Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Chummy Chiang Mai, Thailand

Eagle House - 170- 200baht Double room (hot shower, fan toilet)

Places to See: Doi Suthep, Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, Trekking

Getting to and from Bangkok: (800/500baht) 1st and second class train- 13hours. 490 baht government bus 12 hours.

Transport: Walkable town, saungtheauw to Doi Suthep 50-100 baht each (go in group 4 or more to get it cheaper!)

  After a considerably long 13 hour ride on a train, we reached our destination whilst the sun was still rising. Aligning the Northern Thailand station, were transport touts and tour touts inching their way just to get a glimpse of a foreign tourist. If it wasn’t ‘I can take you wherever you want tomorrow,’ it was ‘Here are our best trekking tours to offer.’ The mayhem had already begun, and I hadn’t even had my morning coffee and stretch at that point.

It was a slightly quieter affair then the humdrum of Bangkok, but equally packed with tourists. However the quaint streets, and the golden temples had a more tranquil atmosphere, an easy walkable town I thought, well that was before the walking had actually begun. After about an hour of strolling aimlessly, trying to find a cheap hostel with our mammoth rucksacks, I collapsed into a corner and decided my stomach needing sustenance was more important right then. So as the other intrepid travellers ventured around to find a hostel, I tucked into a nice coffee and scrambled eggs (Already, western food I know.) It was my chance to finally have a proper Western breakfast after 4/5 months of dumplings and noodles, so I savoured and devoured it within an instant.

The girls returned with a grin on their faces. Victory had been achieved and we had found an adequate hostel namely Eagle House, just off the beaten track. So after another 15 minute stroll with our babies on our backs, we checked into the very tropical-looking Eagle House, fit with swaying trees on a beautiful terrace. So after washing the 13 hours of train dirt under a warm shower, the start of what seemed to be an epic trail began. Through the streets of Chiang Mai we ironically searched for an adequate trek to embark upon.

What seemed to be an entire day of ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ and general indecisiveness, we ended up with a cold beer in our hands under the intense Thai heat. One being eco-friendly and didn’t want to parade an Elephant around in it’s own shame; the other having already extensively canooed around; and a broad consensus of not wanting to ogle at hill-tribes meant that we ended up with a big fat zero of a tour. So imagine 3 days of frustration.

The night consisted of seeing the ‘night market,’ which was preceded by a rather sleazy street filled with bars made for old foreign men and young local girls, and a lot of screaming by sellers. So we embraced the Rasta Rooftop bar, with chilled low tables and seats and a psychedelic environment. It was there we met two fellow travellers who accompanied us throughout the night, eating chocolate ice cream, having munchies, watching the fire entertainment as well ending the night at 7am by playing pool. I being miserable at any kind of sports in general, I was given much assistance by the barman, who taught me at least to be able to pot the white ball against another one.

Next day was a hellish one, with minimum sleep we decided to head to Doi Suthep, overlooking the city. The half an hour steep climb up a hill via Saungtheauw made me realise that biking it in that frame may have near what killed us, so I thanked my fellow friends for shaking me to my senses. It was cool, approaching sunset yet was still packed with Thai tourists inappropriately taking photos in the middle of the temple. But as the sun shone on the golden stupa, it illuminated the magical spherical top and gave us all a sense of spiritual awe.

Temple fever soon kicked in after the third day, as we managed to visit a million symmetrical stupas and officially die under the heat. Catching numerous modern monks watching a football match at one point was definitely a highlight and a local cook describing a Buddha statue as ‘happy Buddha, sad Buddha’ whilst acting it out in full still gets me rolling on the floor. After a substantial amount of tea and beer, it was off back to Bangkok and obtaining my Burmese visa woohoo!

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