Friday, December 09, 2005

Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The best laid plans of Mice and Men oft go astray. The half-baked plans of Arabin go astray with great regularity. See below.

I had toyed with the notion of getting to China by going up the Mekong from the Delta in Vietnam to the Mountains in Tibet. I knew that this was doomed from the start and that I would have to reconsider but the romance of it still held me on course. Not anymore. I have been relying on advice from my fellow travellers and Chiang Mai has a fair few folk that have been there recently. Usually all advice is to be taken with a pinch of salt but here I have met up with people who are posess the great reliability factor of being old. My generation should not be trusted with anything and I see no reason to presume that others of my age will be any less hapless than me. However, there are a few people here who were born when shooting Germans was a national duty and I listened to their advice very carefully. These people often deserve the moniker of traveller and I will not insult their dignity by calling them backpackers.

Anyway, after considering the facts I have decided to drop Vietnam and possibly Laos from my itinerary. I had already shunted Nam out of the equation as I would rather not spend $30 on a Visa just to catch a boat in the delta and reports from Laos worry me. I have been there before and liked it for the welcome break from the chaos of Vietnam. It appears that every sandal wearer in SEA is now making a beeline for this quiet little commie dictatorship with predictable results to the place. To my recollection Vientiane was a great place to get hammered by the Mekong and chat with depressed NGO staffers. Apparently the Government has shut the riverside shacks down out of fear of moral degradation for the locals. Worse still is what I have been told has happend to Vang Vieng.

Vang Vieng was a small village on a river with intermittent electricity, a couple of restaurants, 4 guesthouses and loads of kids playing badminton. It had caves nearby but not much else of interest but was scenic and quiet. I have now been told it is a one mile strip of bars, hostels and eateries and the quiet is now shattered by Trance music and the sound of morons groaning in despair after having been dumb enough to take a milkshake laced with opium and weed. I have been convinced that this is true not only by the smug "more backpacker than thou" crowd, of which I suspect I unfortunately belong, but also by the type of chappie that says it was fantastic. I got out of Bangkok sharpish because of these fools and have no desire to get stuck with them in Laos.

Therefore I will soon skedaddle to Cambodia, take a look around and get back to Thailand where I will head to the Northern border of the place. I will then be able to either catch a boat to Laos or more realistically, hunt about for the cargo boats that go straight to China and often have a cabin to rent. I like the idea of spending a few days on the riverine No Man's Land that is the Mekong between Burma and Laos smack in the middle the Golden Triangle. For some reason I am drawn to spending time in a legal blackhole in a thoroughly lawless place.

Anyway, off to take the night train back to Bangkok where I will immediately catch a bus or train out to any destination that feels fun. I will see Sukhotai on my way back here as I head to China.

Next stop, God knows

Take care,



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