I’d forgotten how lovely Thailand is, and how loud a Gow Wow bird is.
It’s good to hear birds again. For some reason there don’t seem to be many in Cambodia or Vietnam or Laos, not even in the little villages by the river in the jungle, just sparrows and occasionally a few egrets. Thailand is a lot more built up and there are far far more birds. Why’s that then?
At the moment it feels like the high thirties again and I’m sat by the hotel pool doing nothing but sweating. The sun is going down and I pray it will get cooler.
Last night we went to the market, where there are hundreds and hundreds of stalls. Probably millions. It’s vast and snakes off down side streets and alleys and you can buy clothes and little wooden frogs and food and jewelry and bags. You can buy everything! And Nel continues to believe she can get it all in her bag. She’s bought a boatfull of clothes, reasoning, not unreasonably that they’re cheaper here and more to the point, they’re her size. I bought a silver ring with something written on it in Elvish, or it might be Thai and a pair of shorts to replace my toxic ones.
A blind bunch of buskers at the night market
Chiang Mai is a big tourist destination and from here you can take trips up into the mountains in a 4×4 if you’re the kind of person who takes pictures of themselves going ‘aaaaaaarggghhh’ and then posts them on facebook.
You can also go to Tiger Kingdom and loll about on drugged tigers. We’re guessing they’re drugged from the pictures because to the best of my knowledge tigers will not usually tolerate people rolling around on them and feeding them ice cream and sandwiches. They’re more inclined towards tearing people’s throats out with their huge spikey teeth as far as I know, unless they’ve been given enough sedative to knock out an elephant.
There’s also an elephant park where you can go and loll about on elephants, which are much more tolerant of that kind of thing but are still not to be taken lightly because they have big stampy feet and long hard tusks which are made from ivory and they have very long noses which they use to carve patterns on their tusks before selling them illegally.
There’s music in Chiang Mai and a couple of nights ago we came upon a place where a small Thai man was singing jazz and blues with a real good band behind him. He was loving it, dancing and posing and having a right old laugh.
We spoke with a woman in a bar who was telling us how brilliant Chiang Mai is. It’s a lovely old city for sure but it seems to be run entirely for tourism. Probably the only city in the world that has more travel agents than food shops. There aren’t even many 7.11’s about here, there’s no room for them.
We haven’t really done much since we’ve been here except for the disappointing trip to the White Temple.
There are far more young people on holiday with new clothes on here than traveller types. Three young girls arrived at our hotel while we were having breakfast and I swear they have more luggage between them than Madonna takes on tour.
We’ve bumped into quite a few people we’ve met before though, including the Scots barman Gordon from Kampot we’d met months ago. Our hair recognised each other as we passed a shop.
He’d saved up enough barman money to go to Burma and then Thailand with his French girlfriend.
Thailand is so different from the other countries we’ve been to. It was never colonised by the French and maybe that’s why it’s richer and why it’s so different. It was a buffer, see, between British colonies and French, and the wiley Siamese kings were clever enough to play them off against each other.
We left Chiang Mai yesterday and now we’re in Sukhothai, which was the Thai capital city once and has a lot of ruins.
We took a tuk tuk from our hotel yesterday morning earlyish and went to the railway station. This wasn’t where we wanted to go and the driver laughed and said sorry and went to the right place.
We were wary of being sold a ticket for a stupid little minibus that goes frighteningly quickly and uncomfortably and it’s about a five hour journey so we tried as best as we could to make sure we’d get a coach, so we poked about a bit, drank cold drinks and tried to figure out how to not buy a ticket for a minibus.
Using a process of relying on blind luck and vague comprehension we did indeed book a coach. Not a very nice one but better than a minibus.
The aircon was asthmatic and positioned just about in the worst place it could be so I had a cool patch right on the top of my head while I sweated and aquaplaned in all directions on my own body fluids on PVC seats in temperatures of about 38C outside, so probably a good deal higher inside.
Happily this only lasted for five and a half hours, but nonetheless I think we were both looking forward to a shower as soon as we could find a guesthouse.
