I left Isaan on Monday morning with some regrets as I had such a good time there.

I had a great farewell from Gaun’s family. I wanted to buy Yuan and Lud (Gaun’s younger sister and brother-in-law) something to thank them for looking after me and buying most of the food we ate at home. Having no idea what would be acceptable Gaun came to the rescue and we ended up buying a large bag of something rural. Whatever it was it went down a treat so I was in the extra good books.

The next evening the family did a farewell ceremony for us both. An old lady arrived and she led the event along with Gaun’s mama. It culminated in each of the family tying coloured strings onto our wrists for good luck, which was a lovely sort of acceptance thing to happen.

The farewell ceremony

The farewell ceremony

I took them all out to a Thai buffet on Saturday night, which was one of those cook your own affairs – meat cooks in the middle and veggies etc cooked in hot water around the edge (is that a steamboat?) As you can appreciate the opportunity for Thais to eat all they can is a sight to behold. If I tell you that NO PHOTOS were taken by Gaun because she forgot you can understand the seriousness of this event.

We left our wonderfully eccentric resort and Si Bun Ruang Sunday morning and drove to Udon Thani where we spent some of the time at the big shopping mall Centra until we could book into the hotel at 2 pm.

The first real coffee in a while at Centra Mall Udon Thani

My first real coffee in a while at Centra Mall Udon Thani

As well as buying a few electrical essentials I also got my hair cut, an expensive but satisfactory experience. You get to choose style from a computer, get three washes, a blow dry, a cut by the master, another two washes, another blow dry and a final finishing cut. I think Gaun was a little put out by the 550 TBH price tag, but it was worth the experience and the cut was pretty good too.

The hotel was nice in an impersonal way and we stayed in for the evening where I treated myself to a garlic pork steak with fries. It’s good to touch ones farang roots occasionally and even though the sauce was crap I must say it tasted just fine.

On Monday morning the car was handed back at the airport and our trip to Chiang Mai uneventful on a little propeller Nok Air plane.

We flew into heavy rain which continued on arrival but it is the wet season here.

I am impressed by the little I have seen of old Chiang Mai so far.

We did some exploring yesterday as the rain stopped just after we arrived and have been out and about today. All of the photos below were taken today as it has been lovely and sunny.

Our $10 for two breakfasts this morning

Our $10 breakfast this morning

The Yindee Stylish (the latter being a word that might have problems with Fare Trading) guesthouse is in the centre of Chiang Mai in what’s called the Old Town. Chiang Mai was originally a walled town surrounded by a moat. A little of the wall remains for tourist purposes but the moat is still largely there although some roads cut across it now.

What's left of the moat around the old city of Chiang Mai

The moat that still surrounds the old town of Chiang Mai

Inside the square formed by the moat are lots of sois (streets) mostly in a grid pattern. Some are “normal”  roads but in-between these are lots of little single lane sois full of guesthouses, cafes, restaurants and arty type places.

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A tuk tuk parked in a local soi

Gaun in the soi leading to Yindee - our guesthouse

Gaun in the soi leading to Yindee – our guesthouse

This is by far the most attractive tourist area I have seen in Thailand so far. Of course the the reason for all of this farang orientated infrastructure is that there are lots of farangs here from all around the world and this is the off season.  The high season must absolutely pack the place and make it less relaxed.

The Old Town is a great place to hang out when visiting Chiang Mai but not a “living in Thailand” option for me as it’s not a real representation of Chiang Mai proper. A bit like visiting the Rocks in Sydney and then applying that experience to the rest of the city.

I must say a very relaxed looking me about to have a coffee at one of the many cafes on offer. Not totally happy with the result but it was a lovely location set in heaps of greenery. Have a Trip Advisor place to try tomorrow.

I must say a very relaxed looking me about to have a coffee at one of the many cafes on offer. Not totally happy with the result but it was a lovely location set in heaps of greenery. Have a Trip Advisor place to try tomorrow.

There are "real" homes hidden away in the old town. Loved this one with the two chickens keeping guard

There are “real” homes hidden away in the old town. Loved this one with the two chickens keeping guard

I believe there are over 300 Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai and surrounds so it is hard to avoid them as there are at least two on every street. Gaun is a keen temple visitor and I wanted to compare the ones here to the others I have visited in Thailand. So far we have “done” six temples and hope to cover the other 294 tomorrow before we leave for Chiang Rai!

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The temples seem to be mostly in very good shape here being more impressive than their country cousins in Isaan. I presume the higher population numbers and more affluence in Chiang Mai results in this as temples are supported by their local community.

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I have been waiting to get to Chiang Mai to have some major dental work done. I decided that Phuket was my holiday treat and I wasn’t going to spoil it by visiting the dentist.  Because I am based in the Chiang Mai area for ten weeks it seemed a good time to sort out my many dental problems Thai style.

My first appointment was this morning for an initial examination. A very decent looking clinic and a competent (sounding) young dentist lady who did the examination. I had teeth impressions taken, three small x-rays and the full 360 x-ray thingee all for 2,250 TBH ($82). I am going back Thursday morning to get the results and the recommendation for treatment. I will let you know how I go as dental treatment is one of the big reasons people come over here so there may be some interest.

The average age of the tourists in the Old Town would be about 25. As there are many guesthouses, hostels and cheap hotels here the population reflects that. Lots of backpacks in evidence. I take my backpack with me when I head out as I now pass for 25 or younger because of my new 550 TBH haircut and find I fit right in with the Lonely Planet crowd.

I had an upmarket oil massage this afternoon with a price that reflected the location and service received (cold towels, water and foot bath on arrival with tea on leaving). I have to say that so far nothing comes close to the 300 TBH massages I was getting in Phuket. She has set the standard on which all future massages will be judged.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Chiang Mai. On Thursday after my dental appointment we pick up a car which I will have for the next ten weeks and drive to Chiang Rai, about two hours further North.

I had to leave you with the latest in my collection of odd Thai photos. This one was taken just down the road from our guesthouse.

A suicidal roo?

A suicidal roo?

I suspect my next blog entry will be from Chiang Rai. See you there.

Thanks for reading.