Chiang Mai – it’s all going to be happening here!

image

image

Me hanging out in Wat Phra Singh

So I left you in Bangkok where it was hot, busy and still with more adventures to be had. However it was time for me to head north to Chiang Mai where I wanted to spend the bulk of my holiday. Why you ask? Mostly because I wanted to hang out with elephants, practice some meditation and learn to do some Thai cooking. But before I could do any of this, in Mangal tradition I took the train. It was a 12 hour journey made more pleasant by Dutch travel companions and the Thai novel ‘Four Reigns’ which gave an interesting insight into Thai culture. Regular tea and snacks also helped.

My first impressions of the old city as we drove through at night to my hostel were that it is small, geared up for tourism and much more relaxed than Bangkok. After spending a few days here-all of this is true.

I spent my first day wandering around the various Wats, getting slightly lost and propitiously (sp?) ordering tea. The heavens opened not once, not twice but several times that day but I had read about an open mic night at a jazz bar so decided to keep going despite my soggy feet. I found the delightful cafe ‘Into the woods’ and happily ate cake whilst reading Amy Tan’s autobiography.

image

The open mic night was great. I got talking to some Texans and hung out with them; got a bit lairy with some 20 year olds and got a tuk tuk back to the hostel after a great night out. I am not a fan of jazz but live I found it more interesting. The quality was good and I will check more out in LDN.

Today I went to meet a friend in Chinatown and spent all my money on clothes. Not a bad thing you might say. However this clothing was two sets of white long sleeved tshirts and trousers. The uniform required for a beginner in Buddhism and meditation. I am all booked in for 4 days next week. It’s exciting but also scary. Scary because you only get two meals a day- one at 7am and the last at 11am. This is going to be a challenge to say the least. I guess I am going to learn some proper discipline.

Having got that sorted, I also decided to book a day with the elephants- happening tomorrow and also booked a cooking class for Friday. Saturday is my shopping, massage and rave it up day and Sunday is a chilled one as I am hoping to be hungover! Maybe I am planning too much given I was meant to be going with the flow but sometimes a little planning helps facilitate a good time…

Hopefully I have an amazing time!!

Bangkok days 3&4

Day 3 was as hot as ever and yet I slowly have become accustomed to it. My evidence for this? I had to turn the a/c up to a balmy 28 degrees after waking up too cold in the middle of the night!

So we headed out into the sun and after some rigmarole I ended up claiming my independence in a tuk-tuk destined for the Golden Mount. I had realised that I would rather be on my own and do the things I wanted, than have company and do what someone else wanted. As the driver moved off I felt liberated. The Golden Mount was a lovely walk up to a temple with a golden spire and 360 views of the city.

Feeling further emboldened by my independence- i got a tuk-tuk to the metro and jumped on it to Lumphini Park. I decided to indulge in some fried chicken and sat near the entrance eating it as elegantly as one can eat fried chicken with their hands.
I had a great few hours in the park just chilling and observing others.
Highlights-

There was a stage and a lady in her 50s directing the audience in a aerobic workout.  All of the Thai and expat joggers; the people using the outdoor gym (esp the buff men section); the stillness as everyone observed the national anthem except one American man with his headphones in .

And the best was yet to come. I bumped into a guy from my hostel and we decided to go to Chinatown for dinner at the market. It was crazy – think of everyone eating from impromptu street restaurants at carnival. Mayhem, excellent food but a lot of fun. Turns out bamboo spring rolls are lovely but filo pastry with bananas in an egg concoction in the middle which is then fried and drizzled with carnation syrup which caramelises- is orgasmic! I also found a tesco; tried a snow pear and cut my foot. All good fun!

image

The Buddha’s representing each day of the week at the Golden Mount.

Bangkok day 2

image

View of Wat Arun across the river at the  end  of day 2

image

View of Wat Tramit mid day 3

Well I have seen a lot more of Bangkok than when I last blogged. On the morning of my second day, still feeling not quite adjusted to the time, I was procrastinating in the hostel common room. However a Polish whirlwind needed to be checked in and said I should join him meeting some friends. As I am embracing the new I said ‘yes’.

Turns out he was meeting a couchsurfing group for a free tour of Chinatown. I got to meet lots of new people from around the world; try some more excellent Thai food (chicken with Chinese broccoli) and saw the amazing Wat Tramit pictured above. After the group departed my new friend and I headed to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Unfortunately time was against us- i could easily spend hours in each. So I decided we should head to the Deck bar which turned out to have amazing views of Wat Arun lit up at night. It was a lovely evening to have a mocktail on the river.

My night however, did not end there. I had read there was a night flower market so this was our next destination. The co-mingled scent of chrysanthemum and jasmine filled the air as stall after stall had intricately weaved flower offerings, house decorations and garlands for sale. Suddenly, in the midst of all this delight I started to sweat profusely and my stomach churned ominously. We have all had this moment travelling,  and of course this was the first time I had to use an eastern toilet. You can imagine the rest, it was a comedic moment! Wasn’t I lucky that the temple had loos that were open that late lol. After I had composed myself, I managed to do some light shopping and take another 100 photos of a garden lit up with fairy lights. Thus ends day 2.

Bangkok day 1

Well I am here and surviving ok so far!!
Heathrow was a nightmare but flying with Thai airways was a great choice. Note to self- buy sleeping tablets for next journey. I probably have been up for over 24 hours now- arrived UK time 1.30am which is 6.30am here. Ach!!

So some of you may know I was/am nervous about this trip. It is massively pushing my comfort zone but since I arrived I have managed to get a cab to my hostel, checked in several hours early; gone for a walk- not got lost! and bought dinner (noodle soup with tofu and chicken balls), tried street food (grilled meat with a slightly sweet sauce on a stick AND amazing buns dusted with icing sugar but the last few mm steeped in butter- i will be eating those for breakfast and in general believe me lol); wandered around a small market I came across; and found a seven11 to buy water and snacks.
All of the above sounds so normal but when you can’t speak the language nor read it, simple things become a challenge.

I can’t believe I am here doing this if I am honest. I planned it so long ago and while my motivation for this trip is clear- to gain greater independence and see a whole new culture, I am surprised I have achieved the above! Each day will bring a new learning experience. I am really pleased that day 1 has gone well and hopefully each day that follows will see me grow in confidence.

Bangkok reminds me of Nairobi. The backstreets that could go anywhere; scary 4 lane roads that you have to be careful to cross; the uneven pavements and streets full of shops that sell everything and anything. Even the buses are the same! However, so many people here ride motorbikes and you do need to be careful even in residential roads. The street food and food so far is going to test my trousers as I will be trying alot more! Oh and did I mention it’s hot. Super hot. I am very glad to have a/c in my room (for £9) And no rain yet!

So tomorrow I plan to see some of the sights. This will mean either getting on a bus or walking and not getting lost! Wish me luck!