Day Twenty-Four

Ended up getting about three hours sleep last night, which was more than I expected but I was exhausted so was able to nod off for small whiles at a time. Was wide awake from 4am though, and instead of taking 14 hours the train took 17. I don’t know how they can get these times so wrong. They stop for ages, seemingly for no reason, and are then two hours late pulling up to the destination.

I was so glad to be getting off the train that the idea of spending the next eleven hours sat in Bangkok station seemed almost enjoyable. And that’s what we did. I don’t have much to say about this. We did think about dropping our bags off for ฿80 each and having a wander around town, but we were both shattered and skint so we left it. I was just sat there in the same chair for most of the day just looking at the people around me and getting annoyed by them. I do this a lot anyway, but I was super tired and bored so everything was irritating me more. There were horrible, grotty cracked heels that I saw being put onto chairs, a disgusting tramp that spat phlegm into a bag, I was being gawped at unashamedly…this kind of stuff. The feet thing really grinds my gears. I don’t even have a strong dislike for feet, but the state of some of the trotters here are unreal; they make me sick. I reckon cos they’re all barefoot a lot their feet just go manky. And it’s not a small few: it’s most of them. Once they get to about 40 they all just look like haggard corpses with decaying feet. Haven’t seen an okay-looking older Thai, and I have developed a dislike for this generation. And they have this horrific habit of always putting their feet on any object they can, smearing their filth onto every chair in a four-foot radius. I heard that it was rude in Thailand to point your feet at stuff and you shouldn’t do it. Evidently they didn’t get that memo. One guy had a big dirty bandage on his toes dragging about the floor, and I was like, dude have you heard of shoes? I reckon I could tell a Thai just by their feet. I didn’t realise how much resentment I held on the subject until I was stuck looking at it for thirty hours or so.

Another thing is the staring. I keep noticing people looking at me in the corner of my eye, and when I turn and catch their gaze half the time they don’t even look away. It’s mostly kids which is fair enough. I suppose they don’t see many whites, but the older ones do it too. It’s only the 10-35 kinda group that don’t do it and have more social normality. I know people might think I’m complaining and having a pop at a culture saying about the meffy feet, ugly over 40s, staring and spitting in bags, and maybe I am. I know it’s their culture and they’re free to do and look as they please, but I’m also free to say I think it’s stupid.

Our ticket for the sleeper train that we got was ฿700 but that included a bus at the other end too from Surat Thani to Krabi, but it was still quite a bit so I just ate brioche all day as a pack was only ฿15. There was also a shop in the station that sold you a pot-noodle-type-thing and gave you the water to make it too. Neat. Lauren tried to buy a pad Thai but the woman shouted “FINISH, FINISH” even though there were people working chopping stuff behind the counter. I feel an undercurrent of mild racism here to be honest, whether it’s stuff like that, foul looks, people trying to rip you off and laughing at you or openly charging you more for things. I just kinda get the impression that it’s not us they want there—it’s just our money. Lauren pointed out that most of the friendly Thais we’d met had been in a position where they were or could have been taking our money and I couldn’t really say she was far wrong to be honest.

We got on the train at 18:30 and looked out the window a while before bed. There were loads of people all playing about on the tracks—having meals, chilling out, looking after kids, the lot. Weird place to spend your time. They have shacks that back up onto the tracks though, so I suppose it’s like their garden. It’s crazy how there’ll be a really nice-looking set of apartments and literally spitting distance away is a load of families living in tin huts. Some woman on the train was annoyed ‘cos she had to move her baby out of someone’s seat. It was nice to lay down after so, so long.

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Day Twenty Three

Up at 9-ish to take our fill of breakfast. We forgot yesterday, so wanted to eat loads today to save on food bills, but when we got there there were only six rounds of bread left and a bit of jam and butter. Better than nothing.

We got a red taxi to the station. Took us a few cars before someone agreed to take us for the proper price of ฿30 each. The others were wanting ฿50, so we just walked off. Wasn’t in the mood for any of this today, plus we needed to save dollars for the train as it was probably gonna be an expensive day. There’s a board with all the times and prices on which is great. They also have a print-out for you so you know what options you have.

