fly to Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand. After spending a few days there, we’ll then head back to Bangkok to meet up with the BBC Holiday crew.
So we sadly left the haven of Luang Prabang, and flew with Thai Airways (not before paying 400,000 Kip in departure tax!). As we flew out, the pilot had to dodge around a couple of huge smoke plumes, created by big burning areas of woodland. Getting into the city was easy by taxi, but the Guest House we’d chosen was full, so we wandered the streets for about an hour until we found one we liked (3 pounds a night for a triple fan room). Chiang Mai is an ancient city, and the streets are a complete warren of little alleyways tucked between the big, busy streets.
These little alleyways, called Sois, are named after the main road, and numbered along the road. Once you’ve discovered the secret, it does become a little easier to navigate, but you’ll often come across businesses advertising their address alongside a ‘description for taxi’, like ‘The alleyway opposite JJ’s restaurant, then on the left’. While Chiang Mai doesn’t seem to have changed too much, they have at least put up fancy signs on every soi, to make life easier. The other thing that you see on the street everywhere in Chiang Mai is draping electric cables, in huge bunches hanging down and across the street (you can see them on the same photo above).