Chiang Rai, Thailand
December 5 – 12, 2018
The nine days we spent in Chiang Mai, as is probably obvious from Annabelle’s post, were full of activity and fun socializing. Our next stop had us continuing north in Thailand to Chiang Rai, a smaller city where we had fewer planned activities so we could do some prep for upcoming travels to Laos and then Vietnam.
We took a comfy bus to Chiang Rai over a wide, hilly and curvy highway where we saw lots of construction happening. We met more travelers from Vancouver Island (so many!) on the bus, and when we landed in Chiang Rai our hunger gave way to pizza (a very expensive meal by Thai standards at the equivalent of $30+!).
We got a Grab car to our home for the week: NaNa Doo Homestay, a peaceful respite a couple of miles north of downtown. NaNa Doo is run by a wonderfully warm, parrot-training mom who had Annabelle making her own breakfast (pancakes) in the family kitchen by the 3rd morning of our stay. We still miss the yummy breakfasts there!
Our week in Chiang Rai was fairly quiet, as Wayne, Amelia and Annabelle were all battling new and resurgent (but thankfully not major) sicknesses. We never made it to the famed (or infamous?) White, Black or Blue Temples, but we hit the downtown Night Market a couple of times, found and purchased multiple packets of Halls and Fisherman’s Friend throat lozenges, and ate too many cookies at the BaanChivitMai not-for-profit bakery. The girls and I also hung out in a downtown coffee shop long enough to see the light and music show of the new clock tower (Wayne didn’t have the patience when we realized we were an hour too early).
We did manage to do another fantastic bike tour, this time with owner/guide Bee and his family support crew from Chiang Rai Bicycle Tour. We rode for miles and miles along paved and dirt farm roads, and learned about rubber trees, banana tree flowers, bee keeping, rice harvesting and crop planting.
As part of the tour we were also treated to traditional Thai dancing, drum lessons and dress (where “no thank you” wasn’t an option)…
…and scared into being perpetually good by an artist’s gruesome represenation of Hell at a local temple – ACK!!
Like Chiang Mai, running was tough in Chiang Rai with no shoulder on busy, dusty roads, but Wayne and I managed a date-run out along some quieter backroads to the massive, newly constructed Wat Huay Pla Kung, where a towering Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, looks down on all with, well, a pleasant and merciful smile.
Later in the week we dragged the girls out for the ~2 mile “hike” to this Wat – a great afternoon outing where we went inside and up the elevator to view Chiang Rai’s farms and green hills from the goddess’s eyes and forehead.
Our homestay owner, who works for an education-focused NGO, offered to take us with her to a weekend sustainability fair, which felt very local and VERY Seattle-ish. The food was delicious, crafts were displayed and explained by their makers who were often young kids, and there was even a folk band.
The girls were hot in the sun at the fair and not enjoying the food (“I JUST WANT SOME MAC-N-CHEESE!!!”), so we Grabbed over to an even more stimulating activity for them (insert sarcastic eyerolls of said children) – the local Hilltribe Museum that Wayne and I had been wanting to visit. Before entering the museum we found a bubble tea window, which, magically, seemed to ease their increasing frustration with our choice of activities.
After the museum, we extended the day’s outing even more by walking to the Sunday Night Market, where a never-ending line of vendors sold food (including live-boiled bugs right in front of your eyes), bags, T-shirts, jewlery, phone cases and local crafts.
During the week we also worked on school – math and history and science, and Amelia’s self-directed study revealed in a comment I never thought I’d hear. As she sat watching a video for what seemed to be a long time and I asked what she was working on, she responded, “I’m worldschooling! I’m learning about the Thai boys cave rescue!” Indeed, we were only about 50 kilometers from where the now-famous Thai boys soccer team and their assistant coach became trapped in a deep cave and were rescued after an unbelieveable 18 days. It is an incredible story that more-than-justified the hour-plus British documentary we watched about the near-impossible rescue. Being in Thailand for a month, and getting to know the Thai people a bit over that time, really helped us better understand the life-saving dispositions of the boys and their young coach, and the local, regional and global response that miraculously saved the team.
Our stay at NaNa Doo also included the exciting receipt of Annabelle’s replacement Kindle – a saga that started with the original’s breakage in Sukothai, included multiple confusing online chats to Amazon to get a warranty-covered replacement shipped to my dad in New Hampshire, and concluded happily after an intense daily watch of DHL’s package tracker that informed us that the replacement Kindle shipped by my dad would arrive at NaNa Doo….ugh…the day we were scheduled to leave Chiang Rai at the crack of dawn for our slow boat trip to Laos. Big thanks to my dad who likely pulled his remaining hair out on the phone, in person, and online with DHL staff.
Thailand was a welcome introduction to SE Asia, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Bangkok, Sukothai, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Being in SE Asia after Europe also gave us a more vivid view of how much the girls have grown during our travels – the cities we visited in Thailand are dirtier, buggier, harsher and more “foreign,” to us than European cities, but so warm and beautiful and easier at times (spending a lot less $$ sure helps). After the initial culture shock of the first few days, the girls adjusted so quickly that Wayne and I were somewhat stunned at their adaptation – to most things. Enjoying SE Asian food? They’re still working on that.
Thank you Chiang Rai for just enough activity plus the rest and recovery we needed. On to Laos!