Chiang Mai, Thailand
Danny was a little tired (i.e. hungover) this morning so I ventured out by myself to find muesli for breakfast. There was almost no one open at 7 a.m. in Chiang Mai - it was like a ghost town. After a long search I eventually found a place serving breakfast and they miraculously had muesli. Of course it was served with a lot of the pink-fruit-that-I-hate-but-is-everywhere-in-Asia, so I didn't eat half of it. I picked up a latte for Danny and headed back to the room to prepare for our whitewater rafting trip.
We (including Bart) were picked up by bus and driven around Chiang Mai for an hour picking up people. This was followed by a slow, two hour drive out to the river, half of which was dirt road. We were given a simple lunch (sticky rice!!) before finally making our way down to the water and jumping in our rafts. Being dry season, the water was pretty low and not running fast but it turned out to be loads of fun anyway. We spent two hours on the water going through grade 3-4 rapids, getting stuck several times between the rocks. There were 19 Americans (out of 29 on the tour), who all knew each other and spent most of the time trying to splash each other with their paddles. As we had one American in our boat, we were in the firing line for much of the day. The water wasn't cold, so we didn't mind and happily joined in the feud. We were drenched by the end.
Back in town we looked into joining another tour, after today's success. The one that stood out for me was the bungee jump, but I decided that 50 metres wasn't high enough. Looking at the various options available we realised that we had achieved a lot in our time in Asia - cooking course, ziplining, trekking, temples, cycling, waterfalls, elephants, tigers, massage and now rafting. There was nothing else available, so we gave up on that idea and planned to have a chilled out day instead.
Danny then did something I thought he would never do: he shaved off the beard. Finally. He looks so much younger now!
Later in the afternoon we wandered through the Sunday walking street, which was in a different location to the Saturday walking street but contained the same stalls and somehow felt even bigger. It took me half an hour just to make it to a side street to get out of the place. I did pick up some fried quail eggs, which were beautiful with soy sauce and pepper. At one stage the Thai national anthem suddenly blasted out of the loudspeakers around town. Everyone abruptly stopped what they were doing, like frozen statues. It felt like we were in a movie where someone had pressed the pause button. As soon as the music stopped, everyone returned to what they were doing as though nothing had happened.
We met up with Bart for dinner where we tried the northern Thai cuisine (no rice), which was beautiful. Discussion turned to local delicacies, including cooked crickets and grasshoppers, which apparently Bart and Danny had seen at the market. I was sort of keen to try them. We headed back to look for any form of insect but I was out of luck (they were obviously popular). We did find waffles though, covered in condensed milk; they were the best waffles I had ever eaten.
We were in need of a nightcap, so we stopped at an outdoor, portable bar connected to some sort of cyclo. There were about 12 bicycle chairs arranged in a circle around the edge of the bar, which required the use of a step ladder to reach them. The driver/bartender sat in the centre next to his steering wheel, making drinks. It was a strange setup but the cocktails were fantastic (and only $3). Ingenuity at its finest.