So we left Chiang Mai this morning after a couple days there and are now en route South to Ranong. We spent a very enjoyable Christmas week with our old friend Chris Stanley who we first met over 10 years ago on the island of Koh Chang. He is now living in deep rural Omkoi in the North West of Thailand. Chris was kind enough to meet us in Chiang Mai and help organise our motorbike (a Honda 300cc Forza), hardy enough to cope with Alan, myself as pillion and our rucksack/s.
We spent a week in the delightful farm stay called Pingthara, run by a very efficient Thai lady known alternately as Prang or "M". She arranged a rather challenging motorcycle tour of the area, luckily with local guides. We went as a little posse composed of Chris's Italian friend, Angelo, Oh (who runs the local restaurant where ate most nights, and "Little Sister" known as "Oy" - a feisty young lady who made sure Alan and stayed on track, as well as a couple of guides. Thankfully, Alan had lost little of his biking skills which were tested by dusty, unsurfaced roads, occasional deep potholes, packs of stray snarling wild dogs (at night) and long ruts unfixed since the last rainy season. We visited a beautiful place called Bae Lea where, apparently, the new king occasionally drops by in his helicopter (hence the helipad in the middle of nowhere).
We were entertained for Christmas lunch by Chris's really lovely friends, Steve & Stephanie who also live half the year in Omkoi. We brought M&S XMas puddings, mince pies and some nice wines - considerably lightening our rucksack loads! Our hosts supplied a delicious leg of New Zealand lamb.
We visited a local junior school ("lek Lek") and met with the teachers. The kids were really lovely. As it was high up in the mountains and the kids were all boarders, we took about 100 pairs of warm socks and a crate of oranges which was very well received.
After our stay in Omkoi, Alan and I took the return journey of some 5 hours back to Chiang Mai and checked in at somewhere we had stayed over 8 years ago called River View Lodge - a timeless almost colonial type boutique hotel on the River Ping but with the most magnificent and lovingly tended garden - plus swimming pool to cool off.
So, wherever you are celebrating New Year, we hope you have a wonderful time and that 2019 will see a halt to the disastrously unfolding saga that is Brexit, the downfall of the Tory Government and an immediate end to austerity.