The pleasure I felt getting out of that bus would be comparable to a constipated man’s first bowel movement in a week, I imagine. And then we were descended upon by a man. He seemed like a nice enough man, and he has a hotel. Bloody coincidence or what! 350 bats a night and he’d give us a lift there.
We’ve been ok generally, when there’s been people at bus stations asking you to go to their hotel, we’ve had no bad experiences so far and we thought we’d chance it. Other people said no and got a tuk tuk into town. We should probably have gone with them. It’s not a bad place but it’s not worth the money, not really. The room he showed us for 350 was a shared bathroom so we ended up paying another quid a night for a bathroom of our own. But it does have aircon and honestly, and I mean this now from the very bottom of my soul – you, all of you, would sell your sweet old grandmother to white slavers rather than spend a night in this heat.
The weather online is saying it’s 33 but feels like 38. Earlier it was 40 and the online thing was saying that taking into account wind and humidity and that, it actually feels like 45. Honestly it felt hotter than that, hotter than Satan’s breath after he’s eaten a Napalm Vindaloo with Semtex naan.
Not a proper tuk tuk, it’s a motorbike and sidecar and all the time I feel like it’s will fall over
So we showered, and found that the hot water doesn’t work, but that’s ok because the water tank is on the roof and it’s averaging high thirties and to be honest it’s warm enough when it comes out the tap. I honestly don’t want a hot shower. I want a hot shower as much as I want a friendly Norwegian to clap me on the back when I have sunburn.
Oh but the aircon is good. We’ve met people who say they don’t like it, that they prefer a fan. I always ask them the same question,,,ARE YOU EFFING MAD?
How can blowing this oily sticky air around you be better?
Today we hired a bike from the place we’re staying and rode many, many miles out of town to see the old ruins of what used to be the capital of Thailand many years ago.
There are beautiful old ruins in old Sukhothai, many of them, spread over many miles. We saw most of them, and then we stopped at a place where there is supposed to be a Buddha with diamond eyes which, if you see it will bring your family good luck and prosperity.
It was very scruffy and a little bit squalid, and we walked about for a bit before we were bothered by a dog.
A monk came out of his house and said hello. We said hello back and that was about as far as we could get, conversationally, but he persevered, and by pointing to himself and putting up his fingers, he told us he’s 64. We showed him how old we are, and for five minutes or so we had a fingery conversation.
He seemed to live there, not keeping the place in good order particularly on his own. He was smoking a cigarette and invited us into his home.
Don’t know about you but I’ve never been into a monk’s home before.
He was chatting to us in Thai with the odd English word in it and sat down opposite us and showed us photographs of him when he was younger, mostly with earnest looking western girls but one was of him and the king! And then, curiously, he showed us his collection of banknotes from around the world.
His tv (television) was on, playing some crappy music channel and within one second of walking through his venerable door I was sweating even worse than I had been outside. He just sat there in his saffron robe showing us his banknotes from Cambodia and Burma and Qatar and not sweating at all.
It didn’t feel as spiritual as I would have expected it to. It was all a bit weird to be honest. Not in a scary way, more in a lonely old man who’d like some company for a while kind of way.
We sat for ten minutes, me trying not to be taller than him, Nel not bothering to try, just listening to him talk to us and not understanding a word apart from photographs and some other things. He handed all the pictures and banknotes to me, they’re not supposed to touch women, but he took out an amulet and put it over Nel’s head. This seemed a bit more holy, a bit more like the kind of thing that monks are meant to do instead of all that talking, and banknote collecting and it did feel special. He said something about ‘Big Buddha’
Monks live on alms, and Nel pointed out to me that we should give him some money, so we did, and he gave me an amulet too, and tied a bracelet round both our wrists, red white and blue, Thai colours. He tied it on in a special way, rubbing it three times on the backs of our hands one way as he mumbled, and then three times the opposite way and spoke a blessing, and then he gave us both two more for our family. For our babies, as he put it.
I’d already sweated all over his photographs, his carpet and all the banknotes he’d showed us and I was leaving a damp patch on his rug. There was sweat in my eyes making them sting, and my t shirt was drenched, I had to get out.
