Finally a break from biking! We have been holed up in Chiang Mai for the past few days doing touristy things with two friends from Wellington, Kurt (or Cursed as our guesthouse owner misunderstood) and Bridget.
The cooking course in Pai was definetely a highlight. We spent a few hours in the morning going over ingredients and making curry pastes which we then cooked up into a three curry lunch. After a nap to recover we were back for dinner which was stir fries and soups. A'roi! Very fun hanging out with our relaxed instructor at his house and grilling him about whatever aspect of Thailand was puzzling us at the time. His alcoholic reporter friend popped in too for a few quiet whisky shots.
Then it was 135km over our final massive hill (just over 2hrs up) towards the plains of Chiang Mai. Another long day but a relief to know it would be several days before we had to get back on the saddle.
The Loy Krathong festival was in full swing when we arrived, which has mostly meant a lot of fireworks - dawn 'till dusk and through to dawn again. The festival is about 4 days to celebrate the end of the rainy season. There are people everywhere, night markets lining the streets, parades, four year olds firing sky rockets around... The main pastime at the festival is releasing fire balloons and floating 'krathongs' down the river. The balloons are paper with a flame under them so they fill with hot air and float off into the sky (in theory - the trees and powerlines have also taken a hammering). There are thousands of them taking off and filling the sky with points of light. Very pretty.
We have been to the zoo, up the hill overlooking town to a temple, to the Sunday 'walking market', eaten a few local dishes which have been very tasty, read a couple of books and generally hung around. Tonight we are off to watch some Thai men kick the shit out of each other at a Muay Thai match, before heading off further north to the Golden Triangle and towards Laos. Six more days of biking in Thailand!
Claud and Damien