Day Twenty One

Boring day today, really. Up to have the complimentary breakfast, which ended up being a complete joke of either dry toast or toast with some crappy old pineapple marmalade dregs on, or a slice of pineapple or watermelon. No thanks. Got ready and headed to the bus station to get back to Chiang Mai. We were gonna go to Koh Tao but thought it would be an idea to break up the travel by stopping for the night in Chiang Mai. The buses were full, so we had to wait around for a few hours before getting on. After spending a good few days in Pai, we felt it was more than enough. We’d wanted to chill for a few days but couldn’t really, ‘cos Tony’s was a bit of a let-down, so we hadn’t done that much apart from yesterday—which would have been fine except that it wasn’t as enjoyable as we thought. I reckon you’d need to go a couple of miles outta town for the peace, and travel in when you wanted some small-town vibes. If you just wanna see the place I’d stay for three days, but if you could get a scenic reading nook of a hotel in the hills you could stay until you got bored.

Anyway, we got to Chiang Mai and had a bit of a keruel. Went in McDonald’s to get some Wi-Fi and get our bearings as we didn’t know which bus station we were at, and through a series of events ended up having to pay ฿170 for two lots of fries, walked down a super highway, and got slightly ripped off by a racist taxi driver ( ฿40 when it says ฿30 clearly on the side) but we were too tired to argue at this point—well, with the driver, ‘cos we argued with each other later on. We found Lauren’s guesthouse of choice. It seemed a good option to be fair at ฿200 a night. Jay’s Guesthouse it was called. Found it without too
much trouble, dumped our stuff, had a moan at each other and then went out for a walk to the flip-flop shop Lauren had wanted to go to for ages. There was a pair of clueless Americans trying to barter or a price marked item. This is a no-no, in case you don’t know. You only barter for stuff without a price on it. They wanted ฿20 off and were being really rude all like “I know that they’re ฿70 and it’s the ones out there that are ฿50, but I like this pair and want them for ฿50”. Tough! You can’t have them, you spoilt twerp! I went over and offered to give him the ฿20 to prove a point and shut him up. It worked and they left. The woman gave Lauren ฿10 off her pair. We went the night market as it was close, but remembered how busy and stressful it was and left after about five minutes. That’s the thing about a lot of places here: they seem great on paper, but really there’s tons of people and it ends up being hassle.

Went back to the hotel and started to hunker down when Lauren screamed and made me jump. Good job, as there was a huge bed bug hurtling toward my face. We turned the pillow over and they were everywhere. THE HORROR!! After thirty seconds of hurried discussion we packed our stuff and just ran out. Didn’t want them buggers getting in our stuff and haunting us around our travels and maybe even bringing them home. Ew.

It was about 11pm and we didn’t have high hopes of finding anywhere to stay in our budget, so we were half ready to sit around on the kerb until sun-up. Thankfully, after traipsing around for a while, we found a place for ฿450—฿50 over budget but inside it was really nice. Na Inn, it’s called. I recommend it. In a good location, massive bed, AC, simple breakfast, clean, spacious, fridge, tv, balcony, the lot. Good stuff. It meant we had spent ฿225 each over budget for the day but it’s not like that was our fault, and at least we had somewhere nice to stay. We decided that it was so nice we’d linger in the Chiang
for another day and have a pamper day tomorrow in our lovely room. CRANK THAT AC TO 15 DEGREES BABY!

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Day Eleven

Got Lauren up at 06:30 to go get loads of muffins before the Americans came and ate ‘em all again. She wasn’t happy. Weather has been shocking today, so everything was muddy and there are big puddles and rivers all over the ground that make getting about hard. I feel bad on the dogs ‘cos a few of ‘em are scared of thunder. I also feel bad on myself because I haven’t been properly dry for ages; sweat, rain, half dried laundry, etc.

