Next stop, PDR Laos

Having said our fond farewells to northern Thailand and the amazing landlady, Tao at our guesthouse, Allan had the hazardous job of calming Chloe down for the flight on Lao Airlines turbo-prop plane.

In the end, the journey was remarkably smooth from the tuk-tuk to the airport, to no delays in check-in, very smooth take-off, only the odd bump during the spectacular journey to Laos and the quickest journey through bag collection / airport terminal – 3 minutes would be pushing it.

The world heritage city of Luang Prabang in Laos is now awaiting our exploration, although in sympathy for those who are struggling through the snow at home, Chloe has unfortunately got a stinker of a cold.

Photos!

Apologies to those of you expecting us to be on the ball enough to actually install a picture gallery on this site.

Two months later and we’ve finally managed it. You can click on the ‘Photos’ link in the main menus (above or left).

Or if that’s still too much effort, click here.

Tu’Jean – the loveliest hairdresser in Chiang Mai

What do you do when you want to dye your hair dark purple but don’t want to turn your guest house bathroom bright pink? You seek out the friendly local hairdresser and persuade her to use your hair dye, lugged all the way from London, to colour your hair.

Tu’Jean hair and beauty salon was right on my doorstep and were willing to help. They insisted on putting the TV to an English channel for me. I was happy to watch the Thai version of ‘Kids Do The Funniest Things’ but ended up watching a John Hurt horror film about a possessed house in Mississipi. Luckily it was still daylight.

So if you’re in Chiang Mai and need a hair do, manicure or facial, Tu’Jean is just a few minutes walk from Tha Pae Gate and they’ll treat you like a queen for a very reasonable price!

Tu’Jean, Soi 1, Th Ratchadamnoen (tel: 080 5491211)

Siam Rice Cookery School, Chiang Mai

Saturday saw Chloe and Allan pull on their aprons for a day of Thai cookery. We learned about traditional Thai ingredients like galangal and ginseng (‘make man very strong!’), the basis of several curries, from red to panang, and tried our hand at vegetable carving.

Allan’s approach to the vegetable carving was much like Chloe’s attitude to computer games (‘Ooh let me try, oh it’s difficult, what’s the point of this?, don’t want to do this any more…’).

The day was lead by Nancy and her team, who were great teachers, unfailingly cheerful and knew their food. We fried, crushed, boiled, chopped and, ultimately, ate until we could do no more. At that point we were driven home clutching bags of curry, soup  and rice for our dinners.

To put the icing on the cake, the Siam Rice team were kind enough to drop Chloe’s camera back to our guest house after she left it in the kitchen – so a big thank you to them!

www.siamricethaicookery.com

The Snowdon’s ChALLANge…mmm..

It was an eagerly awaited clash.

Two tribes going to war.

Heavyweights on both sides.

Jumpers as goalposts.

Happens only once in a while (well, actually, every day)

Ivory Coast surely?

Ears flapping like Gary Lineker

Yes. It’s elephant football.

The match started with only one goal on the pitch, breaking of FIFA rules I’m sure, but no-one chose to argue with the “big lad” (3 1/2 tonne) up front for the attacking team. Quite extraordinary. Straight away, the attacking team went, well, on the attack, and with some amazing trunk work, controlled the ball well enough to shoot. With a foot like a traction engine, he shoots, the keeper dives, but it hits the bar.

Back on the attack, ignoring the abuse from his team-mates – this player must have thick skin – he tries his luck again again. However, the player is thwarted by needing to stop for a long toilet break ON THE PITCH. Is the hallowed turf not sacred?!

Showing great pace and definitely faster than Kevin Nolan and crikey, the elephant hits it like Shearer’s freekick against Leicester in 1997. It sails towards the goal and IT’S IN THE BACK OF THE NET. Remarkable.

The rest of the match was a daze…fantastic footwork…great skills…mmm…isn’t it… Final Score, who knows, but football was the winner.

