Chowing down in Chiang Mai

Trip Start May 17, 2009
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Trip End Dec 21, 2009


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Thursday, September 10, 2009

I'm a glutton for punishment when it comes to spending time in airports waiting for transfer – Spent another 13/14 hours at Bangkok in transit from Phnom Penh to Chiang Mai. Some might say I'm just too tight to spend money on airport hotel accommodaton (and they’d be right).

I arrived in Bangkok about 5.30pm on 6 Sep and had to count the minutes till Matt arrived about midnight. Unfortunately our flight out to Chiang Mai was not until 6.45am and I had all my luggage with me so my options were a little limited.  Gotta say that the seating in the official "In transit" area is  a lot more comfortable than outside where I was.  I was very impressed however with the poor buggers working to take the luggage trolleys up and down – they worked like dogs.

It was of course wonderful to see Matt but I was surprised that it didn’t seem like 3 months since I had last seen him.  The last few weeks in Phnom Penh had really flown, and I was quite ambivalent about leaving.  Poor Matt had to listen to "in Cambodia this"; “in Cambodia that…” for the first week at least.

I was really pleased with our decision to have a few days in Chiang Mai before Bangkok.  Certainly an easier way for Matt to ease into Asia but still a bit of reverse culture shock for me.  The streets were clean, the prices were high (compared to Phnom Penh), there wasn’t much noise, not really any beggars, no mad motorcycles carrying all the family and their belongings, and not a Lexus in sight (Phnom Penh is really full of contradictions!)  … and no smiling Cambodians. I had my first ride in a car for 4 months, getting a taxi from the airport – really felt strange.  Should I mention that we made the mistake of getting the taxi from the rank outside instead of organizing official receipt inside, but it only put us out by 30 baht so no big problem.

We got dropped off at the East Gate of the old town and had no difficulty finding a no-frills room (with cable TV and fans) in Soi 3 for only 200 Baht (about $7) per night. The manager had no English so we were limited to Sawadee and Korp Kun (Hi and thanks) but as always a smile and a few actions can get the meaning across.

We headed for breakfast and weren’t disappointed with the Thai food we had been looking forward to, though I have to say, that generally speaking, Thailand failed to deliver the mouth-watering meals I recalled from 30 years ago.  Not sure if that is because everything has been adapted to tourist tastes or whether my memory is at fault. (As if!!)

Matt really felt the heat for the first few times, but I guess I had already gone through that in May when I arrived in Asia.  We did the rounds of wats, until Matt put his foot down; checked out the THC Rooftop Restaurant which had great atmosphere and cocktails; checked out the night markets, and got into the rhythm of afternoon naps.

We did escape one day with a trip to the mountains to see the King’s Winter Palace.  It was shrouded in mist and most of the rose bushes weren’t in flower but it would be spectacular at the right time of year.  A lot more relaxing that climbing the 300 stairs or more at Doi Suthep Wat.  Lots of devout Buddhists getting their blessing and paying homage, but I haven’t noticed the same number of monks wandering the streets here as in Cambodia, and the ones I have seen are a lot better fed.  Also visited Dui Poi, which is meant to give you the opportunity to see a hill tribe going about their daily grind, but it was set up for tourists of course and not very captivating except for the wonderful material handicrafts.  I could easily have bought a couple of bedspreads if my backpack could have expanded to hold them.

Lazy days, $4 massages and large Changs (beer for the uninitiated) with Matt.. sweet.

TIDBITS

How can a glass of not very special wine cost more than Long Island Iced Teas?

WORDS TO THE WISE

Lots of wise maxims to be found at one of the wats we visited.  Check out the photos for some of them. (Thought of you David and your wipeable wisdoms)
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