I caught the overnight train from Bangkok to Chang Mai, taking a 2nd class top bunk. Not a problem says the Lonely Planet…… wrong. The major flaw with the top bunk is that the curtain rail is about 2 inches below the ceiling and right next to this gap, beside every bed is a very bright lamp. It was so bright on my bunk I felt I was under a sunbed. I took my first sleeping pill of the trip and wrapped my eyes in a T-shirt but to no avail. I saw every hour of the night and arrived shredded next morning.
I had booked into the Eagle House 2, hoping to catch Tara who I had met on the bus from Byron Bay to Sydney. As I checked in I was told she had checked out; things weren’t getting any better. Much of the day was spent snoozing, before getting up, exploring the night market and watching the FA cup in a series of bars. Chang Mai nightlife is much, much quieter than Bangkok, probably a good thing for my state of health.
Woke up next day to find Tara in the courtyard. She had been off on a multi day trek into the hills to see the hill tribes. We spent the day exploring temples (Wats) including Wat Phra Singh and Sunday markets, both coming to the conclusion that most Thai cities consisted mostly of Wats and markets. They are everywhere; I had sort of noticed this in Bangkok but their dominance of a 2nd city brought it home.
Tara’s camera had broken and we eventually found a place with a replacement. Unfortunately the shops creditcard machine couldn’t connect to the bank so she couldn’t buy it after all.
I had a quiet night as I had to be up before 9am to do my one day Thai cookery class. The 6 of us doing the class had to agree the dishes to be cooked . Dishes were in catagories (soups, curries, stir fries, etc) and we had to agree 5 catagories to cook, then 2 or 3 dishes from each of those. The trainer worked out the shopping list and we went with him to the local food market. There was a superb range of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices that puts British markets and supermarkets to shame. Once we had what we needed we set about chopping the days ingredients as instructed before preparing and eating our dishes through the day. It took all day but was a superb (& tasty) introduction to cooking Thai cuisine. Expect spicy food to emerge from my kitchen on my return. (Note on Thai spicy soups, they are served with herbs & spices still in them that should be removed before eating. It shows to the customer the quality & quantity of ingredients that went into it.)
The next day was spent travelling on the bus to Chang Rai, Thailand’s most northern city. The original plan was to head to a town called Pai which had been recommended by a couple of fellow travellers. Discussion the night before had revealed it was now very much a traveller hang out and I wanted to get off the beaten track more. The final decision wasn’t made until I encountered poor service at the window for the Pai bus. The plan is now to head to Mae Sai for a day trip into Burma (Myanmar), stopping in Chang Rai for a night to see it and change buses. To be honest if I was doing it again I would go though Chang Rai without stopping as it has little to offer after Chang Mai. Still I had a great Thai meal at a place called Cabbages & Condoms, a charity run restaurant whose profits go to promoting safe sex.
After my trip into Burma the plan is to head east to Chiang Khong and cross into Laos ASAP. I’m looking forward to returning to Thailand for some lazy days on its beaches, but before then I need to undertake some more challenging travel than I have done up until now.