As with most taxi drivers here they always know someone to get you anything you need. Mentioning to my driver that I was here looking to expand our online tea shop’s range he mentioned he had a good friend who owns the 'best' tea shop in the night bazaar and, while we prefer to deal directly with farmers, after speaking to her on the driver's mobile instinct told me (so important in this business) I should at least go and meet with her.
Following being dropped off at my hotel, undaunted by the near midnight hour, I headed out in search of the aforementioned shop.
It was much to my surprise - as the quality of market stall teas often seriously varies depending where in the world you are - the Thai tea she sold looked, smelled and tasted fantastic. I could have easily bought half her stock there and then, which she'd have been more than happy to do offering me a "Good price! Good for me, good for you!" However, I chose to wait but we spoke about where she was getting her teas from. Understanding what we were doing she began telling me about the finest plantations in Mae Salong, yet there was one in particular she liked, which happened to be the same one I'd thought maybe the best. I was relieved I was on the right path. I bought some delicious Oolong 17 for myself and headed back to my hotel.
I only achieved a few hours sleep that night so taken with the novelty of having both TV and hot water following living in beautiful but basic Homestays in Indonesia.
Leaving the hotel I negotiated using my very limited Thai with a taxi driver to take me to the bus station. Roughly translated it went like this:
Me: 'And this, bus station, how much?'
Taxi D: '200 bht'
Me: *pulls face of shock horror despite the fact I have no idea how far we need to drive. 'Ooh expensive'.
TD: 'Ok, how much you want?'
Me: *look like I'm weighing up my options for a bit but really I'm just trying to figure out what number he said. 'Ok, deal'!
I'm sure I still paid more than necessary (just over £2 instead of £4) but I just love the, albeit very limited, banter!
At the station I eventually worked out I need to get a Q ticket with the Green Bus Company to Chiang Rai from where I can travel on, up into the mountains, and into the tea producing region of Mae Salong. I ended up opting for an X Class ticket - well, James is paying - which amazingly included a bottle of water, a biscuit and a refreshing towel all for £3.50. Truly the epitome of luxury business travel. Lothian Buses and budget airlines take note!
2 hours into the journey we hit an armed police road block. My driver is told to turn around. I am distraught at the thought of going back to Chiang Mai, my Coccyx hurt, a combination of sitting on the back of motorbikes on bumpy paths and from a couple of cliff jumps I did last week. The thought of sitting for the same time again only to end up back at the start is soul destroying.
After shouting at the police the driver, in a decision unrelayed to me, had other plans. He turns the bus 270º off the concrete road and on to a single track dust path. Exciting and stupid, my bum is most grateful to the maniac who took us winding along a precarious route through farm lands. Even the Thai's looked somewhat horrified by this decision as they take their phones out to begin photographing this insanity!
Morbidly I thought to myself if I die here no one will know where I am...
After another couple of hours I finally made it to Chiang Rai. I found a cute room on the top floor of a quirky guesthouse and began to prepare for the even more remote public transport required to get to Mae Salong. The guest house owner brought me some tea. It's fantastic. I'm reassured I'm getting closer to my goal!