March 27th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0

There were 3 things to do down in the southern end of town, so, leaving Val to pack etc, I headed off on the bus.  The bus system here is so splendidly well-run, I think, but has to cope with massive use.  I didn’t have a very comfortable journey, as I had to stand all the way.  Doubly uncomfortable – apart from the strain on the legs, I had to bend to peer out of the window at regular intervals to see where we were.  I managed, however, to get off at the right stop.  Task no 1 was to check with American Express whether their 1 month holding period for mail was rigid – I don’t know why we had blithely accepted the bad news yesterday without a murmur.  It turned out that all I had to do was write a note requesting a longer hold, so that’s what I did.  Whether it actually works or not, ie whether they pay any attention or simply sling the lot in the general direction from which they came is, of course, speculative.

Task no 2 was to see if the Walkman could be put in for an exploratory check-up on its troubles.  No such luck here – the woman was decidedly unhelpful, but reckoned if I wanted it examined, but not fixed, I would have to take myself to the head office + talk to the engineer.  Ah well, another day maybe.  The 3rd item was to go to the British Embassy + clear up a problem with our passports.  We are rapidly running out of space for visas, entry stamps etc, but want to check that it is possible to hang onto our old passports for mementoes if we get a new one in, say, Hong Kong.  I had some time yet, however, so decided, since I was on the doorstep, to spend a little time in the British Council.  I managed, however, to become so engrossed in my reading that I lost track of time, and made a right balls-up of things, arriving at the embassy at 12.05, when they’d just shut for an hour and a half lunch break.  Not very bright of me, and it was as well that the enquiry could wait.  So, out of my 3 fixtures, one win, one loss, and a draw, making 4 points out of 9 by the new reckoning.  Not bad, but no championship stuff.

The bus back was as crowded as the bus out, which was probably divine retribution.  When I arrived back, Val was in the travel agent’s, trying to finalise our flight to HK.  It wasn’t the mere formality that had been suggested, but eventually it seemed we were confirmed on Air India’s flight at 3 am on April 11th.  Which is cutting things desperately fine for our visa, but never mind.

As soon as that was sorted out, we headed out to the station to catch our train up to Chiang Mai in the north.  Once again, a long + crowded bus journey, but we had both information + a helpful note in Thai written by the proprietor of the guest-house.  He is a splendid man, ready + willing to do all he can to help, not like so many in his position who are friendliness + affability itself until you agree to stay with them.  The station was impressive, like a London Victorian station, but on a smaller scale, all being contained within a single span arch.  In just about every other respect, it towers above London rivals, however, being cleaner, quieter + more efficient.  The information from both the boards + the booth was clear + precise, the people were polite, + we had, even in 3rd class, reserved seats, + not uncomfortable ones at that.

The first part of the journey at least was pleasant.  We had brought along our own bread, ham + cheese, + were able to relieve the thirst aroused by the heat by drinking copious quantities of coke, 7-up, + a local beverage called Green Spot, sounding (+ ultimately tasting) more like a plant disease than a soft drink.  The movement of the train wasn’t violent enough to prevent us writing a couple of letters, after which I settled down to read Newsweek, bought especially for the purpose.  This was a mistake in fact – I should have taken advantage of the scenery while it was still light, but I feared they would switch off the fluorescent lights at an early hour.  In fact, they stayed on all night.  When the Newsweek was read, I imbibed a little of Gogol’s “Dead Souls”, but for the most part we spent the night experimenting with various ways + positions which would allow us some sleep.  We changed position many times, but most afforded us some sleep, some a healthy hour or so.

It does seem to have occurred more than it ought, that I have become so engrossed in my reading that I have missed some important deadline. Not vitally important on this occasion since, despite having said yesterday that we weanted to l.eave for Chiang Mai early, in the event we did not appear to be in any rush.

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