They weren’t cracking the whip as hard today, although we did get a funny comment at 12:45: “You do know we start at 12:30, right?” with a snotty tone. Lauren was nice and said that we thought we start at 1.00pm, but I’d have just ignored her or went for a half hour nap. The same woman also annoyed me again; she insisted I had to go into the disabled dogs tiled run to retrieve a pair of rubber booties that were being worn by the dog that had just bailed out of its wheelchair and was dragging itself across the floor at breakneck speeds through piles of turds. What she said was “You need to get the rubber booties! And make sure you take off your shoes!” I did ‘cos I was in a hurry to get the dog shoes back but a second later I thought, “Hang on a minute…I’m taking off my shoes so as not to get MUD into an enclosure smeared with CRAP?!” Are these people retards?! Well, this woman has a stray dog sleep in her bed, probably has rabies and uses her finger as a pipe cleaner when washing dogs rings. mentalist. I walked back to my room without my shoes on (so as to not get poo in ‘em) and had to scrub my socks and hands. Couldn’t walk my fave dog in the morning as there was a little wuss of a husky in the run that led to Woo Tong’s and apparently you couldn’t get it on a lead (I did, fairly easily, later on in the day when no one was looking). We started the normal afternoon routine and it started chucking it down. They made us wait about for another 45 minutes instead of just letting us go, for some reason.

Saw a praying mantis today. It jumped onto Sam’s arm. Also saw a lot of nice butterflies earlier and a dead beetle that was about five inches long.

Day Ten

Woke up today with someone rummaging around. Breakfast had already started and hey-ho, all the muffins were gone when I got there. Greedy elephant volunteers probably made off with ‘em all.

More of the same today really. Got in a bit of a groove though, so we know when to “go get some water” or “go to the toilet”. After getting crap on my clothes yesterday, I avoided walking the disabled dogs, cleaning them (they always have poo everywhere from dragging their legs around the floor of the run) and when the worst dogs need walking I look busy, walking about with a lead around my neck or scuttle off until someone else pops their cage open. I know I’m here to help but at the same time I didn’t think it was so much work and I feel that we shouldn’t feel like we have to do stuff. Like today I was walking a big dog called Bobo who pulls badly and always tries (sometimes successfully) to eat the chickens near his run, and he was so enraged he bit me twice. They can take a run and a jump tomorrow if they think I’m taking him. Dunno why they don’t just pop a muzzle on him. Probably think it’s cruel or something. I got to walk Woo Tong twice today which was nice, as he’s my favourite and we get on well even though he’s aggressive with other dogs and tries to bite the lead off to get to them, but I just bend down and stroke his face and he calms down.

Finished late as we had to do an extra-long walk after we were done with the normal stuff to help someone out. The dog lied down outside his fence when it was over, so I rinsed him with my water to get him up—it worked.

After dinner (which, as it’s all so similar, were getting bored of) we just came back to the room for fifteen minutes of privacy. We noticed that the doors have massive gaps underneath, so big that a lizard got through, and we realised that cockroaches could fly as there was one trying to get into Lauren’s net, hence why I’m writing this in my sub-par net. Lauren is sad ‘cos she keeps getting bitten lots at night, and we think that ‘cos there were dog hairs in the bed there may be fleas in there too. Not good times.

 

Day Seven

We had decided last night that getting up early was a write-off so didn’t get up until around 11-12. Had quite a lot we wanted to get done; mainly printing out a form for the elephant nature park (where we’re helping the dogs tomorrow) getting out money from the ATM for ourselves and to pay the dog people with, seeing a few wats and also the night market.

The first thing I did was go to the toilet and remembered that I hadn’t mentioned that we have to put our loo roll in the bin after we’ve used it cos the drains aren’t strong enough to carry it off. I obeyed the signs but I’ll tell you this: if it can deal with what I’ve been throwing at it, it can carry off a bit of toilet roll too.

We trudged around for quite a bit in the heat looking for an ATM. Walking any distance is harder here as you get pestered a lot more by people trying to flog you stuff. It’s like bumping into an old schoolmate every twenty yards, so we’ve just started ignoring all but the most friendly/persistent hawkers. After trying a few machines, we realised that we can get out ฿10,000 but not ฿20,000. I was worried at first cos I thought my card might’ve been blocked but then we tried a lower amount and it was okay. I suppose there’s a withdrawal limit on my card, which is annoying cos it costs ฿220 every time you use the machines no matter how much you get out. Sneaky Thais.