We’d thought yesterday about getting the early-morning train, but that would get us in for nine at night if it was on time, so we’d have trouble finding places open to stay in. Our reasonable options were on the 15:30 train that got in at 05:30 and there was third class seats for ฿271 each or fan sleeper for ฿571 or something. We went third class all the way and boy did we wish we hadn’t. Saved some money, yeah, but you can see where the money goes. If it’s a short journey then go for it, but on a looooong haul like this (14 hours) it’s not a good idea. At first I’d said I remembered that you had a seat each and we’d be facing each other. The seats are a maximum of three feet wide, so a modest size for someone of average size like myself—except that we realised that they were actually two seats not one, and you’re allocated a seat so you don’t have a choice where to sit. Me and Lauren when sat shoulder to shoulder were sticking out into the aisle by about six inches. We’re not even big people. Add this to the fact that there could be two randomers facing you about two feet away and it’s not a great prospect. No one was in the opposite seat so we were sat opposite each other or about six hours looking out the window at the weird trees and the misty hills for a while and read a bit. It was impossible to get comfortable due to the seats, and I’d been trying to get a little nap in but there was nowhere for my legs to go that felt remotely like I could get a few winks so I just spent an hour or so wriggling around.

A few stops had gone by and no one had got in the seat until this lumbering hulk of a woman got on with a little girl and made us pay for our hours of [relative] luxury. She was insane. She just kinda stood by my (her) seat with a vacant look on her flat pug-like face. I say “pug-like” ‘cos it was like a pug that had been repeatedly smashed in the face with an industrial shovel and then developed a bad case of acne as a result. The girl was alright. She kept staring at us, but we didn’t mind as she was only about five. Anyway, I moved and she immediately opened the windows all the way down letting in all kinds of horrid insects, chucked her stuff everywhere and started fidgeting and fanning herself like a mad thing. It wasn’t even warm, and if me and Lauren thought it was cold then surely a Thai must be freezing cold. Maybe it was just ‘cos she was so fat. Trying to sleep when it was two to a chair and having nowhere to put my legs was like a kind of torment and I quickly found myself staring absently at an advert on the wall of a bowl of noodles with two tiny eggs on top. the novelty of this kept my spirits raised, and although I kept wishing that the woman would get locked in the toilet or fall out the window, I kept my cool.

After a while of the girl singing to herself and faffing about by the window the woman decided it was time for her to go to sleep. Whipping out a beach mat and a little backpack she made up a crude bed not fit for a dog and lay it underneath the chairs across the aisle. The people there were laying one to a seat and asleep. Who knows what they must have thought when they woke up to a small child’s abdomen laying on a straw mat in the middle of their seats, her head and legs slid neatly away from sight. There was also the issue that the woman had perched herself on the edge on one of their seats and put her feet up right near the face of the sleeping woman who occupied the position opposite. I felt bad on her when she opened her eyes to that mess of a scenario.

I somehow nodded off as I could now stretch my legs a bit and when I woke up the girl was on the chair opposite me and the fat woman had assumed a sitting position with her legs underneath the seat where the kid had been laying and had her face about 20cm away from that poor sleeping woman. Weird. The next time I woke up I’m not messing, Lauren had moved to an empty seat down the way, my legs were tucked up on my chair, the girl was still kipping opposite me only now the woman had moved the mat and was sat on the floor right in front of me. She was so wide that there was definitely no room for my legs there now. I just sat in disbelief as that shameless human was just lurking about down there just seeming to fill the entire space. What she was thinking no one will ever know. I would put my last dime on it that she doesn’t have a husband and that kid wasn’t hers as it didn’t look anything like its Jabba guardian. I took a photo for proof ‘cos I didn’t think anyone would believe my tale. What a freaking night.

Day Twenty Two

We’d planned on a very chilled day today, but it didn’t quite go down like that as we had to get the Wi-Fi to work and plan our route taking into account our small budget. We felt in the end that Kho Tao was too expensive to do just yet, and we’d try and do it on our way back up Thailand later on in the trip instead.

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We opted for Krabi as an alternative. The weather wasn’t going to be at its best there but it was somewhere Lauren really wanted to go, and it was close to the Malaysia border so we could nip over the day before our visa expires. Looked at some pictures and most of them are of longtail boats floating on the sea photoshopped images to be really saturated (bright colours) whereas the real photos the sea looks not turquoise but brown grey. Going to the beach in sub-par weather wasn’t my idea of fun, but sometimes stuff can surprise you and I thought I might enjoy it. Nice to check out the hype with my own peepers too.

