Sunday 20 August, cloudy / showers, 27°
We got up at 8am for breakfast then back to the room for a planning meeting.
It is a wonderful idea to think that you can leave a trip unplanned and just roll up to a place, find some accommodation and then move on when you feel like it. But the reality is that you actually need to plan ahead a certain amount ( especially when you are travelling between countries and need visa's or through difficult terrain where there are limited transport options ). So when we get near the end of our currently planned section we sit down and work out our next section of the trip. This still allows a far bit of flexibility ( such as when we couldn't get a sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai we changed tack and booked a flight to Myanmar, which we were going to do after Chiang Mai, and then a flight to Chiang Mai from Myanmar. ) but also provide some surety about the up coming weeks travel. As am writing this blog we have just had to change a booking in Vietnam due to it being the National Day on one of the day's we want to travel, so train services are busy. If we hadn't tried to book the train a week in advance we would not have got on any train, and we would have would up flying instead, which would have screwed up one of the most interesting parts of our trip.
So anyway, here we were planning for the next week or so. We booked our onward trip from Chiang Mai a couple of days ago, and the Visa for Laos is a 'Visa on Arrival' so we don't need to get one of these beforehand. This booking will get us to Luang Prabang in Laos on Day 19. But the next section after that was from Vientiane in Laos ( we would get there from Luang Prabang by bus ) to Hanoi in Vietnam. Due to the hills / road transport options between Laos and Vietnam ( I think 24 hour sleeper buses were the best ground transport option ), and the need to organise a Visa before hand ( and part of the Visa application was knowing the arrival date into Vietnam ) meant we wanted to book a flight from Vientiane to Hanoi. And if we were booking a flight then we may as well book some accommodation in Vientiane and Hanoi as well, as we knew the dates we would be in both of those places.
So that is what we did:
- booked a flight on Day 24 from Vientiane to Hanoi ( a 1 hour hop ) with Vietnam Airlines
- booked a guesthouse in Vientiane for 2 nights before the flight
- booked a hotel for 2 nights after the flight in Hanoi
- started the process for obtaining Visa's for Vietnam.
- booked 2 nights accommodation in Luang Prabang for when we arrive there.
- did a rough outline of the time left and slotted in the things we wanted to do; all looking good still.
So with that all done ( it didn't take long ) we headed out at about 10:30am. We grabbed a tuk tuk to Maya Shopping Centre ( B200 / NZ$8 ), had a walk around, bought another power adapter ( the current one is just not enough for all the gadgets that need juice ) and then grabbed a cold drink at Starbucks.
At 12:30 we went back out to the main road and flagged down a rot daeng / songtau / pickup truck bus who had "Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep" on the front. He had just dropped a passenger off so was empty, so we agreed for him to take us up to the Wat at the top of the hill ( about a 1/2 hour drive ), wait for us up there, and bring us back down for B500 ( NZ$20 ).
So we jumped in and headed up the twisty road to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep which sits about 700m above Chang Mai on a small peak on the side of a larger mountain. Once we got to the top at 1pm we caught the inclined elevator from the carpark up to the temple ( B50ea for lift and entry tickets ) and walked around the temple itself ( one of the more impressive ones we have seen ) then around the complex, and looked at the view out over Chiang Mai.
We walked down the steps back to the carpark and met out driver at 2:00pm and we started the drive back down. On the way down he stopped to pick up 2 people on the side of the road ( after agreeing a price with them ) and they turned out to be 2 girls from Wanaka on their way home from living in the UK, and they were travelling through SE Asia on the way. We jumped out at the Maya centre ( in the rain ) and left them to carry on back into town.
We had Japanese in the food court at the Maya Centre ( most of the offerings seemed to be Japanese ) and then caught a tuk tuk back to our hotel ( B200 ) at about 4pm
We headed out again at 6 and walked to Tha Phae Gate then into the walking street on Rachadamnoen Street. A walking street is when a street is shut and turned into a market. In this case this market occurred every Sunday and stretched about a kilometre along the road, and also encroached into a couple of Wat as well.
We walked through the walking street and then went to The Terrace restaurant for tea, then walked through a bit more of the walking street and then walked back to the hotel in the rain, arriving at 8:15pm.
Another long travel day tomorrow, heading up to the northeast corner of Thailand.