There was a printing shop outside our hotel but it’s gone. Well Lauren says it was there, but I don’t trust her after the wall incident, so we’re just gonna pretend we didn’t know we needed it. We headed to wat Phra Singh (pronounced “fra sing” I think) to check that out, as people online and the guide book keep banging on about it. The grounds are free to explore but it’s ฿20 to go inside. I’d say save your ฿20 and explore the outside if you’re passing but don’t go too far out your way. It was so impersonal as it’s the busiest wat in town. There’s a roundabout as you go in with taxis and tuk tuks all hanging about, you can hardly find a place on the steps up to the temple to put your shoes as there so many there, and inside there are lots of people taking pictures of the shrine and of the monks who were busy doing their thing.Image result for wat Phra Singh

After buying your “foreigner ticket” to get in there were loads of other things they were trying to sell: flowers to leave, Buddha statues, etc. proper tourist-trap style, and nothing spectacular either. The only difference to the wat we saw the other day was it had a bigger Buddha at the front and had real life old men monks sat meditating, not even blinking (there were tourists taking their picture too which is quite rude I believe). They were skinny, like you could see their bones through their arms. Lauren said it was ‘cos they thought it made them closer to heaven and I agreed as they looked half dead anyway.

Outside was okay around the back. Loads of cars parked at the sides, and stalls selling tat everywhere, but there were some nice paths lined with bamboo and some golden monuments—some quite big—some bells, a gong, some monks having chats with westerners, a tiny hall with a reclining Buddha, some golden monks and some lanterns. We had a nice sit down in the shade as Lauren was really struggling with the heat even though we had a big gulp of coke. We popped in another wat on route but Lauren was bored of them by now. She said once you’ve seen one you’ve seen ‘em all. I don’t think that’s true; I think once you’ve seen one you’ve seen half. This one was like a wat from Lidl with mounds of rubble everywhere and we didn’t stay long.

On the way back I gave in and tried a fresh coconut. Always wanted to and I was gonna wait till we were at a beach so I didn’t look silly but I just went for it. It was great. The fella took my ฿35, got me a massive coconut still in its big green husk and macheted the top of and popped in a lovely pink straw. I thought there would only be a bit of water in it but there was at least a pint in there. Very refreshing and tasty. 10/10.

We came back to the hotel and sorted out banking and emails before heading out again to Mickeys where we went all out and had a slap-up meal. Lauren had sweet and sour tofu with rice in a teddy bear shape and three big spring rolls, a beer lao and a water. I had a fried rice dish with fries and the same drinks. There was a weird white sauce that I covered my chips in. I thought was mayo but it tasted like a polo mint. The beer was expensive (฿75) ‘cos it’s imported, but it’s one of my faves so I treated myself. Horror: it was a dark version. Higher abv and tasted bitter and sharp instead of crisp and floaty. Not happy. Meal stuffed us but came to ฿350.

We headed to the night market after that. It happens twice a week on a Sat and Sun. We’ve read that the food one is on Sunday and clothes, souvenirs etc on Saturday. It’s a fib; it was all mixed up. Never take for granted anything people write (especially this!) It was packed to the rafters. Streets and streets lined with stalls and all the tourists shuffling in between. 80% of the tourists were Chinese. Stalls sold all sorts: arts, trinkets, funky lamps, mini sewing machines, food, drinks, fresh produce, cool candles, etc. There are a few stalls that have handmade gear as you can see them making it but most of it, although interesting, is just bulk bought Id’ imagine as after maybe twenty yards or so you start seeing the same stuff you saw back down the road. If you go down the side streets it was a bit cheaper too. It was a good atmos mostly even though it was annoying getting around it. One part of it sprawled out into a temple area which was pretty and down one dead end street was a live Lanna folk band playing for donations near a load of benches, so we had a rest and a listen.

