Going fro Laos to Thailand by road, what a strong contrast. Within a kilometer it’s rural life with everyone living in a humble bamboo house with no door and pigs running around to concrete and western shops. It’s easy to feel how much richer Thailand is, it actually feels like any western country, if it wasn’t for all those Buddhist temples.
Once in Chiang Rai, only meant as a one night stop over on the way to Chiang Mai, I discovered a wolrd appart from Laos. The cultural chock after spending time in rural Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos is huge. Walking on actual pavements? Few motorcycles, lots of cars? Building of over two stories? It definitely feels like home, which I’m no longer used to. It would feel very oppressing if we didn’t stumble upon a night market. Thai food is my absolute favorite and I’ve been waiting for that step in Thailand especially to eat the local food! And WOW. So much creativity! I have no idea what are those things but if they’re vegetarians, we eat them. Everything is so good. And people are so nice, they smile so much. You don’t buy from them? No problem, they’ll keep smiling and wish you a good night, I have never seen that to that level before. The market is very busy, there is even a way to walk, go north on the right side, south on the left. People quietly do so, even though it moves so slowly. There’s a huge area where you can eat the food bought at the market on the floor or on tiny plastic stalls, there’s a concert, an area for dancing, it looks like a giant party and best of all: it is not for the tourists but really is for locals.
On our way back, there’s a cat cafe. I can’t resist and enter it, even though I’m so allergic to cats that they could kill me. But I don’t know, I was so happy with all that good food in me, to be in Thailand in general, that I thought I’ll risk my life and go in. There were so many cats in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos that touched me without triggering any reaction… I thought maybe they were healthier here than in the western world. And it was so cool to pet cats! They really are sleaze balls. They rest, fight for no reason, fall asleep, go get some affection and leave. And if you want to make sure they’ll come to you, you buy some cat food and they’ll be all over you. After almost one hour, with my eyes starting to feel like mosquito bites and a constant sneezing I had to leave, with an allergic reaction. I don’t regret anything!
The next day we got our first taste of Thai temples, and once again, you can tell Thailand is much richer than its neighbors. It’s very richly decorated and perfectly maintained, they all look brand new. You don’t even have to pay to get in, that’s new for us! Thai seem to take their religion very seriously… Any Buddha image is meant for worship, therefore wherever there’s a Buddha image, they will pray. I didn’t realize it before, but they also stress the fact that buying Buddha figures for decoration purposes is wrong and disrespectful, same for Buddha tattoos.
I think Chiang Rai is defenitely worth spending more time than I did, but it was nice to catch the vibe of that city over 12 hours.