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01 January 2006

with the mostly barren

the first day of the new year was a transport day for me... i'd be leaving chiang mai on a bus bound for chiang rai. i checked out of the pun pun without much time to spare and walked halfway to the bus station before i saw and flagged down a tuk tuk to take me the rest of the way. the bus was very clean and the staff was well organized; the four hour ride was very enjoyable. this was the first time i'd taken overland transport in thailand (i'd flown from bangkok to chiang mai) and i got to see the beautiful hills and forests of the northern kingdom. a combination of the beautiful weather, the beautiful scenery, and the friendliness of the thai people had put me in a smiling mood.

we arrived in chiang rai at around 1400 and after brushing aside some guesthouse touts i began my walk to the nearby pintamorn guesthouse, recommended by my guidebook for its good value. i found the correct street... found the correct cross street... couldn't find the pintamorn. i stopped and asked two women sitting right where it should have been and asked for directions. they managed to convey that the pintamorn had moved and pointed me down the street and to the right. i thanked them and was off again... down the street to the right... no pintamorn. i asked two other people for directions but they weren't able to help. after fifteen minutes of walking i was still in a very good mood despite the heat and the pack making my back heavy with sweat, but i was a little weary of the walk and decided to abandon the pintamorn for the next guesthouse on the list. i arrived at the mae kok villa about five minutes later. an older man sized me up as i approached.

'do you have any rooms available?' i asked.

'only expensive rooms. 300 baht. where are you coming from?' he responded.

'i came from chiang mai on a bus.'

'no, what country?'

'united states,' i said.

my mind had only registered that he had 'expensive' rooms available and had not completed the conversion of baht to usd. 300 baht is approximately 7.50 usd. i asked him if he knew of another guesthouse and he directed me to the chat house around the corner. i got the impression that he really didn't want me staying at his guesthouse. typically the accomodation management goes out of their way for business, sending scouts out to bus stations and airports to pull in travelers. this man seemed all too eager to send me on my way to the cheaper competition.

i lugged my pack away in a half-hearted attempt to find the chat house and after a cursory search decided that 300 baht was perfectly fine. i returned to the mae kok villa.

'300 baht is fine,' i announced to the man. he looked up with a grimace.

'i'll show you the room and then you decide.' on the way to the room he asked me what state i was from.

'massachusetts. boston,' i responded.

'ah, big irish population there. but you're not irish?'

'some irish. a mixture really... irish, italian. i didn't grow up in boston. i'm originally from pennsylvania.'

'ah, penn state. football.'

wow. his response really surprised me. this man was either well read or well traveled.

the room was perfect... one of the nicest ones of the entire trip. i checked in, did some reading, and then took off back into town for some recon. i still wasn't sure whether i was going to hang out in chiang rai for another day or continue on to chiang khong near the laos border.

the town, like chiang mai, was very laid back although i'm sure the new year holiday had something to do with the mostly barren streets. i wandered through the food markets... fresh fish still flapping, big chunks of fly covered flesh, the skin of a pig's head hung from a hook, and large stacks of fruit lined the tables. i continued my walk towards the bus station, hit an internet cafe, and then stopped into a restaurant to grab some dinner. evening had fallen and i headed to the night market... t-shirts, silk, massage stands. during the guesthouse search and the afternoon recon i'd covered a good portion of the town. i decided to depart the next morning and head straight for chiang khong, my third chiang of thailand.

posted by paul on Sun 01 Jan 2006 at 00:00:01 est (-05:00)

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