(journal excerpt-March 16, 2012)
Didn’t write more on the train-too difficult with the rocking and swaying. Instead we drank a bunch of beer and listened to music and talked to the woman who came around selling stuff on the train. We learned she only works on commission and only ten percent on a ridiculously marked up 140B beer (they are usually anywhere from 55-90 baht in a restaurant!) But of course, once we finished all the cans we bought off the train platform it seemed like a good idea to buy a couple of hers, especially since she was so annoyingly persistent. Her son is 19 and her daughter only 9 and she lives in Nakhon Si Thammarat (in the south of Thailand) and very far from Chiang Mai. She works the BKK-Chiang Mai line back and forth non stop for 6 months at a time and sleeps on the train from 11pm-5am. She taught us some Thai words (now forgotten of course) and demanded I open my snacks so she could eat them (which of course I did) and then we eventually got shushed by some French lady at 9:45pm. Shushed!!
I eventually tried to sleep around 1am but for me, its nearly impossible-I don’t know how people get into their beds and pass out as soon as they come around to set them up. Sleeping pills? It’s the same people that sleep sitting upright on long distance bus trips over rough road. How do they do it?? I can’t sleep sitting up in any vehicle and laying down in the train is not much better. Still, I can’t fault rail travel in Thailand. For a third world country, they have their shit together. The staff are friendly, the train is clean (except for the bathroom, of course) and it’s not that uncomfortable of a bed either!
Anyway, we are now in Chiang Mai after that long trip and our guesthouse is mostly lovely apart from the fairly noisy location and the packs of stray dogs that roam around here at night, barking all the time. We haven’t had too much time to look around here yet. We were mostly exhausted after the train and the midday heat was also pretty intense so we just walked around a bit. We’re within the walls of the old city which used to be surrounded by a massive wall but now only a few pieces and the huge brick gates remain. Within the walled area of the city is most of the backpacker accommodation and restaurants etc and there seems to be an abundance of vegetarian restaurants here as well as yoga studios and meditation retreats and other conduits of well-being. Had an awesome veggie burger and fruit smoothie last night (banana, coconut milk and mango-so good!) Otherwise, so far, Chiang Mai isn’t really what I expected (there go those expectations again!) I expected it to be a city more in a valley or something with mountains all around. I’ve since learned that there are mountains around us. The problem is the slash and burn method to farming around here has left the city in a thick dark haze. It may be more scenic than what I’m seeing but so far it’s pretty urban with quite a lot of traffic. I thought the area would be more…arty? I don’t know if that makes sense. More local art and indigenous people selling things in street stalls etc. However, I think all of that will be reserved for the weekend markets which I’m very much looking forward to and I’ve read a lot about. I came here with the hopes of buying a particular type of bag made by the local hill tribes, cheaper than what I’ve seen in Bangkok, so hopefully I’ll catch a good bargain at the market!
Photos will be coming up soon, I haven’t had a chance to upload any for a bit. Later sweet pertaters!