Friday, February 10, 2006

Thursday 9th Feb, Chiang Rai

Didn't sleep too well for some reason. So I got up at 5.30 and went to see the market. Lots of the local hilltribe women there in the beautiful traditional dress. Again I was wrong about it being just for the tourists. Had a breakfast of coffee and deep fried dough, then wealked up the hill to watch the sunrise.

Set off at 8ish - a few very steep hills, some pushing, then a wonderful ridge and long descent back down to the plains and rice fields - the mountains dissapearing into the haze and memores.
My plan had been to cycle north to Mae Sai - the northernmost point of Thaialand, then cycle to Chiang Rai the following day. But while cycling today I saw a signpost and realised it was the same distance to Mae Sai and Chiang Rai - both along the main highway 1. ANd a few folk had said that Mae Sai was nothing special, so I decided to make today my last day of riding and chill out in Chiang Rai for a couple of days before meeting Tone.

The ride along the highway was fine. It was funny to pass all the stalls selling the same thing agian. At first it was oranges for five miles. Then it was pineapples for 10 or so miles. It was funny because I'd just been thinking an hour before that the one thing I'd miss by not spending time in Bangkok before I go would be pineapple because I'd notseen it for sale in the north. So I was glad to eat some.

But the road passed quickly - dead flat, gentle tail wind, averaging 15 mph. I made an 8km detour to see the heavily advertised Karen Long Neck Village. It was a total fake, as is all the Karen Long Neck stuff. The whole 'village' had been built entirely for teh tourists, with different sections inhabited by different hill tribes shipped in specially. And as you approached they hurriedly put on their traditional costumes. But at least I didn't feel guity about taking photos.
So now I'm in Chiang Rai - a much smaller and quieter place than I'd expected. Spent the afternoon at the hilltribe education centre learning a bit more about the people I've seen over the last few weeks. It was a good exhibition, though some of their stuff about the slash & burn agriculture was rather academically out-dated. They had an interesting exhibition on opium, which included a short article on the early use of herion as a way to get people off opium addiction!

Had a good green curry in the adjoining restaurant - cabbages and condoms - a charity that aims to make condoms as widely available as cabbages.

Spent the evening shopping at the night market - bought some beautiful handwoven bags and watched some dancing, then experimented with wierd food - the best of which was the spicy papaya salad - very tasty, but left me struggling to breath.

No comments: