The twelve hour night bus (we're getting pretty sick of these) dropped us off at a gas station in Chiang Mai before sunrise. Disoriented and groggy, we jumped in a pickup truck to some guesthouse where we were given a brief orientation on the city center and offered rooms. We opted to walk 15 minutes into the old city to try to find some guesthouses that were recommended to us. After getting a bit lost (most of the building numbers are in Thai or something) we both agreed to grab a room in the Na Inn, mostly because we liked the sign. It's a comfy place which meant a comfortable nap til the afternoon.
We woke up and followed Lonely Planet to Heuan Phen Restaurant to sample Northern Thai cuisine. I had Northern egg noodles with a curry paste. Kind of a noodle soup, slightly spicy served with pork (they were out of chicken), crispy noodle things on top, small onions, and some pickled veggie. It was one of the most delicious dishes I've sampled in Asia. I'm going to have to find a place that serves it in the States.
Chiang Mai has endless travel agencies on just about every street. We walked around a bit and randomly stopped into one to look into a trek, a bus to Pai, and perhaps a quick way into Laos. There were too many options, too many prices, and nowhere near enough days to do everything. (unbeknownst to us, there's a huge Loi Krathong festival taking place here where lotus shaped banana leaf boats are floated down the river with incense, thousands of paper lanterns are flown up into the night sky, fireworks are lit off on every street, candles shine in along sidewalks, and parades are held this weekend) We deliberated over banana pancakes and hot drinks at a nearby cafe and have decided to hang out in Chiang Mai for the festivities until Monday when we'll take a day trek in the mountains. The rest of the week we'll check out Pai and on Friday, we'll shoot back to Bangkok where the girls will head on to Malaysia and I'll figure out my next move.
In the evening we followed a parade to the river and watched people light lanterns into the air and fire off bottle rockets and pop off fire crackers. We couldn't help but want to jump in on the action.
It wasn't until we'd sent our lantern up into the sky that we figured out why people were doing it... to venerate Buddha with light and send away your grudges and anger from the past year. At the night bazaar we did a bit of shopping around and had some more noodles at the food center. All of the walking (and getting a bit lost) had us in bed by midnight. Today we'll check out the Sunday market and enjoy some more Loi Krathong madness.