Where: Chiang Mai & Pai
When: February to March 2018
What: seeing family and friends, eating amazing food, and taking advantage of having a babysitter!
After 32 hours of travelling we finally arrived in Chiang Mai, Grandad was there to meet us from the train, and the boys were super excited! After one night of being fed and looked after at Grandad’s house, we moved to a hotel in Chiang Mai centre to spend a few days with friends, John and Mike, we got a lovely room in a nice hotel with pool, which was super cheap. The pool was way too cold for the boys, but made for an amazing hangover cure. We took the boys back to Grandad’s for a sleepover one evening so we could all go out, it had been a long time since the two of us had been out together, so we made the most of it. We went to a few bars, danced to some shit music, and ended being taken to a ‘karaoke bar’, where shortly after arriving we realised all wasn’t quite as it seemed, and we had to bribe our way out to avoid a hefty bill paying for various things we hadn’t agreed to! A few days later we hired a truck and took an early drive down the long windy road to Pai, as there weren’t enough seats up front, Jess volunteered for the back, and was thrown around for about 3 hours, regretting all the Chang from the night before, it didn’t stop him having a few beers when we got there though! Pai is a beautiful town, and it would have been nice to spend a few more days there, we managed to squeeze in a few of the sites in one day though; Mor Paeng waterfall and pool, which was not at all suitable for young children, but Jess had a great time sliding down the rocks with the local kids. And on the way we found a strawberry farm, which was a massive hit with the boys.
The next day Jess and his friends had a man day; off road motor biking. First time on a motocross bike riding through the jungle he was soon speeding off without fear, until losing control and crashing his bike. Luckily John and the guide managed to fix it up so they could finish the tour and enjoy the amazing scenery (by the end the bike wasn’t the only thing that was dented, the budget took a bit of a beating too!)
Meanwhile, I researched the easiest thing to do in Chiang Mai with two kids, and that was take them to Nic’s Restaurant & Playground, which was amazing. We had lunch, the boys played on the big playground and trampoline, while I sat and had a glass of wine. In the evening I took the boys to Grandad’s (again!), for a sleepover so we could have another night out (this time much more chilled out playing pool). The next day we all visited Siam Insect Zoo, which was brilliant, the boys got to hold lots of creatures, Arto loved it, and was kissing them all, Dylan wasn’t quite so keen.
That evening we drove mopeds to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and climbed the 300 steps to the top to see the beautiful temple. We made it in time to see the Monks sunset prayer, which was very peaceful and spiritual (except when Arto interrupted to announce he had a big bogey for me!) The drive down the mountain wasn’t as relaxing as the drive up since our headlight was out and there were no streetlights, but Jess got us down safely, as always.
John and Mike left to make their way back home, and we headed back to Grandad’s, where we spent such a relaxing and fun week. The boys really enjoyed playing (fighting!) with Grandad, they loved being in a cozy home for a week, without too much travelling around.
We went out exploring on the mopeds, swam at the local pool, went to the local farm (Ginger Farm), and Jess and I had a few more outings on our own, without the kids, one to the night market, one for a dinner, a relaxing day on the lake, and another very exciting one to Tesco’s!
I tried out a Muay Thai class, which was brilliant, but slightly daunting being the only ferang and only beginner there.
Five days before we were due to leave, we had to go to the Thai Immigration Office in Chiang Mai to extend our visas, it was a bit annoying to have to pay the 1900THB/£50 fee just for an extra five days, but that was just the way it worked out with friends and family visiting, and we worked out it would have cost much more to leave and re enter the country by land to extend our visa for free. We’d heard that children don’t have to pay the fee for overstaying their visa, nor do they have a black mark in their passport, so we took the chance and didn’t extend their visas. It made for a slightly tense wait at immigration when leaving Bangkok, but we were willing to hand them over to the authorities if necessary, they’re experienced travellers now, and i ain’t going to Thai prison for no one! But luckily we all got though and boarded our plane for Sydney together.
Australia hadn’t been in our original plan, we had planned to see a little more of South East Asia, and then on to China, but having spoken to lots of people about it, and done some more research, we decided to leave China until the boys are older. We were both itching to go to South America, and so we decided to blow the budget and add on a few more flights and a few more continents to our trip. Rather than go back on ourselves, via London, we decided we might as well make it a real round the world trip and drop in on our friends in Australia and New Zealand.