4.2.3: Return to Thailand

Day 170: Huay Xai to Chiang Mai

I got up this morning to get the minibus to Chiang Mai, the same as I had done about two months ago. Again I felt sorry to see Laos slipping away from me as I crossed the Mekong. In Chiang Khong I went to the hotel where the minibus leaves from. I chatted with a couple from Iceland who were also getting the bus and then went for breakfast at the same place that I went to last time. I arrived in Chiang Mai at about 16:00 and went to Your House Guesthouse as Joey had booked a room for us. She was coming to Thailand for a holiday and we were to spend a few days together in Chiang Mai before going to meet JK and LL in Bangkok. Sin, the owner, recognized me when I arrived and I checked into the room. Afterwards I went to a travel agency to arrange a visa for Vietnam. It cost about 2,000 Baht and I could collect my passport on my last day in Chiang Mai. I then went to one of the second hand bookstores and bought an old Vietnam guidebook for 160 Baht. After dinner I went to a bar for a drink and to read a bit of my new guidebook. When I left I walked a little down the street and was attacked by two dogs. I thought they were going for each other until I realized they were going after me so I started running! It was pretty scary but a hole in the shorts was the only damage done.

Day 171: Chiang Mai

In the morning I went to get my laundry done and then came back to the room. Just when I got back, one of the staff members came running up the stairs shouting ‘Zoë’s here!’ I then realized that he was referring to Joey who had just arrived in Chiang Mai after the overnight train from Bangkok. She came into the room and we hugged. We went downstairs and had some breakfast and discussed what we would do over the next couple of days. After breakfast we went to some of the temples in town. I’d been to them before but Joey was happy to have a guide.

171.1. At breakfast in Your House Guesthouse.

We went to Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang. At Wat Phra Singh we took pictures of the helpful Buddhist messages in the garden. After visiting the temples we went for lunch at Ratana’s Kitchen. I had a very spicy pork dish that really wasn’t what I needed as my insides had not yet recovered from all the lao-lao. After lunch we went to try and find ‘The Peak’ – one of the largest climbing walls in South East Asia. After wandering around for a while unsuccessfully we discovered that what Joey had marked on her map was actually the boxing stadium and the climbing wall was actually quite far away. Instead we went to the pub. We found a bar near to Tha Pae gate and had a few beers outside before going in and playing a couple of games of pool. In the evening we went for dinner and then went for a couple of drinks at the North Gate Jazz Bar. There was some live music there again that was quite good but not as lively as on New Year’s Eve.

171.2. Some helpful Buddhist advice on the tree signs in the gardens of Wat Phra Singh.

Day 172: Chiang Mai

Today we went to rent bikes so that we could visit the temples just outside town. The first place we tried didn’t have a bike that was small enough for Joey so we went instead to Nocky House. The girls were surprised to see me back in Chiang Mai but luckily they didn’t ask why I didn’t go back to stay there. We cycled out to Wat Suan Dok and then continued on to Wat Umong and sat for a while on the island on the lake. We then explored some tunnels under the temple which I hadn’t seen last time I was there.

172.1. At Wat Suan Dok and in the tunnels at Wat Umong.

We then tried to get across to the zoo entrance on the opposite side so that we could go to Doi Sothep but we couldn’t find the way. We eventually found out that we had to go through the university but when we saw the security guards there we thought they wouldn’t let us.

In the evening we went for dinner at the Lemon Tree restaurant next door to Your House. After dinner we went to see Muay Thai at the boxing stadium. It was a little disappointing – most of the fighters were kids. There was one part where three fighters fought blindfold. Joey hated this as just a stunt for the tourists. I had to agree with her. The main fight was a female fight. One of the fighters was called Su Lin and she was from Singapore so Joey was cheering for her.

172.2. Muay Thai at the Tha Pae boxing stadium.

Day 173: Chiang Mai

This morning Joey and I went back to Nocky House to hire the bikes again and we cycled out to near the University from where we could get the sawngthaew to Doi Sothep. This time we wore facemasks as Joey was having a hard time with the traffic fumes. When we arrived we climbed all 306 steps without stopping. In one room there was a monk giving blessings to the people. I took a photo of him but Joey said my camera was quite loud, so now I turned the sound off. Outside we saw an elderly monk smoking a cigarette. Joey tried to subtly take a photograph of him but didn’t manage it so I took the picture by pretending to take a photo of Joey. When we came back down the hill we had lunch and decided against going to the lake which was about 10 km out of town. Instead we went back into town and went to the train station to buy tickets for the night train to Bangkok. On the way back we again tried to find ‘The Peak’. This time we were successful but we discovered that it had burnt down about 6 months ago. Instead we went for a beer at a bar next door.

