Day 259: 03/12/2019
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Miles Driven: 92
Driving along the winding road from Pai to Chiang Mai, we were surprised by an unexpected hazard on the road. For the last few months, the most dangerous part of driving had been the locals, but here, it was the foreigners who were making it dangerous. For 150 Thai Baht (£3.70) per 24 hours, it was possible to rent a moped. Although taxis are cheap, this is cheaper and more fun, so naturally almost everyone does it. The 90 mile road had 762 corners on it (well so we were told, we didn’t attempt to count them!), and around each one were a new group of young European tourists haphazardly riding there bikes with no idea how close to causing an accident they were. Later on we noticed that many of these tourists found out exactly how close to accidents they were – everywhere we looked there were white people on crutches, with their arms in slings, or with huge grazes down their legs that we guessed were from falling off of the bikes.
Day 260: 04/12/2019
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Miles Driven: 0
We spent the day walking around the old city of Chiang Mai. Busy with locals, tourists and expats, there was a great mixture of history, tradition, culture, and modern day life. In between the Buddhist Wats (temples) were souvenir shops, art galleries, craft shops, cafes and restaurants. The temperature was perfect – a rare occurrence on our trip so far! Around 29 degrees with very little humidity, it was glorious.
Our afternoon was spent at the Baan Thai cookery school. In Chiang Mai there are countless different companies offering Thai cooking classes, but for us, we had to go to this one as it was the one Chris had been to nearly ten years previously. Our class started with a trip to the local market. Whilst one of the staff explained all of the different vegetables, another staff member purchased the food that we would be cooking later on. We were taught the names of the vegetables in the market that looked completely foreign to us, including Thai Aubergine, which looked more like a pea than an aubergine. We also learned the key sauces in Thai cooking, and what they can be substituted with if certain things aren’t available when we take our cooking skills back home.
Back at the cookery school, we chose four different dishes to cook. There were 18 people in total, split into two groups for eating, and then mixed up depending on which dishes we had chosen to cook. There were two kitchens, with multiple different work stations for everyone to cook at. Our first dish was Pad Thai, followed by chicken soup, vegetable spring rolls, and Thai Green Curry. Depending on the dish, sometimes we cooked in small groups of 2 or 3, other times we were instructed as we cooked, but for the Pad Thai, in which everything needs to be done in quick succession, we first watched our teacher and then cooked it ourselves afterwards. After we had made each dish, we went back to the dining room to eat.
It was a brilliant evening, the staff were funny, friendly and chatty, as were the other students at the school. The food was absolutely delicious, and we went home with a cookbook so that we could make the dishes again. Chris enjoyed it as much as he had remembered doing so ten years perviously.
In the evening the city was still alive – perhaps even more so than in the day. Night markets covered the streets, everywhere was brightly lit. We walked amongst the stalls and the meandered back to our guesthouse just a few minutes walk away from the centre of the city.
Day 261: 05/12/2019
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Miles Driven: 35
By happy coincidence, we were staying in Chiang Mai at the same time as our friends Harry and Issie. We had met them in New Delhi on the first day of their 11 month trip around the world. From the moment I saw them in India, I knew exactly what they were feeling, because their faces displayed many of the emotions that we had been feeling during our time there. Scammed out of money having barely even stepped foot out of the airport, their first 24 hours had been terrible and they were ready to go straight back home. Determined to ensure that they saw that there was a much better side to travelling than their experience of India could offer, we convinced them to not give up yet. We shared our knowledge, gained from our experiences on the road, including the essential items that should be taken absolutely everywhere: phone, money, water, hand santiser, toilet paper, and Imodium.
Now, five weeks later, we were once again in the same city. Since India, they had been to Japan, China and Hong Kong, and like us, were absolutely loving Thailand. We picked them up from their hostel and drove to the edge of Chiang Mai, firstly to walk up the Pilgrim’s path to Wat Pha Lat, and then to top tourist destination Doi Suthep. It was great to catch up with them, sharing stories of our adventures of the last few weeks. We finished off a brilliant day at Ploen Ruedee: a night market just for street food, with the stalls surrounding a stage where live music was played. Once again, the food was great – Chris and I shared a pizza that tasted as good as if it had been made in Italy (or at least our deprived taste-buds that hadn’t eaten cheese in months thought so).
Day 262: 06/12/2019
Location: Tak, Thailand
Miles Driven: 183
We could have easily stayed in Chiang Mai a few days longer, it was a brilliant little city, however Natalie had a date with a large number of Land Rovers scheduled, so we had to leave. Before we set off, we visited John. After seeing our photos on the Land Rover Discovery 1 Facebook page, he had invited us to come to his car wash business just outside of the city for a free wash. Not knowing just how filthy Natalie was after the muddy and dusty roads of India, Nepal, and Myanmar, he didn’t know what he had let himself in for!
His brilliant staff spent nearly three hours washing off over 3000 miles worth of mud from our car. In the meantime, we sat in the coffee shop chatting to John, not even realising how much time had passed. A man of many talents, John also made soap, and refused to let us leave without a soap or two to keep us clean on the road – maybe after seeing the state of Natalie, he thought that we too could do with a wash!
We drove south for a few hours, as close as we could get to tomorrow’s destination before dark, and then found a beautiful wild camping spot off a track away from the main road.
Days 263-265: 07-09/12/2019
Location: Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Miles Driven: 296
Our weekend was spent at the Erawan National Park at the 15th annual Land Rover Lovers weekend. We’d been invited by Aey from the Land Rover Owners Club of Thailand who had seen our photos after our visit to the Bison workshop. Natalie thought she had died and gone to heaven (I think Chris did too). For three days we were completely surrounded by Land Rovers and their owners. It was great to meet so many people, and especially great for Chris to have the opportunity to “talk cars” to people that could give educated answers back, rather than my typical comments about liking the colour…
In a very short time we met so many lovely people that it’d be impossible to name them all. We were made to feel extremely welcome. Jo came over as soon as we had arrived with cold beers, and again the following day with hot pork and fresh bread for lunch. We spent several hours chatting to David – a Brit, living in Thailand with his family. It was easy to see why so many British relocate to Thailand, we were quickly falling in love with the country and its people.
It was also great to just walk around and look at the cars – all kept immaculately by their owners (and Chris tells me that the undersides had been sustained and not rusted as a result of the generally warm climate). Chris also very much enjoyed seeing so many Series Land Rovers that have largely disappeared at home.
Too quickly, the weekend ended. After a long morning of more chatting, a cooked breakfast and slowly packing away, we left with the hope that we would see many of our new friends again. We had camped next to a group of Malaysian Land Rover owners, and hoped that we would meet them again when we reached Malaysia in a few weeks time. We were so grateful to have been invited to such a fantastic weekend, and to have been made to feel so welcome whilst we were there. Another brilliant experience to add to our ever growing list of highlights from our trip.