Anyway, we had trouble finding accurate times and prices of the trains down south, so a lot of the day was used on that. We did go for a little potter, and Lauren bought a face mask from the 7-11 for ฿50. We also went to complain at Jay’s about the bedbugs to get our money back. We weren’t hopeful as there was a big sign up saying no refunds, but we talked loudly on purpose so other guests could hear, and without much hassle at all the woman owner “Mama” gave us our money, along with what seemed to me to be a tall tale about some dirty man from Laos staying in our room that obviously brought them. Her words said she was shocked and disgusted but her eyes told a different story. Funny how she remembered right away that he’d stayed in our room. I saw another room on our floor with a sign on the door saying “No good”, and I wondered if that was infested too. Lauren said judging by the size of the one that tried to get me and the number of its minions, they must have been knocking about for a while in there, and they were most likely in the other rooms too. Minging. At least that meant we were only ฿125 over-budget yesterday.

Just went back to the room and had showers and Lauren sorted my hair out or me and I did her mask. I thought I’d peeled off part of her eyebrow but she didn’t notice so I think maybe it’s okay.

 

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 Nineteen

Went to see the other hotel today, so had to go down the rabies road again. The place we saw last night that was closed wasn’t even it. It was across the road. There was a little desk boy that looked like a monkey who showed us the room. There were still holes in the windows, but the room looked a bit cleaner. There was a little area to sit in out back but you had to go through someone’s kitchen to get there. It felt a bit weird to me. I said to Lauren that the room looked like a bunker and she got cross. Had a little argue and just ended up staying where we are.

Had a potter back to the dear place as our Wi-Fi here is jaag to see what there is to do around and about as we are nearly relaxed enough to do things now. There’s a cave, a few waterfalls, some hot springs, a mini canyon and a place where there’s a fissure in the ground. None of it looks mind-blowing, but worth a look. It’s ฿50 each to hire a crappy bike and ฿100 – ฿150 for a scooter, so we’re thinking about that, as there are lots of hills and we found some places that you don’t have to give your passport in which we don’t wanna do. I read that you should never leave your passport with anyone because they can blame damage on you and you’ll pay to get your passport back and also ‘cos of identity theft. Buggers. Some random guy once said you can’t trust a guy with a slanty eye. Probably. The racist bigot.

Saw a cool-looking lizard with a blue head attacking another kind of lizard. It looked like a toy. Also a lizard came up to my foot while I was reading outside and ate an ant.

We found some big beers for only ฿32 in the 7-11 that were 8%, so we only got one. They were minging. Siam Sato it was called. Bleurgh. Lauren only drank half and she’s borderline alcoholic so that says something. I went off to get some food from Tony before, as Lauren didn’t wanna leave the room cos she was cross so I didn’t wanna go too far away. Had a cheese omelette on toast with two half tomatoes with pesto on em. A weird combo for sure, but it filled me up a bit—even if Tony’s cooking skills were as slapdash as my mum’s. Was nice eating it, looking at the view. Everything is improved with a good view. After walking about today, I can say that although it’s nice and green around the town, Pai definitely doesn’t feel magical or any of that stuff I’ve read. Not unless there’s been a wizard vanishing the pavements away.

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One to avoid

Walking about is annoying. I’m a bit concerned that my fat deposits are diminishing. I feel like I’m gonna need them if we fall on harsh times, and I’m now down to only two rolls of fatness. I’m gonna be on the lookout for cheap fatty foods like out-of-date peanut butter to try store some energy away. It’s all these rice and noodle dishes. There’s no calories in ‘em. Not surprised they’re all skinny over here.

Day Seventeen

Didn’t do much today. It was raining a fair bit so Sam messaged saying that he was going back to Bangkok early as he didn’t fancy burning around looking at waterfalls in the rain. It was nice to meet him and hopefully I’ll see him again sometime.

We just had to do some laundry today as everything we owned was filthy and we wanted the mud and poo stains gone. We found somewhere but it was twice the price because we had to get it tumble dried cos of the rain.

We didn’t go anywhere new and just got some food at the place we ate at last night. I thought about buying a plastic poncho. Might come in handy. In a way, the rain is a nice change and clears the air a bit, but it’s mostly annoying because everything takes so long to dry and I don’t want my wallet and phone to get wet so I have to pop them in a little food bag.

