There are two Chiangrai-Chiang Khong bus services, both with the same 2.5 hour travel time, fare & hourly departures, but slightly different routes. The one via Phaya Mengrai alternates with the one via Wiang Chai such that a Chiang Khong-bound bus departs Chiangrai every half hour (Chiangrai bus timetable).
The 15:30PM Chiang Khong bus pulled out just as the cat got off the bus from Chiangmai...but a quick thinking Chiangrai bus station staff saw the cat with a backpack & asked it for its destination. The next thing the cat knew it was running after the guy through the crowd to the opposite end of the bus station...where he stood in the middle of the road & stopped the Chiang Khong bus on its way out of the station - so sweet! Thanks to him the cat would reach Chiang Khong before sundown & not have to hunt for its guesthouse in the dark - how's that for service? =)
& so the cat tumbled through the back door onto the wooden-floored bus & found itself in the company of a few locals, a German tourist, 2 papa smurfs (red beret Thai soldiers) from the Chiangmai bus (how they got on before the cat is a mystery) & a monk. Back to the familiar pay-the-conductor-on-board system of bus travel with no computer systems nor assigned seating, & a sophisticated face recognition system powered by the bus conductor's brain to keep track of how much each passenger has paid (& where they have requested to alight at) instead of tickets.
The road between Phaya Mengrai & Chiang Khong was paved but super potholed. Drove through an endless smoky expanse of burning post-harvest rice fields. Little did the cat know that this would be the last of any straight road & flat terrain it would see for the rest of the year....
The ride terminated at the market at the southern end of town, where a bunch of waiting tuktuks quickly disappeared with locals from the bus. Mr German & the cat shared the last tuktuk (20 baht per person anywhere in Chiang Khong, 10 baht for short hops) & a short chat. The cat was dropped off at soi 1 leading to Ban Tammila Guesthouse as darkness fell, while Mr German continued north to check out Bamboo Riverside Guesthouse.
Ban Tammila is right by the Mekong river, 350 baht per double room without river view in peak season:
Huay Xai & the Mekong are 'invisible' in the (almost) pitch black darkness, so no point paying for the view if just overnighting. The restaurant area overlooks the river anyway. Not the cheapest option in town, but one that could be booked in advance, so that the cat can stick to its policy of having its first night accommodation of any trip settled before arrival, when it is still in its blur work-to-holiday transition state.
Lousy thing about travelling solo - having to pay for double/twin rooms as single rooms are unheard of in most guesthouses. Good thing - easier to find alternative accomodation (floor space in local family's hut or boat or fellow traveller's room) if stranded, & to squeeze onto vehicles that are full. The otherwise spotless bathroom had a full colony of ants marching across one end, but not much of a problem as they kept to one side & the cat kept to the other - peace =)
Ban Tammila is also the place where you can buy the 'Siam hammock' invented by the owner.
Taking a sniff of the air the cat ended up at a little restaurant along the main road. Typical family-run living room establishment that the cat usually eats at in Thailand...adults cook the 25 baht meals either at the front by the road, or in a kitchen in the back, customers dine at tables in the living room surrounded by family photos & pictures of highly revered monks & members of the Thai royal family, while watching EPL or King's Cup soccer matches on TV together with kids doing homework in between serving food, & at the end of the day the family rolls down the shutters & retires to their bedrooms upstairs.
end of day 1 (171206):
noodle soup/pho/feu/khaaw soi eaten to date = 01 bowl
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