Chang Mai is, so far, everything I had really hoped this leg of the journey would be. Nestled in the green-clad mountains of the North, the pace is much slower, the people much friendlier, and the foreigners much less, well, determined than in Bangkok. Even in the rain, it’s beautiful. The Libra Guest House is by far the nicest – and the cheapest – place I’ve stayed so far, and the staff (who live here) may be the friendliest people in history. So my Chang Mai agenda is already full: today must be a day of rest and listening to the rain fall. Tomorrow, I see the city. Thursday-Saturday, a trek through the jungles, sleeping in Hill Tribe villages, river rafting, caving and hiking through the mountains. Sunday morning I take off to Chang Kung, and from there across into Lao, beginning with a 2 day slow boat trip down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang, the ancient spiritual center of the country. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? Just don’t forget the mosquito repellent. And I’m awfully itchy today after my overnight train ride – I’m hoping I haven’t picked up anything icky like fleas….

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