We managed to score a mosquito net earlier. It was covered in holes so we had to tie ‘em all off but it’s better than not having one. I bought some contact adhesive to try and fix my shoe which was coming away from the sole. It wasn’t that sticky so had to wedge it under the bed overnight. There was a millipede lurking around the base of the bed as we went to turn the light out. I made Lauren get rid of it as I had done the scorpion last night.

Day Sixteen

Got up to find Sam, as he was coming with us to Pai, and to book our bus. There was one that went from the hotel. An air-con minivan, it said. We could have got a local bus for ฿70 and a taxi to the station for ฿30, but we didn’t mind paying a bit extra for less hassle and AC. A little flatbed truck thing pulled up a while later. We were all horrified at the state of it and hoped it wasn’t taking us all the way. We said goodbye to Ev and Red and hopped aboard the truck and tried to sit in a way that didn’t have a piece of metal poking into our backs.

Twenty minutes later after going down all the little streets picking people up from their hotels we thankfully got to a little bus station where we got into a proper van. I didn’t realise how many people were getting on so popped my bag on the bottom. didn’t realise that it wasn’t just the five people he’d picked up on the bus; he waited until the van was full so eleven in total. My poor bag. Not surprised my laptop keys are broken. Lesson learnt: put your bag on last.

The ride took about four hours when on Google it says 1:45, but he was going so slow and the van really struggled with the winding hills because of all the weight in it. It was just going through a jungly path the whole way and there was a weird security checkpoint at the province border. It made me and Lauren wonder what makes a jungle and if we actually were in one.

When we finally got there I was a bit disappointed at how big it was. Most things I’ve read make out like it’s a really small town but it’s a bit like a smaller Chiang Mai but with higher mountains. The streets seem quite clean but there’s hardly any pavements as the shops all put their crap on it so you have to walk in the road. There’s also a hard shoulder type thing on the main road that people drive in. I’m not sure if this is for people or cars but you have to walk in it as there’s nowhere else. It’s definitely more chilled out than Chiang Mai and smaller but there’s still an airport knocking about somewhere. We got a grilled corn on the cob before parting ways with Sam who wanted AC and headed to our bungalow. We saw a sign for it as we passed in the van and we found it quite easily. It’s around a ten-minute walk out of town which I wanted for some peace and quiet. On the photos it looks really secluded but it actually looks down the hill onto the main road so you can see quite a few buildings.

We were supposed to stay in a wooden bungalow but it had loads of holes in the walls and there was a brick one with its own bathroom and mesh on the windows for a bit more so we went for that as we thought it would keep the bugs out. It also had a better view I reckon which was one of the main reasons for choosing Tony’s even though it’s full of houses and a weirdly ugly turquoise building that stands out like a sore thumb, whatever that means.

Once we got inside we realised that the mesh on the windows was loose in the corner, neither the windows nor door closed completely, the bathroom was outside but inside again, and there was no mosquito net in this one which we thought we’d need. The doors are glass so you can look at stuff without getting covered in bugs but the wicker bench at the wooden bungalow has been replaced or a concrete one here so I got a sore bum when I read my Kindle out there too long. It’s not exactly a palace but it’s nice to see the clouds in between the mountains in the distance. There’s some kinda temple set in the trees I can see too which would be cool to visit.

After getting settled a bit, I messaged Sam and we went for something to eat. I got a bowl of curry noodles, a couple of curry pus and a tomato avocado grilled cheese bruschetta thing. I got a pair of simple pants or ฿130 to keep the bugs off my legs, so I’m fully protected now, hopefully.

I didn’t realise how Reggae this place was. There’s loads of hippies knocking about possibly outnumbering the locals and most bars have Bob Marley type stuff playing. I’m not a fan but if you were this is the place. Had a mojito at a bar that was playing Eminem when we went past earlier but had a live act come on. We moved to another bar and another live act came on. We tried to go up to the roof as was advertised but it was a little square half the size of my kitchen with a load of lay abouts sprawled everywhere saying “O yahh”, so we left. Just went to one more bar (that had a couch that was more hole than material and a tyre for a chair) for an expensive beer then went home. The place does have a mellow night time scene with lots of twinkle lights which I liked in spite of the filthy hippies.

Got back to the room to find a scorpion chilling out on the wall. I wanted to kill it but Lauren said I had to catch it and throw it outside. Got one of our water bottles and put it over it which it didn’t like so it tried to sting the bottle a couple of times. I proper launched it out the door, secretly hoping that it went hurling to a watery grave in the lake at the bottom of the hill.