Friday, 13 March 2015

Progress eh?

We crossed back into Thailand the next morning. A new bridge (the Friendship Bridge IV) now links Laos and Thailand at Houay Xay & Chiang Khong. With a bit of www research we discovered that bicycles are not allowed to ride over it, nor can you walk. Why, we do not know, I guess there is no shoulder to ride on? What a shame, we wanted to 'experience' our transfer back into Thailand. I guess this type of thing doesn't matter to many people in the busy modern world.

We also wanted to ride this funky bit of road that automatically puts you back in the correct side of the road for thailand.

There is also still a ferry to cross the Mekong but its now not available to non locals (kate has asked me to stop using the term Whities) as the immigration office has been moved to the bridge. Another experience lost....

Hmm, bus it was then. We got up for an early breakfast and also got to see the local monks doing their walk from the temple to the monastery. Everyone comes out to greet them and donate food (or money?). Although this dog came empty handed, he at least got into the spirit of the occasion.

We then rode out 6km to the bus station for the 8am bus for Chiang Rai (as stated on the timetable and lonely planet). "No 8 o'clock, you wait 9 o'clock. You pay 57,000 person, 50,000 bicycle".  Now thats not progress or non progress its just annoying! It was only a fiver for us and 4 quid per bike but it seemed a rip off just to lob them on the bus roof, hopefully tied on with a piece of string and guarded by a few chickens. Begrudgingly we paid. The bus arrived and the reason for the expense became apparent. It was a fancy, new bus. Aircon, swoopy stylish body, air suspension, ABS etc but no roof rack. The 2 bikes took up over a third of the luggage space under the bus and as it got fuller, bags were put on the seats. I guess that's why they charge so much.

It all felt a bit constricting. Rules & regulations to control us and money to pay when accepting them.  Its just that we've seen so much freedom and 'health & safety craziness' in the the last couple of months and only 2 little silly accidents as a result of countless '1st world no-no's' that the thought of coming back into the sanitised, kid gloved, cotton wool lined, sanitised, homogenised world with its systems & protocols leave us feeling a bit sad. Now, many of our choices would become limited, options removed. Yes the modern world is safer, more comfortable and efficient. Yes we can choose food that isn't noodle soup and sleep in a guest house that doesn't look like a scene from Midnight Express but now, due to progress, our experiences would be dulled and life just not so, well.....alive?

The scenery for the drive was ok and the driver certainly tried his best to get us to our destination as quickly as possible. We tracked our progress on the maps on our phones. Blimey, don't buses go fast compared to bicycles? A full long day of riding dusted off in less than 2 hours! It was mainly flat, relatively boring countryside of paddy fields and small dusty towns. Thailand is definitely busier and more prosperous than Laos or Cambodia, of that there is no doubt. Not that the intrepid backpackers would have noticed anything. I did actually hear one of them squawk "ooh, we're in Thailand" and then, within minutes the whole bus was asleep.

Our next bus onwards from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai wasn't for a couple of hours, giving us just enough time to ride down for a look at the White Temple. We'd had mixed reports of it but it seemed worth a go. Tell you what, we're not actually going to give our opinion of it, if you want to know, you'll just have to go.

One thing that caught my eye on the ride back was a car dealer who seemed to have a passion for old Fords

On the next bus my seat was in permanent recline so it was a bit tricky to see out the window. I did notice that after a while the road was winding up and down through nice jungle. It seemed a shame not to be riding. Under closer inspection though I saw that the road was really busy, the hard shoulder came & went. According to the thermometer in the bus it was 35 degrees out there. Yep, maybe my seat in aircon comfort wasn't too bad. I did resist the urge to sleep though, worried that someone may take a photo of me and put me on their blog! 

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