Back in Vientiane I met Melinda who is currently teaching English in Chiang Rai. Since I had already considered heading up there to do some trekking and climbing it seemed like a pretty good idea to go somewhere I already knew a local. And so Thursday morning I headed to CR with big plans. Unfortunately when I got there it was a ghost town. Due to low season, plus decreased visitors with everything that's been going on I had a rough couple hours of rejection by travel agencies and hostels saying no tours would be running, no cooking classes and no rooms to stay in. And so caught in a downpour and feeling pretty defeated I was ready to call my visit to CR a write off when Melinda called for me to come over.
I headed over to her and her boyfriend Tom's place where they promptly helped me find a nice hotel around the corner from them and arranged our night's activity. They turned my day around so quickly I am eternally grateful. We headed to hang out with some of their friends in the evening and I went to bed feeling much better about the situation.
Friday I was again determined to make the most of the day so after technical difficulties meeting up with a friend to go visit some waterfalls I made my way to Boomerang to get in some climbing.
Feeling sore from my climb I hit up one of the many Thai massage salons to relax a bit before heading out for the evening. I don't understand how these little Asians are SO strong. I'm seriously starting to question what I'd do if cornered in a back alley.
We went to Happy Face bar (I think that's what it was called) where Tom and his friends play in a band each week and most of the other expat teachers hang out.
Saturday morning Melinda, Tom and I decided to re-approach the waterfall situation. Which meant that first I would need to learn to drive a motorbike. And so Tom gave me a quick 10-min lesson (he told me I'm not allowed to call it a crash course) before heading over to rent my very own bike. It was blue and fast.
And so off to the country we went and my entire trip to Chiang Rai became completely worth any frustration. Rolling through the mountains, surrounded by lush jungle, rice fields and tea plantations it was no wonder they love this place so much. The hike up to Huey Kaew waterfall was a bit of a climb but as with most of these waterfalls more than worth the effort.
After the falls we went for some epic banana pancakes that Melinda had been talking about since before I got there and they totally lived up to the hype. It also helped that they were at the top of another hill with a great view.
And so marked the end of my visit to Chiang Rai. It was an awesome few days to be off the backpacker circuit with people a bit more settled and less transient. Melinda, Tom and all their friends welcomed me with open arms and I don't doubt we will reunite in the future. And now back to Chiang Mai!