Mae Sai to Chiang rai, 2 Dec.

Yesterday, we went for a hike to the Luang Cave, west and north of our “resort”. It was about a 3-4 kilometer walk towards Burma:

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Here’s the big sign of the big cave. It’s 800 meters in, we made it into the first chamber- which is on the far right on this map.

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This cave is well marked, unguarded or regulated as far as we could tell. There is a low metal fence that should keep you from toppling into the abyss, but it’s in terrible condition, again, we didn’t have good lighting, so we only got about halfway through the first bit. Here’s a look back at the opening- note the shrine there, it’s a full sized hut. The mouth of this cave was something out of a movie.

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We walked back down, and had late lunch at this stand across from our “resort”. The woman running it was a little cranky at first, but after laughing at our terrible thai pronunciation attempts she warmed up. The noodles were, of course, different from every other bowl, but so satisfying. The richness of the flavors, and the crunch of the pork cracklings, the slurp of the noodles, I can’t imagine getting tired of this. These northern street bowls are substantive, and may lack the complexity of the city dishes, but they are addictive in their own way. Look at this, how could this not be the perfect lunch?

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Today we got up early to get to Chiang Rai. We knew there was a 3rd class bus from where we were south of Mae Sai. We figured that they dropped us off here, so if we walked out to the highway, they would stop and pick us up, right? That was plan A, but in case, there was a B and C, which were unnecessary, because 10 minutes after waiting at a stop like this:

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the bus stopped, tossed our packs in the hold, and off we were. We felt like intrepid travelers, picking up the bus on the highway like bloody geniuses.

Here’s a tip about 3rd class buses. The seats are small and bunched close together, which can be a challenge for tall folks. The back bench is best for legroom, but the bouncing and jolting can knock the breath out of you, so decide what’s important to you. No way Brent could sit in the regular seats, so we were happy for the back seats, but it was jarring at times.

After walking the few blocks to our new hotel- the I-Hotel, we are hungry, after having only some fruits for breakfast. Brent went a little crazy with the strawberries yesterday, but we needed real sustenance now, and you know what we want, right? Yep, more noodles. We came across this place quickly, and considering that few places make beef noodles- most are pork or chicken, we felt that we should take the chance while we had it.

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The great thing about this place was the specialization- they make beef noodles, and beef soups. You can alter the noodle size, or how large the bowl is, and soup or noodle, but that’s about it. They do one thing with variation, but they do it well.

So far, Chiang Rai is my favorite Thai town we’ve been in. Not crazy busy like Bangkok, not super touristy like Sukhothai, and not remote and quiet like our place south-west of Mae Sai, but a good mix. Maybe I’m finally settling into traveller mode.

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