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Back in Bangkok

In Chiang Mai last night, the manager of the Night Bazaar, who works for Sunthorn, had met us at the airport and made a date to show us around Chiang Mai. Apparently he turned up sick - I hope its not the dreaded swine flue - and instead sent three friends to entertain us, a British woman  and a couple consisting of a Thai woman and a man from Quebec, Canada. They work for an NGO called Chiangmai Family Services - www.familycare.org/asia/thailand/chiangmaifamilyservices - and showed us a wonderful evening courtesy of Sunthorn, including dinner and a tour of the Night Bazaar.


After sleeping in and touring several temples in Chiang Mai, we flew back to Bangkok and checked in to our hotel about 5 PM. Just for the diversity in experience, I booked a guest house about 1/10 the cost of our hotel the first night in Bangkok. Everything is relatively cheap in Bangkok, which is one if the reasons there are so many tourists. Our previous hotel was a huge high rise grand affair on the river but still only about the same cost as the Hotel Mac.


Tonight, we are slumming it, but the neighborhood is worth ten times that of the grand hotel. It is on an essentially pedestrian street lined with restaurants, food stalls and guest houses, what they call in Asia the backpacker district. It is where the action is. I heard on CNN today that Travel and Leisure Magazine had rated Bangkok the third best city in the world to visit and Chiang Mai the 5th best. And we have been in both within the same 24 hours! CNN also noted that Bangkok had the highest happiness rating of any major city in the world.


Even more than Vietnam and Cambodia, Bangkok is swarming with twentysomethings experiencing a summer abroad. We were eating across the table at a street stall from a 22-year old Croatian Italian woman student traveling alone and asked her if she had considered traveling to the U.S. Probably not, she said. Too many guns and too much violence - not really safe.


Tomorrow we head back to Saigon for our last day in Aisa before flying home.