I met everyone in the group the day before yesterday and it’s an interesting group. Two mother daughter pairs, one couple, two guys traveling together and the rest singles. There’s a woman from Toronto and a German fellow and the rest are either Kiwis or Aussies. Everyone is very nice and we all get along just fine. Our leader is a guy from Northern England and is quite knowledgeable and has traveled extensively in the region.
We were in Bangkok for a few days and checked out a number of really cool Wat’s (temples). Unfortunately, a lot of them were closed since it is a week of mourning. The King’s sister died in January and this was the official mourning week. We did get to see the shrine erected in her honor along with the royal crematorium which was set up across from the grand palace. Very interesting as hundreds of thousands of thais came down to pay their respects.
Afterwards, we headed up to the Khao San Road area for some dinner. The Khao San area is heavy with Western backpackers – Very loud, very white and lots of drunken madness.
Last night we boarded an overnight train to Chiang Mai. 14 hours and a very comfortable way to travel. After checking in to our hotel, we spent the morning today rafting (tiny bamboo rafts) down a small river and riding elephants. We’re headed to a temple to watch the monks chant at sunset on a hill overlooking the town.
Bangkok was very hot and muggy, but is has cooled as we’ve headed North. We’re off tomorrow for Laos and will be there for a week or so. I’m really looking forward to the next few days in Luang Prabang and will try and update the website with photos. Lack of time and internet speed has hampered my efforts to post photos.
Hope all is well at home and I’ll write again soon!