(journal excerpt-March 18, 2012)
This place is slowly warming up to me or vice versa as we’ve been spending each day wandering around a few of the seemingly hundreds of beautiful wats around the city. One gets the sense of how old the city is compared to Bangkok and some of the wats have chedis which are over 700 years old.
Walking around the city, you stumble across many examples of ruinous brickwork and ancient wooden structures. Yesterday we went to a particularly beautiful wat that had very lovely grounds with paths and a forest throughout.
Signs of buddhist proverbs were fastened to trees along our walk and the butterflies were everywhere and a few even sat still long enough for me to take a couple photos!
The heat during these hottest peak ours of the day has been insane (36c-37c) and now that we’re in the dry season, the humidity is low and it feels even notter. The wat and it’s shade was a welcome break from this. We drink litres of water a day and still cannot get fully hydrated. Another downside to this season is the haze. This is the time of year that farmers burn their crops off, not only here but in neighbouring Myanmar and Laos and the smoke wafts into the city. Apparantly it was much worse before we arrived but today when I stepped out of the guesthouse for breakfast, I could actually smell the burning and the air along the street is quite bad making my tired defective lungs whine a bit. Given that we did so much walking in the heat the past few days, I think we’re going to take it a bit more easy today and do some writing indoors to take a break from the air.
Actually, the other day was like this when I got up in the morning but by afternoon it got windy and it blew away quite a lot of the haze. For our break from the heat we stepped into a bar run by two expat Bits in their 70’s, both with young Thai wives. One dudes wife was a year younger than one of his daughters and just had his baby. Despite their questionable proclivities, they seem to be nice guys and we talked to one of them and rank and tried to learn about Thai property law and the ins and outs of all his prior properties and current building repairs!
The reason why I mention this is we also found the bar to have rooms for rent and we are losing our room where we are now, tomorrow. We booked online and I mentioned we’d probably want to stay up to aweek or more but that we’d just reserve 3 nights for now, and low and behold it was booked out from under us. So we have to move. So the pirate bar may have a room for us or another place we looked into. Ahh well! Can’t get too comfortable anywhere I suppose!
(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!