I decided to head north to Chiang Mai after Cait left. Ideally I would have stopped at Ayutthaya on the way, but the flooding in Thailand has left the whole city underwater. I opted to take a train instead of the bus since I hadn’t yet experienced a Thai train, and I thought I might see more of the countryside.
The train had only resumed operation over the past day or two, and we passed through former farm fields, now giant lakes lapping at the tracks. But because of the flooding the train also arrived 4.5 hours late, at 1am instead of 8:30pm. Chiang Mai was very full because a lot of Bangkok residents had headed north before the flood warnings but also because, unbeknownst to me at the time, the Loi Kratong festival was taking place over the next few days. After wandering around for nearly 45 minutes, I eventually found an open hotel with beds available.
I spent the next day exploring the city (it’s quite compact and very walkable), and the day after making a run to the Burmese (Myanmar) border to exit and then re-enter in order to get a new Thai visa. Early the next morning I left for a two day jungle trek, stopping at a waterfall, a hot spring, and a Red Karen hilltribe village for the night. On the second day we took a homemade bamboo raft down the river, then went whitewater rafting.
That night was the first of two nights of Loi Kratong. It was quite a spectacle, particularly with fireworks going off all through the streets. The next night was equally crazy but with some added spice when a section of street-level power lines exploded half a block from me, plunging the neighborhood into darkness and dripping molten rubber onto the road and homes. I hung around until the fire department (a pickup truck) showed up with two fire extinguishers and put it out, then headed back to the hotel.
The next day I caught a bus to Pai, which is where I am now. The roads were so steep and windy that a truck got stuck on a turn, and we all had to exit the bus so it could get enough speed to get up and around the truck.
(Personal note: The young girl and hammock is my favorite picture of the trip so far.)