While flustered in the Laos airport I ran into Nicole, a girl I'd been in hostels and hanging out with throughout Laos. She convinced me spending a night in Chiang Mai before heading to Chiang Rai was a good idea. And right she was.
Upon landing I met James from Grand Prairie on the tarmac. When we got to the visa desk he hadn't filled out his intended place of stay on his arrival card and so instead of being haggled I told him to just write the place I put ... which as with all my landings is the second Lonely Planet option whether I intend to go there or not. Well, a lot of help I was as the customs agents had never heard of the place and haggled him anyways. Lucky for me they'd already figured it out with him and so were perfectly nice to me. I'm not sure why he continued to think following my lead was a good idea but alas James, Nicole and I all headed to check into Spicy Thai.
Here we added Dave (England) and a German girl who at no point ever told any of us her name - I know you're shocked. More Brits and Germans- and we made our way to the centre of the city for some food.
Due to my earlier waterfall debacle I hadn't eaten since my 7am breakfast and was now in full hanger mode. Lucky for me our tuk tuk driver let us out at the entrance to the walled part of town where the military were all gathered. Don't get worried. No protesting here. They were doing karaoke. With rows of chairs and people watching. Glad to see their military hard at work.
After a casual supper we went over to the night market to bargain for ray bans, Tiffany bracelets, cell phone cases and a million other things. This was our first encounter with the lady boys as they made their way over to greet us and invite us to the free cabaret at 9:30. So we took some pictures, had some laughs and carried on.
Tired of the market and committed to going to the cabaret we decided it was the type of thing we should probably do with a little beer in our bellies so we split a tower and had an intense conversation politics, acknowledged we had just had an educated conversation, then made our way to the show.
I don't have many words to describe this. Mostly just a lot of questions. Like how are they so feminine, how do so many truly look like women, why are they so attractive and on and on.
Once the show was over we headed back to the hostel for curfew which is currently 12-4am in northern Thailand.
For those reading this and wondering about my safety in being here I promise that I am being smart about where I go. My trip is registered with the Canadian government and at this time they feel it is safe for travellers to be here as long as you follow curfew and don't go looking for protests. In four days the only military I've seen were those doing karaoke and it's sort of nice to have a bed time. As of today the curfew is lifted on the Islands which is my next destination so for the moment I'm comfortable being here but if I feel that changing I will make my way to somewhere else on the SE Asia map.