I was in the market (literally) for a long top and pants as were burning through the insect repellent but couldn’t find a top cheaper than ฿250. I’d rather get dengue fever. It’s not exactly cheap but that might be ‘cos its so touristed. It was dark and all the stalls just had little lights on so it was quite cute at first but when we got a bit used to the environment we realised how hot and sweaty it was so we left, but it was definitely worth going even if you’re skint cos there’s all sorts to looks at. The only thing I got was a lychee slushie for ฿20. It was mostly ice with about 3-4 lychees in, but it was still nice and good to try it. Lauren got herself a pretty flowy dress while I made up lies to escape the man who was begging me to buy his trousers (the ones on his stall, not on his legs).

We got back home after only nearly being mowed down once. We did wish we knew that there was food there cos we would have liked to branch out and try all the street food there, but we were so full. The room was so hot when we got back but the hallway is cool. I neither understand nor like this fact.

Day Four

We moved rooms today. They didn’t have a ฿200 room but they did have a ฿260 room that’s the same but also has it’s own bathroom. It’s not nearly as nice as the room we were in, which was nice to spend time in but it’s cheaper and all those baht add up and we need them at this point, especially that Lauren is wanting to do a trek to the highest peak of Thailand and to see the hill tribes. It does look good to be fair—it’s just that it costs ฿1300. the room is similar in decor to the last one but not as well maintained. The bolt on the door has nothing to bolt to, the window overlooks a narrow alleyway and makeshift wall strewn with plastic bottles, the bed has a dent in it, it’s smaller all around, there’s a picture of a child worker in a sweat shop on the wall and the toilet has vents above it that lead to the head of the bed. Nice.

Weather wasn’t too hot in the morning and we were able to walk down to Mickey’s Cafe where we got a tasty pad thai again, waters and a few sewer-esque smells wafting at us in the breeze. This weird middle-aged guy pulled up in a taxi and got helped out onto a zimmer frame. Usually I’d feel a bit bad on him except he was giving us evils and sat at the table next to ours and demanded that the fan be re-jigged to face him better. He was German and was trying to communicate with the waitress in German. He’s not English, so doesn’t have the privilege of expecting people to speak his native language.

After a lot of back and forthing and faffing with sun cream and jungle formula we headed to the museum. We got lost and ended up going down a lot of back roads looking for either the 7-11 or the museum. There were a lot of nice leafy roads but some scummy looking ones too. I didn’t feel unsafe at any point, which is good I suppose. There were plenty of swell heads knocking about to make fun of which kept us busy until we decided to go home and take a break anyway as it was really hot. Lauren looked after my mosquito bites, which were itching like hell and bright red, then we headed out to walk around the wall—well what’s left of it. It’s basically just the four main roads that make up the perimeter of the old town and follow a dirty moat type thing with small sections of what’s basically rubble on the corners. There were nice trees though. We got harassed by taxi drivers every ten seconds, so much so that we were having a sit down and moved cos it was that annoying them rolling past beeping and glaring hopingly out the windows at you.

On one side of the road on the inner side is a series of modern shops (Tescos, banks, bike rentals, etc) on the outskirts of town, and on the other the green waters in the moat ditch type thing. It wasn’t ugly to look at apart from a few areas with loads of litter but not pretty really either. There were some cool looking fish in there all gathered near the edge gasping at the surface. Beyond the moat were more roads hugging the square and more shops. Doesn’t feel very old-towny at all. there was a section of wall that was built up again that had a good picture up through the gate looking into the streets of the old town. Men with bags of seeds and cameras made pigeons flock over tourists as they snapped their pictures. There was some crazy American with a teeshirt made of dandruff who accosted us talking nonsense about a gathering in the square on the 28th about crowning people kings and queens of their home towns if they agreed with a number of vague, non-goals about freedom and stuff.

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At this point Lauren needed a wee and we decided that the walk was getting pretty samey anyway so we headed back. We’d toured through a little market obviously aimed at tourists but had some pretty cool looking purses and vests. There was a cockerel tied up by its leg by a little piece of string to a fence though. It crowed, and I imagined it was probably asking to be let loose. That old guy at the cafe was still there. He was sat with a beer and a pack of fags. He’d moved into our seat and had had the fan moved again. He was grouchily making the woman turn more lights on using hand gestures. I said to Lauren that it was so he could see properly as he cried into his pint.

