Today we arrived back in Chiang Mai after a six hour bus journey down from Chiang Khong. I figure by now we’ve used every possible form of transport in Thailand except for helicopters and elephants. When we were here a week ago I only saw the train station. Now I’ve finally had a look around, and I quite like the place. It’s like Bangkok except it’s smaller and has more oxygen.
Katie and I are planning a trip to the night market tomorrow which I’ve heard a lot about (more dodgy goods and local crafts I think, but with good food to boot). Tonight we recruited a lone Australian backpacker and dragged him to a vegetarian restuarant with us. Given that in the far north there were very few other backpackers, it’s kind of a relief to be able to find other English speakers again. I think we were both on the brink of insanity from spending too much time in each others company. Coming back to Chiang Mai is a bit like returning to Earth after a long space adventure.
More bouncing today as we ran the rapids of the Mae Kong river in a narrow boat. I saw scenery thats too hard to describe in words, I can try but I don’t think I’ll do it any justice: Low rolling hills extending for miles in either direction down a valley, with tropical jungle vegetation stuff growing on top? – Told you it would sound lame. Still staggeringly breathtaking, especially when plunging through the scenery on a boat.
Arriving in Chiang Khong was a bit anticlimatic really, nice enough leafy green town but not much to do. Going to get some food now and we’re off to Chiang Mai tomorrow….
Currently up in Chaing Saen by the Mae Kong river, which winds it’s way down through Laos, Cambodia and empties into the South China Sea via Vietnam (starting all the way up in the mountains of Tibet). This is the stretch of water immortalised by so many Vietnam War movies (hence the title of today’s entry). The waters here are peaceful compared with the napalmed villiages and rusting helicopters that apparently line the banks of the river downstream.
Unfortunately we never got as far as the monkey cave, but we did get all our washing done and today we travelled over the border into Burma/Myanmar. We toured around the city of Tachilek in the company of a Shan man who was a friend of a friend of Katie’s. We now own a few dodgy goods for our trouble and spent most of the day bouncing around in the back of various forms of motorised transport.
Hopefully anyway – when I was a student the phrase "laundry day" had connotations of chisling old socks from out under the bed and watching kids T.V. whilst waiting for the machine to finish it’s spin cycle. Today however I think I’m going to have to lug my backpack down a hot road to the laundry place instead and sit baking in the heat for a while.
We might be visiting the monkey cave later on as well. I don’t think thats it’s proper name, but thats how it appears on the map. I’m not quite sure what it’ll be like but I suspect it probably involves a big cave filled with…. monkeys, I guess.
We spent the last couple of days up in the hill country in the far north of Thailand and stayed in a town called Mae Salong. as the title of this blog entry suggests Mae Salong is famous for it’s tea. Given that Katie and I are both capable of drinking our entire body weight in tea it seemed like a good idea to investigate.
Mae Salong tea is green but still quite drinkable (being a Yorkshire man I prefer strong tea, "like wot they drink oop north"). I’d still rate it as a seven out of ten (averaged out – mae salong tea comes in different flavours, like ginseng or jasmine, a bit poncey mind you). Shortly after arrival we ended up outside a tea sellers stall whilst they prepared it for us using very small tea pots and china bowls in some elaborate ritual, whilst it rained. In fact we managed to sample several vendors tea simply by looking like we wanted to buy some (though I do now have some leaves in my bag). Then we spent the evening drinking cherry wine on the veranda
Proving that Cleanliness isn’t next to Godliness, was the Christian run guesthouse we stayed in. I woke up this morning with a strange rash on my hand, possibly bed bugs I think. It also looked like wormworm had chewed most of the furniture.
Still in Tha ton, yesterday we went for a walk up the hill above the town and saw the eponymous statue. Rather large, can’t think of better words to describe it than that.
We also went to a rather cool bar in the "Tha Ton Garden Nature Village Resort" (almost Thai-Lish), the bar consisted of small number bamboo huts strung out along a section of river, and the staff brought drinks out to us. Thai Whisky is rather rough and the Whisky Sour I had, was, as the name might suggest, sour (as well as rough, still lots of ice made it drinkable). Now I’ve got to find Katie and go to Mae Salong.
Currently I’m north of Chiang Mai in a place called Tha Ton. We have spent the last few days at a centre outside a town called Fang. A place which the Rough Guide describes as "An ugly place, you’re far better passing it by..". The center deals mainly (I think) with people from the local hill tribes, the Shan and the Akha and I think helps displaced refugees in the area. If you want to know exactly why we were there then I’d have to reply that it one of Katies "things" (you’d have to know her to know what I mean, her parents are moving there to teach English amongst other things, but I digress…). I spent most of the time there sweating and failing to understand people but yesterday I got roundly beaten at football by people who are half my height. Some of whom actually appear to be quite good players, but will never hit the big time because they weren’t fortunate enough to have been brought up in the slums of Liverpool and didn’t spend they youths robbing cars.
Tha Ton is quite a nice place, right up on the Thai Burmese border. We might be catching a boat along the river for a bit. I’ll keep posting and I might get Katie to do some writing when I get bored.
I’ve not had time to blog since I arrived, very jet lagged at ten am monday morning. I booked n to the hostel okay but then lost my most important piece of baggage (Katie) at Bangkok airport. After nearly two hours of waiting and searching I discovered that she’d already gone to the guest house – anyway we’re both safe and neither of us had any drugs planted on us whist passing through customs.
Yesterday we both wandered down to the fabled Khao San road (as immortalized by Alex Garland in the book/film "The Beach"). Back in the early days of the backpacker explosion this strip was probably the last (or first?) outpost of westernisation in Thailand, today it sells gaudy trinkets and pirate DVDs to the tourists, but I did come away with the impression that you could probably buy ANYTHING here (or sell it). We also met our first con man outside the Buddhist temple but managed to resist his dubious (and obvious) scheme. Aside from that my feet hurt from all the walking.
Still readng "Zen and the Art of..". Seems quite relavant to journeying, although it hsan’t inspired any particularly profound thoughts.
It’s 6AM and 27 degrees C. I’m waiting for my connecting flight and sweating. Soon dawn will come creeping up over the south China sea. Soon I will be in Bangkok. Now I have a plane to catch
I quit my job (the third time I’ve left a job in six months no less) and moved back to Yorkshire for a few days. Not currently a displaced Yorkshire man. Tomorrow is the big one. Currently my room resembles down-town Mogadishu, a mess of zipper pockets, medicines and baggage (all that’s missing are the guns). I feel like Martin Sheen, Graham Greene and Hunter S. Thompson (again minus the guns) all rolled into one, except I’m scared. It’s that kind of dull pre-dental appointment scaredness rather than a raging fear of the unknown. My head constantly checklists the things I have bought trying to find gaps – the computer programmer part of me taking over I guess
I did buy a lovely new pair of Merrells today (thank you Rich W, Damien, and Fozzie for the recommendations). They are indeed just like walking on air. They also go along way towards setting my mind at ease as they look like they could take a fair amount of punishment.
Sorry for the slightly more serious tone than usual. And sorry for not mentioning you in this entry Dan.
It’s midnight and I need to be up in five hours to go to Manchester.