Day Eighteen

Had a sweet ten hours last night. We just wanted a chill day today so I kinda pottered on the internet and said Hi to people on Messenger until Lauren got up. Eventually made our way into town and got an eggy rice thing from the dear restaurant and a can of Schweppes lime that Sam kept banging on about. He said they didn’t have lemon soda in France. It was like a nicer version of 7-Up.

Lauren wasn’t too happy today as she’s fed up with the insects in the guesthouse. They’re annoying me too but I have my doubts that there’s anywhere much better in our price range. It would be really nice to be able to not have to think about whether you’ve stuffed the gaps in the door with bog roll today or if you’ve forgotten. I was sat outside for a while earlier reading Sherlock Holmes and looking at the view while Lauren had a nap, and I couldn’t really relax cos I’m constantly on the lookout for insects that seem like they have a score to settle and nothing to lose. There was also a snake outside before so that’s another thing to watch out for.

I got tired of being outside and my bum was getting a bit sore off the stone bench so I went to join Lauren for a nap. We slept for hours for some reason. I have a tiny bit of sunburn on my shoulder even though it was cloudy today, I think from sitting outside. I’ll have to be more careful in future, as being in the sun too much can wear you out.

We went to check out a hotel that Lauren has her eye on. It’s ฿250 a night which is still ok but its down a dark road and there’s scary dogs at every turn. They come after you barking if you’re not quick. I don’t think it’ll be much better but you do get breakfast with it which might be good. Guess we’ll wander down tomorrow as it was closed tonight. If there are no bugs it will be worth it, but if there’s still some getting in then I’d rather stay and have the view, which is one of the few redeeming features of Tony’s.

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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 Six

Woke up late again. (Idiot on bongos, hard bed, hot, etc etc.) Julie’s guesthouse for the win! Lauren was a bit worried that our original plan has been abandoned so she wanted to get some planning done. I felt like just lying on the cushions in the garden area and saying things like “Chill out maaan, you’re killin my groove…” but I stepped up to my boy-friendly duties and helped. Ended up getting some money off Laurens friend so we could spend a week looking after some dogs. I’m not too keen as I picture myself just shovelling turds for most of the day while dodging their rabid jaws but hey, it’s only costing me 45 quid for the whole week so I’m saving money overall as accommodation and food is included and that’s always good. There’s a chance to pet elephants too so it could go either way.

Reserved a bungalow in Pai (pronounced “bye”—who knew!) which is basically a toilet-less shed on stilts but its only ฿150/night. “Tony’s Bungalows” its called. I doubt his name is Tony. They need stilts ‘cos there are mudslides and floods all the time. Wiped out the village in 2005. It was my idea to go here cos it’s way out up the hills so there are views and we can save money by just reading all day and laying about outside. There are also walks you can go on as it’s in a place with loads of trees so it might be nice, assuming we don’t get swept away and drown in a tidal wave of dirt.

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We spent the rest of the day looking around for these cool vests I saw the other day as I only have two tops and I have to keep washing ‘em all the time. Turns out that after hours of walking it was in the opposite direction. I knew we should have brought a compass. We accidentally found a temple we were looking for yesterday (we thought we found it yesterday but it was the wrong one) among others. Probably go tomorrow and chat to a monk. They have monk chat sessions to improve their English. Didn’t really see anything new on the walk, although got a slightly more Thai feel I suppose on the west side. The wall is all the same, I’ll tell you that for free. Once you’ve seen one bit of its rubble-y remains you’ve seen it all.

We walked back and forth over one section like four times and it took ages. We nearly got a taxi but we eventually just found our way back to the hotel ourselves. The bongo man was still at it. We don’t know where its coming from but he’s got a friend with a guitar now. It’s not even good, it’s just a load of layabouts thinking they’re cultured and spiritual because they’re in a different city and know two chords and a little tune on the jungle drums. Unbelievable. There’s a guy who’s always in the garden area, never has his top on, has a little tribal number on his ankle and is covered in beads. If this were Cluedo I’d be saying I accuse the mentally-incompetent German on the rooftop with the bongo drums.

What else did we do today…oh yes, we had a couple of warm beers from the fridge while we read our books (Lauren, The Dark Tower; me, Sherlock Holmes), found a massive snail, ate a load of cheap biscuits from the 7-11, thought about buying a fresh coconut and drinking it with a straw and found a water machine that gives you a litre of clean water for a baht instead of about ten. Thing is though, there is no English on it. Almost like they don’t want us to know. It is a bit tepid though.

It’s about 3am here and I can still hear the drums going. At least I think I can. I might just be going a bit mad.

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.