He seemed pleased with the 4 quid we’d given him and we were very pleased with the things he’d given us, and so we bowed and wei’d our way out backwards, saying sawadee, and goodbye.
He ain’t heavy, he’s my Buddha
The old city was pretty cool, another World Heritage site. We rode this little motorbike about, looking at Buddha’s. It’s a lovely old site and it’s surprising that it’s not better known than it is but there were few tourists around.
It’s not as big or spectacular as Angkor of course, but it’s still beautiful. It’s been extensively restored and there are not so many temples, not so much carving and decoration but there are many Buddha figures, two of which are giants, one of them on top of a bloody hill. Thanks for that, ancient Thai people.
The map that you are given when you buy a ticket shows only the roads around the site but there are people living and working there, using roads that ain’t marked on the map. It was down these roads that we got lost, but that’s ok, it was nice to get out into rural Thailand and see people working in the fields.
It’s hitting 40C most days now and although it helped to have a breeze on you, a little bit, it was still like I imagine it would feel to be chasing a taxi-ing jumbo jet down the runway.
We were both looking forward to a shower later.
We spent an hour or so lost and chanced upon the road home by happy accident, happily. It’s about a three quarter of an hour ride and the roads aren’t organised in the same way as ours. They’ve arranged it mostly along the lines of dual carriageways with a wide reservation in the middle that you have to cross if you need to get to the opposite side of the road. This means that doing a U turn is a way of life and the outside carriageway is often jammed with a line of cars and lorries and tuk tuks and bikes waiting for a break in the oncoming traffic, sometimes for days.
We were doing a steady, oh I don’t know cos the speedo wasn’t working, maybe about 60kph and a family on a motorcycle will overtake. One of these bikes had four people on it, the six year old girl standing in the plastic leg guard area was texting on her smartphone. You must always guard your plastic leg.
At one point, a 4×4 lazily overtook us doing about 65kph and as soon as he’d passed our front wheel, pulled in front of us and braked to turn left. WHY DO THEY DO THAT? Why can they not let you go before they pull in? There really are no thoughts going around, there can’t be.
If somebody doesn’t feel like the road the right way, then they don’t. I had to swing out to avoid another 4×4 that was was pulling into the road, but I didn’t want to pull out so sharply that traffic behind me couldn’t avoid me and I was trying to look in my mirror and only seeing my own elbow and then I looked up to see two motos coming the wrong way towards me! What an idiot I felt for not anticipating that one.
A Buddha’s eye they of where we got lost, hopelessly
We got back to the guesthouse and Nel showered whilst I chain smoked, a nervous wreck outside.
And Thai drivers are actually very considerate and careful compared to Cambodian or Vietnamee. They wait at traffic lights at least.
We were served dinner by a ladyboys at a little restaurant actually, come to think of it, I don’t know whether the v shirt add jeans Julian Clarey types are thought of as ladyboys. They’re just very obviously very camp.
We’d had a bit of a disagreement about how we were going to get to Bangkok.
According to Nel’s internet, busses to Phitsanoluk where we needed to get the train run five a day from midday, but coming the other way run every hour from seven in the morning.
The internet is WRONG! Not all of it obviously but the busses do run from seven every hour both ways.
So this morning we were up at the crack, packing our bags. Toast and coffee for breakfast and a tuk tuk to the bus station where some very lovely and helpful ticket sellers sold us a ticket and pointed us at the right bus.
Another hour later we arrived at Phitsanoluk where a lovely helpful stranger saw us looking lost and pointed us in the direction of a tuk tuk who didn’t rip us off, even though I’d misunderstood him and gave him double the fare, he gave it back.
So now we’re on a hot carriage on the way to Bangkok and it’s too hot for the aircon to cope with in here.
I’d assumed that Phenom Penh was the limit of what a human can endure. It’s hotter here and we’re heading to Pattaya now because it’s only a couple of hours from Bangkok and there’s a beach.
It’s said to be a horrible place where white men go to look for girls, but Francesco and Tomu live there and it will be good to see them before we leave.
The plan is to spend a few days on the beach and then to Kev and Jayne’s for a couple more days before we fly back to the pub.