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I’ve long wanted to come to Chiang Mai, so a stopover on the way home from Australia seemed to be the ideal opportunity. As it turned out, the flight times meant a night in Singapore, so it made sense to make that two nights and have a double-dip stopover!

I was impressed by the efficiency of Singapore on my only previous visit in 1992. It did come with a high degree of authoritarian, conservatism and compliance, but that doesn’t exactly interfere with a tourist visit. Give me a slick, clean, air-conditioned & cheap public transport network any day of the week! I chose a quirky boutique hotel on the edge of Little India, which proved to be well located, extremely hospitable and, well, quirky, though it probably isn’t in anyone’s list of hotels for those growing old gracefully – if there was a video of me getting into and out of my (albeit comfortable) bed pit, it would no doubt go viral and win comedy awards.

I hadn’t factored in humidity and mid-30s temperatures, so my preferred mode of exploration – on foot – proved challenging, and was abandoned for boat and metro mid-afternoon. I packed a lot into a day – colonial Singapore, new millenium architecture, Chinatown and Little India – with contemporary art at the Singapore Art Gallery and a visit to the top of the extraordinary triple-tower Sands Marina Hotel, which has what looks like a giant surfboard atop, spanning all three towers. I ended the day back in Little India where the food lived up to its reputation.

Chiang Mai is a walled and moated city and again I landed on my feet hotel-wise in a beautiful boutique hotel bang in the  centre of the city but blissfully quiet, with a terrific restaurant, delightful staff and one of the city’s most famous temple complexes virtually en suite. The challenge of pedestrianism was even greater here as it was even hotter and there’s little shade or wind and next to no pavements. Still, I did what I could, which by the fourth day was rather a lot  – too much, in fact. Two lovely trips out of town complemented my three half-day city wanders and took me to the mountaintop temple of Doi Suthep to join the pilgrims at Wat Pharat and the Doi Inthanon national park, Thailand’s highest point at 8500 feet, for nature walks, a visit to the King & Queen’s pagodas, waterfalls and wanders in markets and tribal villages. When we returned, the streets outside the hotel were in the process of becoming the night market, saving me the schlep across town, which I may have passed on through exhaustion.

I have a fascination with Buddhism and a high tolerance of temples (Joanna famously referred to my gompa-bashing in Ladakh), but even I was overcome and ultimately defeated by the hundreds here in Chiang Mai. It was well worth a visit though, even if you do have to put up with a lot of tourists, many from the country of the world’s rudest – the Chinese – who’ve taken this mantle from the Russians. The onset of selfie-sticks, surely the pinacle of vanity, just compounds the issue.

So that’s it. A terrific trip, even by my own high standards! Little went wrong and an awful lot went right. This was the second of the month+ trips that started with the US last September and continues with Southern Africa in October. My new motto is ‘travel while you can, while you can afford to and while you want to’. Now I have to earn some money to pay for the next one…..

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