18th April 2009
Chiang Mai, Thailand
18°46'46.59"N 98°59'16.84"E


After a couple of nights in Vientiane, we got the first bus to Thailand that came along - it took us to Udon Thani, which looks like an interesting place - a large provincial town, but we only stayed a couple of days before getting an overnight bus to Chiang Mai. Pure luck got us onto a songtheow with a lady going to her sister's house. We got off at the same place as her, just outside the city walls at Chiang Mai Gate, and I parked myself and the bags whilst Peter went looking for somewhere to stay. It only took him about 5 minutes to find a very nice, near new one bedroomed serviced apartment with a full sized fridge, cooking facilities, free WiFi and a gym and pool. What more could we ask for? The monthly rate wasn't too bad either.

Straight away we met Darren from Leeds who has been in Chiang Mai for a few months and Dennis, a Canadian and the most laid back, unflappable person I've ever met. He's so laid back he makes Peter look hyper. There's a really good bunch of long termer's who are making for lots of big nights out for Peter.

We've had another incident with a dog going for Peter, but I think I put the fear of God into the beastie and he's kept well out of our way since. Good news on the iPhone front - it's completely healed. The first thing I looked for was whether Laos was on 110v, but it claims to be 220v - obviously not, as I'm not the only person who has had the same thing happen. Anyway, it's a good thing and much needed because the laptop is all but dead.

It was dropped one too many times, and lost the C:\ Vista partition exactly the same as it did last year, but this time it took a bit of the data partition with it. I got myself a new 350GB hard drive, and noticed the overheating was getting worse and worse. As we knew we were going to stay for a couple of months, it was worth investing in an electric fan and I had it blowing straight at the bottom and lid. Unfortunately it worked a bit too well; the lid cooled down a lot faster than the LCD screen and expansion or contraction or whatever gave us a series of cracks on the screen. I can live with it being held together with gaffer tape, with the CD drawer being secured by paper tape and the bottom end wrapped tightly with velcro, but the screen is something I can't cope with. I found a new laptop, deciding not to go for the ultra portable/ultra expensive Vaio and got an Acer - 1.5 kg heavier, but with a much smaller and lighter power pack, so it's worked out just about the same weight - never understood why the Vaio's power pack weighed more than the laptop, didn't think about it when I was buying it, I just tested the weight of the machine and assumed ultra portable would be just that. It's taken a bit of getting used to as it doesn't have as much grunt as the Vaio and I can't have too many things open at once, but I was settling it in very nicely with an XP and a linux boot - haven't got around to playing with linux yet, and after 18 months of Vista I'd forgotten how much better XP is. Bad news is that the data I lost from drive D: includes all of the photographs from Laos. I've tried 8 programs so far and haven't been able to recover any yet. Still got a few tricks up my sleeve, so fingers crossed. As always when we know we're going to be somewhere for a long time, I don't get around to taking any photo's, so the shelves will be a bit bare. Even worse, only 2 weeks into it's life span, the LCD screen on the new laptop has cracked. Not sure how it happened, probably had the lid closed with something inside it and of course the screen is the only thing not covered by warranty. Looking at some forums on the net, it seems rather common with Acer laptops, and the cost of a replacement screen is going to be almost as much as the beast itself did. No time to worry about it though, I've been working solidly fixing up other people's laptops which weren't performing too well and have really enjoyed myself. At the moment I'm working on Tim's IBM Thinkpad - he's from Ballarat (which is quite close to where we lived in Australia) and together with his wife, U-Ping has the most adorable daughter. Theresa has long hair and mum is a hairdresser, so the braids are different almost every day making her look the cutest thing ever.

We didn't plan it purposefully, but we were here for Songkran - Thai New Year. It's a water festival and in Chiang Mai it goes on for days - the downside is that Lonely Planet has talked the fun up so much that hordes of backpackers descended onto the city. Of course, westerners always go too far and spoil things - what started off as a little water splashing for luck for a good rainy seasonhas grown into full on drenching's with buckets big enough to knock people off motorbikes - especially when they are half filled with block ice. I stayed indoors for the whole thing. There was only one occasion I had to nip out to the supermarket and I made it after the sun had gone down - the water throwing stops at sundown (unless you're a westerner of course where it goes on until it's time to sleep off the alcohol). We were well out of the way of Thai Pae Gate, where the water throwing is non stop, and all I got was a tiny squirt from a 5 or 6 year old who almost asked my permission to do it and almost apologised afterwards. Must be a sign of me getting old.

We've caught up with Andy, and he and Peter have been playing with the bike - Andy went to Cambodia after Laos, and between them the two countries' roads (or dirt tracks) have vibrated the bike into submission. He's really ill at the moment, flu, upper respiratory infection, sinus infection and he's taking a fist full of antibiotics every day but they don't seem to be working - if anything he seems to be getting worse. We've got a fantastic Wi-Fi signal and I'm making full use of it. Last week we watched Borat and Kenny (2nd funniest Australian film ever) with Dennis, Darren and his girlfriend Ami, and we've just watched Kenny again and The Castle (funniest and best Aus film ever) with Andy.

Peter's over doing it at the gym almost every day and I'm sitting on computers for about 12 hours every day and we're both content. We've found the best take away food stalls in town - well away from the tourist area and nobody speaks English, but they all let us try a little bit before we buy. Between that and some good home cooked food, we've both lost a fair bit of weight - it'll be back soon though as we're heading to Seremban and all that yum Indian food for the wedding on the 27th. I phoned Praba's sister Indra and asked her advise on a gift - she said something for the showcase. I found 3 lovely statues, not sure if they are northern Thai or Burmese, but they're really nice. And big. Didn't think about how we were going to get them onto the plane - they're far too big for hand luggage and Air Asia are really strict about such things. A bit of creative planning is in order I think.

That's about it from here I think - nothing particularly outstanding to report, Peter has kept himself out of trouble and I've been like a pig in muck solving computer problems - we're both getting excited about the wedding. I can't wait to see how we turn out dressed up.