Thailand travel 15. Onward from Chiangmai to ‘foodie’ Chiang Rai
Long wait for the bus. You get a number. Stand in line. Wait half an hour. Hear the next three buses are full. They leave on the hour. Leave luggage. Have time to wander a different part of town. Seven hour journey. One stop where many pile off. I try to snap the woman who may be Hill Tribe. Dressed for Siberia: amazes me. Green Bus ticket costs Bht 129. Platform 20/21. Seat number 9B. Bus code A48 236.
No concerns about my arrival in Chiang Rai. Accommodation: Have done first bookings.com reservation. Often an early adopter but on this accommodation thing, wonder what took me so long? Makes it so much easier than arriving and walking around and winging it to find the right place. See comments, see pricing, see availability.
Book room with bath and WiFi somewhere supposedly a two minute walk from the bus rank, seeing I am just there for one night. The North hotel. Looks cool. Price cool: Bht490.
From the bus see many rice paddies cut into the tropical vegetation, when the areas are flat. Women (and men?) in those large-brimmed conical hats. Look like themed movie-set paddies. Make mental note to do the unaccustomed and eat rice here.
The two-minute walk turns into a 30 minute walk despite having my Lonely Planet map in hand. Turn every which way, except for the right turn, as in right vs wrong. Ask at regular intervals. Arrive cursing. Man at reception is patient. Pours me iced water. Turns the fan in my direction.
On Facebook, friends tell me I need to carry a GPS. Have one on my phone. A consideration, perhaps. Or apply more diligence, upfront, to maps?
Hotel well situated. Walk looking for northern Thai food. After considering and rejecting place after place, meanwhile getting to know the downtown area pretty well in the night and stopping to purchase a dragon fruit milkshake, which is ice and fruit whipped up (no added sugar, please) I choose a place called Barrab on Banphrapartarn Road, located among a line of food shops and across from others, right near the wonderfully ornamental clock tower, which is a gilded structure in the middle of a circle that I watch at 8pm, for about ten minutes. It plays music. A singing clock. And changes to every color of the rainbow.
Barrab, outside, promises northern Thai cuisine, the food of the area. The manageress speaks some English. She tells me what to have that is most local. Recommended.
The night bazaar and night market are buzzing — and this is a Monday — when I stroll back. And lose myself in them till after 11pm. Two large areas of seating for diners; one plastic chairs and the others more formal. Bands on a stage in each. Market stalls and food stalls. Buy a cute pair of shorts with elephants and bobbles for a gift for my favorite 23-year-old, having no clue if she’ll like them, wear them or get them. But love them.
© Wanda Hennig 2016, story and photos.
Coming up — Thailand travel 16. Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong and the Mekong.