Monday, December 29

Day 123-Chiang Rai

Staying out for a long while, one can lose sense of time, what day it is, or in this climate, even what month it is. I have been dramatically reminded, however, that it is News Years week, and all of Thailand is on the move. Hordes of Thai, particularly the young, are explosively evacuating the big cities, headed for their rural homes, only to migrate en masse back to Bangkok at the end of this week. The result has been a series of disappointments at the bus station, where I am told that all buses are full, and must wait 4 or 5 hours until a seats can be found. Not so bad, but the bus station is often 4 or 5 kilometers from the city center and is hardly a fun place to while away the morning.

Unpredictable availability notwithstanding, the buses have been reasonable comfortable, on time, and notably... cheap! I have traveled since Bangkok, 1000 kilometers, for less than fifteen dollars, and I have arrived (with minutes to spare, as nearly all accomodations were taken) in this positively jewel of a city. Walking the streets as the daylight faded, I happened upon Wat Phra Kaew, an impressive complex of temples where the infamous Emerald Bhudda once resided, saffron clad monks gathering for the evening round of sonorous chants. Down the lane the night market was getting underway, lined with long rows of colorful vegetables and vendors of aromatic street food. A few blocks beyond, the many massage parlors are found, some offering "porn massage", perhaps that explains why every foriegn male seems to be in the company of some local lady. I, however, am too busy for such shenanigans, as I frantically concoct schemes to continue north tomorrow, across the Mekong River, where Laos awaits.

It is nearly month's end, and here are the stats for this, the southern portion of my journey to Southeast Asia:

Distance traveled: 4390 miles Degrees of latitude: 25
Days spent: 28 Countries visited: 4
UNESCO sites: 4 Other cool places: 12
Dollars per day: 61 - still on budget!

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