Thailand is so completely different from Laos. I knew this going in, but man. As soon as you cross the Friendship Bridge you know for a fact you are not in Laos anymore. Everything is so shiny and new, the roads are good, there are billboards and advertisements everywhere, the people are wearing clothing with company logos, there are western chain restaurants, it is just like we were home almost. But still in Asia. I knew it would be different, but for some reason I thought that outside the main, large cities it would be more like Laos. I remember looking into the hill tribe trekking outside of Chiang Mai and so I figured the countryside would be the same, but no. It was very jarring for me to suddenly be in a much wealthier country. I immediately wanted to go back to my lovely Laos, but we had all the food to look forward to eating so on we went (note - there will be a lot of food pictures in this post!)
So a van picked us up from the bus station and took us back to the hotel place in Chiang Khong where we needed to switch vans to go to Chiang Mai. We were supposed to leave at 10:30, but we had to wait for a specific van to come which was late. I don't know why as the driver and a ton of other vans were there, but whatever. We finally left an hour later, but we still got into Chiang Mai 5 hours later even though we stopped a fair amount of times along the way.
The drive was nice and there were just the three of us that came from Laos and two other people so plenty of room to spread out if we wanted. We drove through similar landscape as Laos, but it was completely different. For one the roads were lined with buildings and businesses in most places, but then again it was much flatter. The hills we did drive through/go by weren't as crazy jungle as Laos. They were more deciduous trees. We drove by lots of golf courses and fancy hotels and hot springs resorts and just lots of expensive looking places.
There were also a ton of giant animal statues for some reason. One place had a giant dog family outside - 2 large dogs and a puppy. The puppy was at least as tall as me if not taller. It was odd. There were also lots of really big Buddha statues and tons of really ornate photos of the royal family.
We stopped a few times for a bathroom break and once to get food. The place we stopped at was just this big store with dried fruits and nuts and stuff...it didn't look like you could get a meal there, but Raymond figured it out and got us some fried rice for like €1.
They really don't want you to put your feet on anything in the van
Once we got closer to Chiang Mai the traffic was crazy. We were on a 6-8 lane road and there were sooo many cars! We hadn't really seen traffic for a long time so it was just odd to have so many people driving around again. We got dropped off right outside our hotel and dropped our stuff off before going to explore! We tried to spy on the night market, but it was still being set up so we wandered towards the main square area of Chiang Mai and I think we went down the wrong road. I had been reading before hand how during the vegetarian festival places would have these yellow signs outside and there is stuff to eat all over, but we didn't see any on the road we went down. It was a lot of massage places though so...
Finally we got to the main road and saw this restaurant with "The Best Curry!" so we tried that and some noodles as we were getting hungry. We could see a market across the way at Pae Gate so we were going to go explore that after we ate and try and see if we could find any vegetarian festival stuff. Really I thought maybe I got the dates wrong or something and we missed it.
So we wandered through the market a bit and found some food, and then I saw all of these people taking photos of the above people...
And found the main vegetarian festival stage!! I was so excited! We actually found it! Some people came out and were dancing and it was pretty awkward, especially the guys, as no one was on time or in sync so it was interesting. Then we went to spy on the rest of the market and found an amazing food court area!! There was a stand for different Asian countries or areas with foods for us to eat! Oh it was amazing. We ate so much food! Now on to the food photos!
Indonesian satay - super tasty with these like gummy rice flour squares underneath - like mochi, but no real flavor to them by themselves
So much food at the Myanmar table! If only we hadn't stopped at that restaurant we could have tried it all. We only got this kabab thing which was amazing and some peas as I love peas and they were quite good.
From the Singapore table we just got a cookie for later
A "meat" and veggie kabab from the Philippines lady. Oh she was fun. She was really excited about her kababs. She was so happy and so enthusiastic we had to get one.
Lots of foods from Macao. We got some of the fried veggies and one of these veggie ham things - ham with some greens and "cheese" inside. So tasty!
And a few pieces of sushi from the Japanese table.
Then someone was giving out free coconut ice which Raymond had since it was really coconutey
And finally we couldn't pass up some steam buns. We don't have the opportunity to get them very often so we just had to! Oh man it was so much food, and we didn't even eat something from every table.
Noodle from Kuala Lumpur - we just picked these up to have for breakfast the next morning. Delicious!
And some general Malaysian noodles for breakfast as well. They were both really good. Breakfast of champions!
The food court area. We loved it. Our favorite vegetarian festival eats we had during our trip. So many different options, all the people were super friendly and happy and we just had such a good time eating our way around the tables. We only spent €7.50 on food and I was soooo stuffed, but it was so so tasty!
We walked back to the hotel and dropped our noodles off then went to explore the night market. It was alright, but not a lot of stuff I would really be interested in purchasing. I did get a couple t-shirts which were really cute. Overall a good day even if I was missing Laos. And now we knew what to look for for the vegetarian festival!
So when we were wandering around Colmar and spying on all the things we saw a sign that we happened to be in Colmar on a free night at the museum! So most of the museums in town were free from 7pm-11pm/midnight (depending on the museum). So we of course had to go check them out! There were only four in town so we were able to go to all of them, though by the end we were so tired and our feet were so sore from a long day of exploring and long night of museums. First up was the Museum Bartholdi, but I didn't take any photos in there (I wasn't sure I was allowed and it was super busy, so many people!). It was super tiny, but interesting. There were a lot of models of ideas he had for different monuments and then what he actually ended up using. The one room was just ideas and designs for the Statue of Liberty which was cool. There wasn't a lot there, but what there was I enjoyed. Then it was over to the Natural History and Ethnology Museum Cool bugs