Chiang Mai and Bangkok
9.22.14 - 9.27.14 88 °F
I’m sitting on the floor in the Singapore international airport, waiting for the last flight of the day: TZ 2 to Sydney, scheduled to depart at 2:45 am. I’m going to try to finish this entry before I get on the plane.
The overnight bus ride back to Yangon from Bagan passed uneventfully. I headed to the airport that afternoon and soon I was on my way back to Bangkok. The next morning, I bought my train ticket for Chiang Mai for later that evening. It was roughly a 14 hour journey and the ticket was only $25. I purchased a berth in 2nd class and while it wasn’t luxurious, it got the job done.
I arrived in Chiang Mai just before noon the next day. The Hug Hostel, the place I stayed the next two nights was a pleasant surprise. It was very clean, the bedrooms were air conditioned, wifi was decent and perhaps most importantly, there was someone there to book tours and excursions. I had a general idea what I wanted to do while I was there, but Benny helped me plan it concretely and he actually booked everything for me. For the rest of that day, I walked around the town/city of Chiang Mai. I visited several temples and monuments while I wandered. I also found a bagel shop where I had lunch, just for the novelty of having bagels in Thailand (kind of like the French baguette I had in Myanmar).
The next day was the first of the two activities Benny helped me find – an all-day Thai cooking class. While not part of my original plan, it sounded interesting so I went for it. It was only me and two girls in the class, one from Switzerland and one from Germany. After we all loaded up onto benches in the back of a pickup truck (seems to be the preferred public transit choice in Myanmar), we drove to a local market to wander around and take pictures, while our instructors bought some of the ingredients for the day. It was an open air market, with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and another section for meats and fish. I left that section after spotting a pigs head. There was also a rice section where we learned that there are over 20,000 varieties of rice in the world, which is pretty amazing and hard to imagine. We hopped back into the truck for a 45 minute drive to a farm outside the city.
It was a very peaceful place, no traffic noise and surrounded by deep green rice fields. The stoves were under a roof but there were no walls, which allowed a panoramic view of the surrounding fields. The husband and wife that were taught us were very friendly and the made the whole experience enjoyable.
Earlier at the market, we were given sheets of paper with different meals that we could cook. I chose green curry chicken, Thai vegetable soup, chicken and cashews, spring rolls and mango sticky rice. They all came out really well, which I think was more due to the quality of the instruction than my sudden cooking skill.
We returned to our hostels in Chiang Mai later that evening. Felt a little like I do post-Thanksgiving after all that good food so I turned it early that night.
My last day in Chiang Mai was devoted to another all-day excursion. This was going to be more active than the cooking, with some mountain biking, elephant riding, and white water rafting. We drove about an hour and a half outside of the city into the mountains to mountain bike first. I have to admit, the biking was a little disappointing. We just rode for about 20-30 minutes on the road to the elephant camp so it wasn’t really mountain biking at all.
Riding an elephant is difficult to describe. The guy who was with me described it as similar to riding in a boat. I think that might be the most accurate description. It was as if the boat was in really rough seas but travelling really slowly. I’m still deciding what I thought about the whole thing. The elephants seemed to be treated well enough, especially after some of the things I read online. I still didn’t feel good seeing the ones that weren’t giving rides chained to trees. We did some more “mountain biking” back to where we started to have lunch and then raft.
We drove a few miles up-river for the rafting. The ride in the back of the bouncing pickup truck felt like even more of a rough boat ride. The road wasn’t in the greatest condition. I ended up in a boat with a guy from New Caldonia and a couple from California (the wife was from Chiang Mai) and a guide. This was the best part of the day. The weather was almost perfect; the sun was out, but it wasn’t too humid. The water was a comfortable temperature and the rapids were actually a decent size (at least for us novice rafters). We covered the roughly 10 km back to our original camp in just over two hours.
That tour ended too late for me to take the overnight train back to Bangkok as I had originally planned, but it wasn’t a problem, because Benny had found a flight later that night for about $40. I made it to Jamie’s apartment just after 1 am where I spent the night. The next morning, we had a college breakfast – yogurt and muesli in the only plates Jamie has: two Frisbees. Jamie left for work and I went to get my first ever massage, a Thai massage at a place down the street from Jamie’s apartment that he recommended. It was a little more painful than I was expecting, but I guess that’s what Thai massages are supposed to be. Either way, it was well worth the $6 or so I spent on an hour long massage.
I still had a few hours before I had to be at the airport so I went to go see A Walk Among the Tombstones, a movie with Liam Neeson. It was pretty good, but after sitting through a full 30 minutes of mostly commercials with a few trailers thrown in, I decided the amount of time before movies in American theaters isn’t that bad. Interestingly, they play the king’s anthem right before that movie starts which was a little strange because everyone had to stand up for a couple minutes while the video played. I guess it would kind of be like playing the pledge of allegiance before a movie in the US. I boarded a plane later that evening to Singapore.
I’m now on a flight from Singapore to Sydney. I’m stuck behind a guy who has his seat fully reclined even though more than half the time, he’s leaning forward with his head on the tray table. It’s times like these that one of those seat recline blockers seems like a good investment. Anyways, I’m going to meet my cousin Kiera and Allen, my friend from school. We’re planning on staying in Australia for about 2 weeks and then heading to New Zealand for another few weeks.