I am sure my family will be relieved to hear that I am safely in Chiang Mai, a place I have been looking forward to for some time and a place that I wanted to visit when I was last in Thailand some years ago but never made it, but I don't like it here, there is no pleasing some people.
Just as I was leaving the Inn at Yangon I met two girls arriving, one from Norwich, just off the Unthank Road very close to where I used to live and the other a Dutch girl, a cyclist. I spent about an hour talking to Esther, the Dutch girl and got as much information off her about Laos as I could. Amazingly she is doing the exact opposite to me. Her trip finishes in a couple of week as she starts a job with Cap Gemini, my trip started with me finishing at Cap Gemini.
The Myanmar curse stayed with me to the bitter end. Just as I was removing the pedal it suddenly freed itself and my hand went down hard on the chainring making a deep cut in my right thumb, a fitting end as I managed to cut myself whilst setting the bike up when I arrived here. Heading through immigration was not a problem, but I had to pay US$9 as I had overstayed my visa by 2 days. At the airport I once again met up with Roger and Brian from Canada, we also met in Mandalay and Bagan.
It is only a short one hour flight to Chiang Mai in Thailand, but what a difference an hour makes. Even as we flew in over Thailand I could tell I was entering a very different land, there were signs of comparative wealth everywhere and few signs of poverty. The first thing that I noticed as I left the terminal building was a large Tesco store, that was even before I had got on the bike, even before I had noticed the large storm clouds overheard that would make me wet before I had covered the 5km to the guest house. Chiang Mai is a moated city which made navigation very easy and I got to the guest house that Roger and Brian were heading for without even having to look at the map. Again the differences were all too clear to see, big smooth road, big cars and building with fancy fronts. Once I had checked in and had a brief chat wih R & B I went out for something to eat, more shocks were in store. The streets were full of hotels and guest houses, English pubs such as The Half Moon with pool tables and happy hours, all with enormous screens showing English football. There are fancy shops, streets full of neon lights and restaurants. I have never seen to many ATMs is such a confined space, but at least money is available when needed. I even have coins in my pocket now. Myanmar only had notes 1000 being the largest (50p) and 5 being the smallest (1/4p). Incidently the 5 Kyat note had Keepy Upy on the back, there is a photo of it in the Myanmar album. There were tourists everywhere. I have been so used over the last few months to seeing just the odd traveler that we generally make an effort to talk to each other and compare notes, but here you are just ignored. I feel like a country bumpkin going to the city for the first time. To make things even worse I found it really hard to find dinner for under a pound, crikey, you could easily blow 3 pounds without even trying! As I sat eating dinner I soon noticed the number of men with a Thai women on their arm, many of them far older than me, so clearly people are not just here to see the historical sights and go trekking in the mountains. To be honest it was all a bit of a culture shock and I didn't like it. I made my way back and had an early night.
The following day I had breakfast by the pool, it was all very nice but there was not enough of it and by the time I had finished I was ready to eat another. I went out on foot with the intention of staying within the city moat. Once again I was very disappointed with Chaing Mai. I had expected to see an old city with nice architechture and little streets to explore, but not at all. It was just an ordinary city with straight streets that would be difficult to get lost in. Really the only things of an interest were the wats and with 300 to check out I could easily be watted out before I even leave the place. It remained cloudy all day and started to rain at about 4 to I made my back to the hotel. In the evening I went out to dinner with Roger and Brian, thne we went to a pub and played a bit of pool, I lost every game, I was terrible.
Today I decided to have breakfast else where but as I walked around the streets at 8:15 all the cafes with signs that said 'Breakfast from 8 onwards' were most definately shut. I took the bike out and had a trip around some of the wats a bit further from the centre, I was disappointed again. I now understand why Nick didn't want to come back here when I traveled with him around Thailand.
There is one very good thing about being in Chiang Mai and that is that the annoying little flights that I have had to take are now over with. I have free run all the way down to and through Indonesia. It is also the end of cycling around in circles, something I feel as though I have been doing since the beginning of December. Having said that I am still not taking the shortest route as I want to visit Laos and Cambodia whilst I am in the area, infact for the next 3 days I will be heading north before turning east, but at least I don't have to return to anywhere, or be somewhere by a certain date, that makes me feel much happier.
Tomorrow I am just going to chill out, do nothing other than sitting by the pool and read a book. Thursday I will set off across the mountains to Chiang Rai, then another day to Chiang Khong, across the Mekong river into Laos. I am really looking forward to Laos, everybody says how good the mountain scenery is and even the backpackers tell me that there are alot of cyclists there, so I should have a bit on company from time to time.
For those of you with time to kill, I have upload a number of photos from Myanmar as well as starting off the Thailand album. I am not very happy with the Myanmar photos, they are all a bit samey amd lack imagination.