(c) Geordie Football Correspondant (SE Asia Branch)

P.S. Mike, I will do you a proper game later in the holiday.

Chiang Mai – the local city

A city within a city, Chiang Mai’s old town is walled within a perfect square of moats about two kilometres a side. The city without is busy, modern and bustling, while the old town is more tranquil, peppered with wats and winding back streets. Parts of the old city walls still survive. their baked red bricks piled up at the large gated entrances.

Although not small, the old town is on a local scale compared to the multinational feel of the rest of Chiang Mai. Businesses are largely single shops or cafes, with the ubiquitous Thai 7-Elevens almost the only chain present. Even the local version of Starbucks, Wa Wee, sells fantastic cappuccinos using coffee grown the mountains around the city.

Markets abound – night, walking, craft, food, textiles, take your pick. Allan was in food heaven when he discovered a stall that sold nothing but Thai pork scratchings (veggies look away now) which were huge satsuma-sized rolls of deep fried pig skin, plus a big bag of dried strawberries. Chloe picked up 6 metres of brightly printed cotton for about £6 and had them made into pyjama trousers by a local tailor. Chloe wearing bright colours? You may even catch sight of a picture of her wearing them, but don’t hold your breath.

Bangkok To Chiang Mai

Overnight sleeper train from Bangkok in 1st class. Although do, dear reader, take any visions of Orient Express, gourmet food and butler service away from your imagination. Instead, just think rip-off prices for the worst food we’ve had on the holiday so far, a maximum speed of 30mph, slightly grubby windows, squeaky bunk-beds and German backpackers playing Fat Boy Slim loudly at 7am.

However, scenery from dawn onwards was good, the train was only 2 hours late (making 16hr train ride in total) and did manage to get us out of Bangkok into the more chilled out Chiang Mai with its cookery courses, elephants, markets and hill trekking.

A muddy old river or reclining Buddha..

One night in Bangkok and certainly Allan is now very humble.

We both went back to the place we went to straight after our wedding last week, which was to Wat Pho, which hosts the amazing reclining 46m long, 15m high, Buddha. You can find God in every golden cloister, felt an angel sliding up to me although did feel the devil walking next to me.

Bangkok is really a mixture of despair and ecstasy. It’s a crowded, polluted and stinking town. Thought London in rush hour was bad but Bangkok is unbelievable, the drone of traffic is traffic constant. However, food was cheap, hotels we stayed in were good and the sights were pretty spectacular.

Bangkok, the ultimate test of cerebral fitness.

(With thanks to Murray Head and the lads from Abba)

Thanks, Dave!

Thanks again to everyone for their kind words of love, support, sarcasm and frank surprise about our Bangkok wedding. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Allan has started channelling Papa Lazarou, which is both funny and disturbing…

Death Railway

The appropriately named Death Railway was built in WW2 by Allied prisoners of war and SE Asian slave labour. It is estimated that over 17,000 PoWs and over 100,000 slave labourers from Thailand, Burma, Indonesia and Malaysia died building this railway.

The Japanese intended to join Bangkok in Thailand with Rangoon in Burma. We took the 2 hour train journey from Kananchaburi to beyond Nam Tok to the end of the line right next to a lovely waterfall.

It really is an amazing journey although the history of the construction was always in our minds as the train passed over the famous Bridge over the River Kwai, clackery clacking through massive banana plantations, squeezing through the smallest cuttings in sheer rock faces and going over viaducts that almost defied belief. Truly spectacular but at such a cost over 60 years ago.

As this was a specific tourist train coming from Bangkok, we expected lots of hot, sweaty westerners. To our pleasant surprise, it seemed like a lot of

Thai people were on the train. Fantastic entertainment from the trainguard telling people through a mega phone what was coming up on the line. Everything from a field of yellow flowers, stone sheep and the main views were greeted with ooo’s and ahhh’s, with our train guard saying “beautiful” and pointing for our benefit. A round of applause at the end of the performance was made for surely Thailand Train’s employee of the year.