Chiang Mai

 
Sunday May 12th

 
      I've seen everything I wanted to in Singapore, except perhaps the night safari, so I got an early flight back to Chaing Mai as Fern's reincarnation ceremony is tomorrow, about 100 days after she was buried.
      Back to nature, there's another plague of flies this evening, this time even larger ones than last time, wingspan of an inch or so.

 
Sunday May 12th

 
      The ceremony has been put off until the rains stop, Om and I spend the evening watching an huge adult gecko lizard (10 inches by 2 inches) catching the big flies from her window. Apparently two live on the house.

 
Monday May 13th

 
      Saw a big blue lizard at Om's house, I didn't know you could get blue lizards, it was as big as the gecko on Sunday.

 
Wednesday May 15th

 
      Moved into Om's family house, I've known the family well for months now and it seemed silly paying for the guesthouse all the time, I know £4 is not a lot but it helps here and takes off the pressure to make money so quickly! I could easily live for a few pounds a day here, and £1-2 is what Thai's usually spend, though there's always something we want to go and do, so it's still more like £15 for myself and Om, and more for exceptional things like the car and Fern. And it's certainly not the end of travelling!
      My size 10 flipflops (no-one wears shoes as westerners know them) are out in the front of the house. They look odd here, normal in the UK but here it's a bit like a giant came to stay.


Thursday May 16th

 
      Om went off for the reincarnation event for her daughter. We managed to get 21 people into the car, there aren't a lot of people in the UK who can say that!

 
Saturday May 18th

 
      We drove around the hills to a temple that Om and others wanted to visit. While we were there we were lucky to see a procession for a boy who was about to become a monk. Usually there is no festival for this as people cannot afford it, apparently it's so unusual that many Thais never see one in their life. The girls knew it was this because at the centre of the procession was a dancing horse! I'm not joking it was dancing with the music all the way up to and around the Temple.

 

The new monk ceremony coming up the hill to the temple
 

 

A dancing horse!
 

 

Around the temple
 

 

Arriving at the feast
 

 

Blue lizard on the house
 

 

The lizard again
 

 
Monday May 20th

 
      The rains have stopped but thankfully it's still 'cool' (high 20s / low 30s), good news, Om says the hot season is over now.

 
Tuesday June 4th

 
      There was a scorpion in the shower room today. It was only a little one but it would cause bad pain for several hours if stung. Om's been cornered by a snake in there bofore. But worse yesterday was a giant millipede, 7 inches long and about two-thirds of an inch wide. Hundreds of legs and quite fast moving. It was dark brown and looked harmless but just as well I didn't touch it, Om said afterwards a bite is far worse than a scorpion, lasting several days! At least they don't hide in shoes and clothing like baby scorpions do!
      There's been quite a lot of wildlife in the house recently, perhaps coming in from the jungle before the huge storm we had this evening. A twister brought down the power cables onto the petrol station! Om has seen twisters near the house before. And one of the the big geckos (about 18 inches long and 2-3 inches wide) turned up inside the house too. We often watch it catching flies outside Om's bedroom window. It changes colour to match where it's walking, this one does browns, greys and blues. Dangerous too, if they jump on you you cannot get them off because their feet are strong enough to carry their weight and stay comfortably on a wall.

 

A big adult gecko on a wall inside the house (about 18 inches long)
They change colour to match their surroundings
 

 

Nasty giant millipede (6-7 inches long), a bite is very bad pain for several days!
 

 

And it can move fast too
 

 

Watch where you walk in the bathroom,
A baby scorpion likes to hide in shoes and clothing too!
 

 
Tuesday June 11th

 
      I've been up to Laos again to renew my Thai visa. Chiang Kong is just as good as last time. Nothing much has happened, which is how it is supposed to be. There was a huge lizard there, several feet long, for sale in the market.

 

The huge Mekong River In Laos
This is where you can catch a slow boat for 2 days and a night to the next town
The road is even slower, and probably impassable in the wet season
 

 
Saturday June 22nd

 
      I have Om's car most of the time now, and since she is away for a few days I went for a long 4 hour drive around the mountain above her village. From her house it looks like a big hill with the Doi Suthep temple apparently near the top. The view of Chiang Mai even from only half way up there is good too.
      Going into the heart of the 1700m range is far more impressive and more of a journey than I expected. After Mae Rim there is a cascade of little waterfalls, and plenty of wildlife, including a small but very bright green snake that was sunbathing on a little used path. I later found out there is a deadly bright green small snake...
      This is where we had already visited the snake and orchid farms, and there's an elephant park there too. The road to Samoeng is a long drive but not too difficult and plenty to see. I was told to fill up with diesel before leaving Mai Rim, it was hard to believe but it's true there don't seem to be any gasoline stations along here. The closer you get to Samoeng the hiller it gets with a final descent into the town. Side roads tended to be very short tarmac stretches followed by impossible looking steep red mud tracks. Even a motorbike turned back coming out of Samoeng, perhaps out of gasoline. For sure gas tankers would never be able to make the climb back out. In Samoeng when I started getting strange looks and the road turned into a dirt track and a guy was walking around with a rifle over his shoulder it seemed the right moment to turn back.
      This is where the driving gets far more difficult. Coming back up you have to sometimes drive on the wrong side of the road on a hairpin bend because the usual side is impossibly steep. I decided to return to Chiang Mai the other way around the mountain, almost as far as Hang Dong. This seemed a little shorter and the map made it look less mountainous. Big mistake! I have never driven on a road so steep, and hope not to need to again without a four wheel drive. Sometimes going up one stretch of a hairpin bend you can look up to the next slope coming down towards you and it seems unbelievable that cars can drive up there. Well it's possible, but sometimes in first gear!
      The villages are great, beautiful and calm, almost all partly in the clouds because of the altitude. After each village there is the inevitable scary climb up out of the valley. I was thankful for the clouds keeping the temperature cool for the car. The villages on the main road seem to be normal Thai populations but beyond it's all hill tribes of several different kinds and you can sometimes make out little clearings on some of the hills. The few small pieces of horizontal land are used for growing rice, even a village football field had to be carved out of the hillside. The best thing about Thai hill country is that almost all of the forests are intact. Driving around Malaysia it's disappointing to see many of the hills stripped bare.
      A friend Peter said he had taken one of the side roads and ended up with two wheels off the ground facing down a cliff. And what I didn't know until afterwards was that few Thai people go around there (even Om hasn't been) because it is so difficult.

 

Near the top of the Doi Suthep mountain, at cloud level
You can see some hill tribe gardens on the left
 

 

A village high up on the mountain
 

 
Thursday July 4th

 
      It is about 26-29C most days which would be the perfect temperature, except that the humidity is 70%-90% because of the daily rain storms so it's no more comfortable than before. I'm still glad not to be back in London yet, I hear it's still jumper weather there!


 
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