Chiang Mai or Bust!

Good roads. Internet access. Sidewalks. Less dirt. Fewer mosquitoes. Who cares if they drive on the wrong side of the road. Welcome to Thailand!

Myanmar borders Thailand, but getting to Chiang Mai, Thailand wasn’t easy. We left Inle Lake early yesterday morning, hiring a car and driver to take us to a small, regional airport located an hour away.

We boarded a propeller-driven plane and flew an hour to a small town near the border in Myanmar. We took a taxi to the border and walked, literally, into Thailand. Immigration control was a walk-up window on the sidewalk.

The Thai border.

Once across the border, we caught a bus…errr minivan…to Chiang Rai, an hour away. The minivan was stopped twice along the way by police scouting for drugs or Burmese trying to sneak into Thailand.

By the time we reached the Chiang Rai bus station, we had missed the 5:30 p.m. bus to Chiang Mai. The sun was setting and we decided to stop in Chiang Rai for the night. An incredibly kind woman on the minivan, who spoke good English, showed us the way to a decent hotel near the bus station.

Luckily, a really interesting food market was right around the corner from our hotel. John and I dined in an open-air food court while watching young women (or men?) dressed in beautiful gowns sing and dance on stage.

Thursday night in Chiang Rai.

We arose early this morning to buy tickets for the 10 a.m. bus to Chiang Mai. It was a four-hour drive through hills, by rice paddies, and in and out of small towns.

A final taxi ride from the bus station got us to the nice hotel, the Shiek Istana, I booked on the Ping River in Chiang Mai.

The view from our patio.

After an excellent, but late lunch, at the hotel restaurant, we relaxed for awhile before heading to the Night Market downtown.

The Night Market starts every day as the sun goes down and lasts until…whenever. It reminded me somewhat of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul in that both are vast. But, unlike the Bazaar, the Night Market offers a plethora of entertainment in addition to food and goods.

John and I treated ourselves to a Thai foot massage while listening to a live performance of many an American oldie. Young men in drag, adorned in extravagant, sequined gowns paraded just outside our glass-enclosed massage area.

After our massages, I spotted a tank full of garra rufu fish –small, toothless carp that provide a unique pedicure!

Scrapes more than tickles. No pain involved!

Yea, I think I’m gonna love Chiang Mai. There’s a little something for everyone here.

A room with a view at Shiek Istana Hotel.

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