Published: September 22nd 2006September 19th 2006
Which ways enlightenment?
Matt sneaks up on yet another unsuspecting Monk at Doi Suthep temple near Chiang Mai
Taking the sleeper train from Bangkok to Chaing Mai is, in theory, a great idea. First class accommodation is only 15 quid each and this, we were told, means a compartment with 2 beds, a shower room and loo. The journey takes around 14 hours so with a departure at 7.35pm and arrival scheduled for 9.20am you can sleep through the night (saving on hotel costs - see previous posts on being thrifty) and awake refreshed and ready to explore. Now here comes the but......somewhere along the line we had been misinformed about the shower/loo combo and we had two loos to share between about 10 first class compartments, one a squat pot and one a western loo. You would presume the western one to be the lesser of the two evils but it actually looked like something out of a scene in Trainspotting. The squat pot was so smelly I had to wear a bandana over my nose and mouth to go in and feared being accused of being a train terrorist as I visited the loo late at night. In addition the room was prison cell-esque and the motion of the train made it really hard for me to
Prisoner Cell Block H
The 'First Class' sleeper cell from BKK to Ciang Mai, 'OOH Shes Over Tired'
sleep, Matt however slept like a log. At 10.30pm it was officially bedtime and the guard arrived to make our beds up for us, I later saw him in his PJ's on one of my late night loo missions.
We arrived to lovely sunshine and the memory of the train journey quickly faded especially when our hotel let us in at 10am to shower etc even though check-in was not for hours.
To relax after our journey we decided a massage was needed, we hadn't chanced one in Bangkok as they all seemed to be the naughty kind! I had a lovely back massage whilst Matt went for neck and shoulders. Thai massage is supposed to be a kind of pleasurable pain and this was evident when I heard Matt tell his lady that what she was doing hurt! He told me after she had stood on his legs (head and shoulder massage??) and got him in a sleeper hold.
Next stop was Wat U Mong, a nearby temple. To get there we hired a Sawngthaew (a red truck type of thing which is a bus and taxi combo) we chartered it meaning it would not pick
What is she wearing
Even Buddha cant believe how stylish Carlas sarong combo looks
anyone else up and would wait for us at the temple. When we returned to the car a Canadian couple were trying to get the driver to take them somewhere, the driver suggested for 2 quid each he would take us all to another temple up in the hills which is great for sunsets, we had planned to go at some point so agreed. The temple, Doi Suthep, has a fantastic view, which includes the airport, Matt and I saw a plane take off whilst we were higher than it which was pretty strange. We were just about to go into the temple when a small child working there stopped me and told me I was not dressed appropriately, my shorts and vest had to be covered up with some lovely (?) sarongs before I was allowed in. That night we bumped into Conor and Carrie (Canadians) again and had a very western evening watching the Liverpool Chelsea game in a bar with them.
On Monday we changed hotel, moving to a guesthouse called M.D House which is cheaper than the first hotel we booked but just as good. It also has the advantage of Sunny, he is the
Our first water-fall.....
...only reached by a near impossible half hour trek
manager and is very funny, everytime we see him he says 'I see you' and tries to give us drinking water, he also asked if we wanted to watch TV with him (his TV is v small and we have a large one in our room so no contest!).
We hired bikes on Monday afternoon opening the South East Asia branch of bike club. Mine had three gears, bad brakes and a basket and Matt's was only slightly better, we cycled round during the afternoon and decided to head to Wat Suan Dok at about 5pm, this is another temple but includes a university for studying monks. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays the monks studying English hold Monk Chat which foreigners are able to attend. www.monkchat.net We took the bikes and the journey there was pretty tough as there are loads of pot holes and the rush hour traffic meant the roads were pretty busy, we ended up walking a lot of the way.
Monk Chat was really good, we saw two monks, a 19 yr old novice called Korn from Thailand and a 22 yr old Monk called Sonxey from Laos. At one point I asked Korn
I think its going to rain!!!!!!
our view from Doi Suthep gave us an advance weather warning that Chiang Mai was in for some bad weather
if women could touch monks (I had heard they couldn't) he told me that they were not allowed and then I accidently touched him as he passed me a pen! Oooops. The ride home from Monk Chat was probably the scariest event of my life, we broke every rule in the green cross code, cycling in pitch black with no lights on the road which Matt had compared the previous day to the M25. We even got chased by rabid dogs (technically they probably weren't rabid but to me all foreign dogs are obviously rabid).
That night we went to the Chiang Mai night bazaar, this is a huge handicrafts market, right in the centre we found a fish restaurant and ordered a whole red snapper, moments later there was excitement in the restaurant as the waitress had to go and catch the fish from the huge tank in the corner......I don't think its possible to have fresher fish!
Our final day in Chiang Mai (Wednesday) was spent on a trek, these are huge here and almost every guest house offers them though some are more reputable than others. We chose Panda Guest House, our day consisted of
Doi SuthepTemple complex
Fantastic views above Chiang Mai
elephant trekking, visiting a few hill tribes (which were pretty crap really as the people seemed so used to tourists plus you feel a bit guilty just gawping at them) then we went on a trek through the forest which was pretty tough as it had been raining (cue me falling over several times), the pathways were often no wider than 1 foot and there were quite large drops if you fell but the waterfall we reached halfway made the slog worth it as it was beautiful. We then did the highlight which was white water rafting which was excellent, we were told before boarding our boat that we had to get out after the first section and be driven to the second section as last week 2 people died in the middle rapids (this made me feel really confident about the whole thing!) but we still got to go through some really good rapids and got drenched. Met some really cool people on the trip, two Aussie guys, three dutch and a Chilean guy who kept disappearing to sleep, once in parked truck (we never got the hang of his name so christened him Chile Willy).
...goes Global with the opening of a S.E asia division
out during the day that a military coup has taken place in Thailand, the army have overthrown the Government and there is a large army presence in Bangkok, however it's all been peaceful so far and we have seen nothing of what has happened so it shouldn't change our plans.
We have booked a minibus for Thursday to take us three/four hours north to Pai (pronounced Bye!) for just 3 quid each and plan to see what it's like before we decide how long to stay there, although it promises to be chilled and relaxed with beautiful scenery and after 4 cities in 3 weeks we need the rest
There are more photos below