We boarded the pickup and sped on the back through the early morning cool into the town of Chang Rai with our rucksacks strapped to the roof. We clambered on the bus to Chang Mai. Hitting Chang Mai we realised it was a big town. (The billboards were the most enormous I've ever seen - (reminded me of the poem by Ogden Nash - I think it goes : 'I think that I shall never see a billboard lovely as a tree - In fact if billboards grow more tall, I doubt I'll see a tree at all'). Our first choice guest house was full but they suggested one around the corner which was comfy so we took it. The guesthouse area is quite quaint - narrow little side streets with little traffic and just small stalls, shops, restaurants and bars. It is a lot more touristy than many of the places we've been recently but has a nice feel to it. One thing that struck us was the huge number of vegetarian restaurants. We had an indulgent veggy burger and chips one of them. It was delicious - sometimes you just need something other than rice or noodles. Later we went for a beer and met a couple of old Australian reprobates. They are rugby league fans - one has a Thai 'bride' (not too much younger than him and they seem to have a loving and caring relationship) and the other frequents Thailand for the company of the local ladies. They were characters (the older told us of their exploits on a tour in Britain when they ended up in Sheffield on a 'grab a granny' night. Some of the couples you see in Thailand are not so wholesome. There are some stomach turning decrepit old westerners with very young Thai women.
We spent the day walking around Chang Mai to see the sights. We went to a beautiful temple where there were more monk than we've ever seen. (arriving by the coach load). There was a bizarre little stall in the temple grounds selling all kinds of goods even down to Manchester United stickers. We ended up at the fruit and veg plus dry goods market. We had a lovely vegetarian thai meal in the evening.