Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chilling in Chiang Rai

There we were, enjoying views of the countryside from the front seat of our Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai bus when Eric gasped, “Move over, man!” nanoseconds before the sickening crunch.

IMG_1677Our driver had slammed into a truck parked on the shoulder of the highway. It was a clear, sunny day with no traffic. Intriguingly (to us) the two saffron-clad monks who’d been chatting with the truck driver high-tailed it down the highway. Inauspicious to be at the scene of an accident? Who knows?

And, who knows what would happen to our driver, who was emotional about the accident.

Within an hour, another Green Bus had collected us all, and we arrived in Chiang Rai only 50 minutes late. Athu, from Afect Asia, a Dutch NGO with which we’ll be travelling and doing some volunteer work, met us as arranged and whisked us to Afect’s headquarters. Due to my chest and throat cold, we requested altering our trek start from February 4 to Feb 8. Fortunately, they could accommodate this request and, after a welcome cup of herbal tea and a chat with a Spanish volunteer worker, Athu brought us to our guest house.

IMG_1733Baan Bua Guest House is an oasis in downtown Chiang Rai. Resembling a small motel, its emerald green and ochre facade overlooks a tidy garden where tables and chairs allow us to have meals, a Chang (Elephant brand) beer, or simply chill and read. Vivid clusters of orange blossoms on immense vines and the chatter of red-cheeked bulbuls emphasize the oasis ambiance: after seeing some of the other guest houses, we’re glad to be here. Co-owner Tim, with her husband Brian, is absolutely fluent in English, having studied in Texas for two years. Delightful, attentive, informed: it’s wonderful to really be able to chat with a Thai beyond the basics!