So today was our last day in Thailand. A few days ago I joined up with my first Contiki tour of the trip through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. There’s about 30 of us from all over the place and we started in Bangkok, then took the night train to Chiang Mai, stayed a night in Chiang Rai and then crossed the border this morning.
I arrived late the night before the tour and took the chance to get to know my roommate for the trip over a few beers across from the hotel costing about a pound each… In case you didn’t know it’s extremely cheap here! The next day we explored one of the floating markets after our taxi driver getting us slightly lost (we realised a lot of taxi drivers in Thailand tend to have no idea where they’re actually going…). Then I treated myself to my first ever massage at a place across the street, all for the extortionate cost of 200 Baht (£4). I felt like a new man and the place luckily wasn’t the ‘happy ending’ kind. We met the group and all went for some food in an incredibly hot restaurant. Now I thought Japan was steamy but the temperature doesn’t seem to change at night here… We then took the opportunity to go to a ping pong show organised by a chap called Chai Chai. Now if you don’t know what one of these shows, Bangkok if famous for them and I’ll leave it to your imagination but they involve Thai ladies doing things with various items in a weird, disturbing yet strangely impressive fashion, google it for more info as I’ll try and keep it PG.

The next day we visited the royal palace after an early start (a common theme of Contiki tours) and then had a boat trip learning a bit more about the city. We left the hotel for our night train to Chiang Mai in the afternoon which unfortunately was no alcohol allowed. Luckily a couple of the New Yorkers on the trip smuggled some vodka in water bottles so we were alright!

Now the next day in Chiang Mai was probably one of my favourites. We arrived at our hotel and then went to visit another temple which they say ‘you haven’t been to Chiang Mai unless you’ve visited’. You could get blessed by a monk and also the temple was where Buddha’s collar bone is kept after it was found by a white elephant. I think that’s the story anyway… Now a main difference here as opposed to Japan which has been a theme of Thailand, is an abundance of people trying to sell you things and also a lot more westerners everywhere than I was used to. I’m the afternoon we went to a Thai cooking class which was so much fun, the chef had many cheesy jokes and we made four different dishes including learning the ‘how to burn your kitchen’ trick above… Following this we went to the night market and I put my negotiating skills to test by haggling away for an outfit for the cross dressing party we were having the next day.

On that theme that night our tour manager James had booked is front row seats at a ladyboy cabaret. Now this was a lot of fun and a lot less seedy than the ping pong show. They came out to the audience and put on a great show which was both hilarious at times and impressive. They even had a Rihanna lookalike… I’ll let the pictures do the talking!

Now the next morning we left early to head to Chiang Rai and stopped at the White Temple just outside of the city. This was awesome! It was nothing like anything we’d seen before and was designed by a slightly mad Thai artist. There are superhero and film character heads hanging on trees and paintings inside featuring things like bush and bin laden riding on a spaceship together… There are also loads of sculptures everywhere that are pretty cool, including a bunch of hands coming out of the ground as you enter.

We then got to Chiang Rai and settled in before going to visit some of the hill tribes including the ‘long neck tribe’ you may have heard of. This was really interesting and nice to see that as tourists we can help them preserve this culture by paying to visit, but once again a lot of stalls with various items for sale. They even put on a couple of traditional dances for us.

In the evening we had our big final night in Thailand celebrating in style with a cross dressing fancy dress themed party. I looked a bit like Mrs Doubtfire, had a few too many beers, played a few drinking games, and then ended up playing Wonderwall on guitar in the early hours with some Thai kids on the street on the way back to the hotel. The 6am breakfast was far from ideal but I wolfed down some rice before we all headed to the border for our next country Laos.

On reflection Thailand was alot of fun and definitely somewhere where I only scratched the surface of what you can do, so if I came back I’d definitely try and visit more of the islands and coastal areas. Unfortunately there is a darker side and animal tourism is pretty big here, but if you want somewhere where you can have a lot of laughs, visit some stunning places and see some completely crazy things, and where you will find bundles of sunshine all on a budget, this is where to do it.

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