After our wees we decided that we probably aren’t going to Laos and that we should go and spend the evening reading (and falling asleep) on the lounger pillows in the garden area. Oh, and when the wind blew the rooms smelled like a toilet. At least we didn’t bump into the latcher from the MBK.

Day Two

What a day….started off packing our bags hurriedly after having a disturbed sleep due to the ants and my partial delirium, so didn’t get up early enough. Popped our bags on and scurried off into the burning sun.

We were 50/50 whether to get the sleeper train to Chiang Mai today or find a cheaper place to stay so that we didn’t have to spend more than the day’s budget on the train, so we agreed that if we hadn’t found anywhere after half an hour we’d sack it off and get the train anyway. After 40-odd minutes of struggling with the heat, bags and the homicidal drivers, and after nearly passing out, we had only found a ฿550 room so we decided to grab our malaria tabs from Boots and get gone. the station was close and cool underground, and we got to the shopping centre I remembered without much of a fuss.

A man did a really loud fart in the shopping place, and no one batted an eye—he even cocked his leg, the dirty beggar.

Oh yeah: everywhere you go—trains stations, shopping places, etc—there are security barriers, metal detectors, etc. Even when the machine goes off they just lazily shine a torch in your face. Pointless. So online it reckons you can get malaria tabs (doxycycline) from Boots on the cheap—you cant. They’re the same price as at home. So after budgeting 20-30 quid for 240 tabs we had to pay 80 quid for 190. I was gutted ‘cos that’s a good few days fun been taken out the budget. (Homemade butties for a while I think…) I put that on my credit card and had to find an ATM. After ages of finding machines that I thought had a set exchange-rate, I realised that it was asking if I wanted to withdraw in my home currency where they basically set the rate. Hell no, I dont. Don’t let that catch you out. Nightmare.

Some guy collared us as he recognised us from the hotel and said we were going the same place and we should meet up. I tried giving him a false FB account but it didn’t work, so I had to give him my real one. We exchanged pleasantries and parted ways. I’ll spend the next few days on guard in case he tries to socialise with us.

Popped into the MBK centre on the way back to Hualamphong station for food. Went the food court on the bottom floor, only ฿40 for a rich, steamed spicy veg and a bit of an omelette. I’d have enjoyed it more if Lauren hadn’t told me about the cockroach she saw running across the counter…Image result for mbk centre

Back into sweaty heat, we winged our way back to the station where we were told off by a Thai train station dude dressed in military gear (they love dressing like this) for sitting on the floor. Tourists were everywhere. (Last time I came I didn’t see one.) All the men were Joey Essex lookalikes except dressed in Primark vest tops and snapbacks, and the women really should have been wearing more clothes.

I needed a poo. ฿3 later I was in there. All the toilets were manky, with wee everywhere and no bog roll. Lauren had given me some tissue, but it wasnt enough to clean a single toilet even, so I opted for a squat. Worried I might slash on my shorts, I took them off one foot at a time to avoid stepping in the mess and hung ’em on the door. How wrong I was worrying about my urine splashing on me. Filthy Thai men’s pee came splashing under the walls at me from all angles. I dunno what they were playing at but they need to sort themselves out. Grown men sitting there making guttural sounds and spurting whizz everywhere, then cleaning their turds off with a glorified garden hose??

The train had sold out of cheap tickets so we had to get the AC770. Didn’t see one Thai person on the train. Preppy douchebags everywhere. We were on the top bunks opposite each other and contrary to common courtesy the girls on the bottom didn’t let us sit down on the chairs, so we spent the whole night sat on the top bunks with no window. The bunks are a bit hard and narrow and we popped our bags at the bottom so no one nicked anything. A little man came and hinted that it was bedtime at around 9.00pm, then chucked us off and started making the bed.

The train was an hour late setting off and was driven by a seemingly alcoholic driver. It was cold, too. The icing on the cake was when a preppy loser pulled out a ukulele and started having a little jamming sesh. I wished I was a Mr. Potato Head so I could take my ears out and toss them out of the window that we didn’t have.