173.1. Prepared for the traffic in Chiang Mai.

173.2. The monks blessing and the smoking monk at Wat Doi Sothep.

In the evening we went for dinner at a restaurant by the riverside. Joey had fried rice and I had a fish soup. It was a bit like Tom Yam and it was very spicy. At one point I swallowed a chilli and I was in agony for about 5 minutes. After dinner we sat out on the riverbank with our drinks. It was very romantic.

173.3. At the riverside restaurant in the evening.

Day 174: Chiang Mai

Today Joey and I went to the Elephant Sanctuary that Ed and Jaime went to for voluntary work a few months earlier. We went to the Arcade bus station and took a bus headed for Lampang. It took about 2 hours to get there and when we arrived we were quite hungry so we had some lunch. By that time we were quite late and we only saw the end part of the elephant show. We did get to see some elephants painting and playing some musical instruments and we got to feed them with sugar canes. We then watched as the mahout trainees practiced mounting and dismounting.

174.1. Elephant artworks.

We then went on a short ride on a 40 year old elephant called Kambouie who had the most magnificent set of tusks I’ve ever seen on an elephant. After the ride we went to visit the Elephant Hospital that is just outside the sanctuary but unrelated. We saw an elephant called Motala who had had to have her front leg amputated after stepping on a land mine several years previously. The operation required a record number of 30 vets working on her. We then went back to Chiang Mai and we got a luxury VIP bus, which was more expensive than the local bus but much quicker.

174.2. The ride with Kambouie.

In the evening we went to a bar for a couple of beers and then went for ‘Pork Chops in India’ at the Red Lion English pub. Joey had Fish and Chips and I had Bangers and Mash. Joey didn’t believe that there was an English word called ‘Bangers’. We decided to have a late one tonight as we didn’t have much planned for tomorrow so we went to the courtyard behind Your House to see the bands that play there every night. I played some pool with some of the guys there and Joey danced with a Thai girl and her friends and by the end of the evening we were a bit drunk.

174.3. The tuk-tuk ride back into town and enjoying the Thai culture at the Red Lion pub.

Day 175: Chiang Mai to Night Train

We were up quite late today and went for breakfast/lunch at around midday. After lunch we went back to the travel agent so that I could pick up my passport with my Vietnamese visa. We went to the post office so that Joey could send some postcards and then went to Nocky House to use the internet. It was soon time to leave so we got a tuk-tuk to the train station and had some food at the café outside.

175.1. Drinks at the café by Chiang Mai station.

In the evening we had a couple of beers and played cards. Along the way, the train came to a sudden stop and then headed off in the opposite direction where it stopped at a station for a bit and then continued in the original direction. After a short while the same thing happened and the process was repeated. We weren’t really sure what was going on but in the end it meant that we would be two hours late coming into Bangkok.

Day 176: Night Train to Bangkok to Hanoi

We arrived in Bangkok at about 9:00 and got a tuk-tuk to the hotel which Joey would be staying in for the next few days. Soon after we arrived at the hotel LL, JK and another girl called Lin arrived and we went for some food. Afterwards we went to the Grand Palace and I brought all my stuff with me as I was going to the airport later. We tried to get a tuk-tuk to the Grand Palace but he stopped and insisted on taking us to a jewellery store first. I got annoyed and got out of the tuk-tuk and we got a taxi instead. I changed into temple attire (shoes, socks and long trousers) and left my bag with the reception. We went to visit the Wat Phra Keo and took lots of goofy photos and then went to the Grand Palace buildings.

176.1. The girls holding up a stupa, and interrupting Joey’s photography.

Afterwards it was nearly time to go to get the airport bus from Khao San Road so Joey and I said our goodbyes. I was sad about this parting and I will miss her terribly. The walk to Khao San was hot and sweaty but thankfully there was a bus there waiting when I arrived. I got to the airport swiftly and had a couple of hours to kill before my flight to Hanoi.