March 28th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0

It was a long journey, nearly 16 hours, but we have had many which have been shorter + worse.  Even so, we were pleased when the awakening + rearranging of the locals in the know indicated we were approaching the end.  It was really quite cold now, so we pulled on our jumpers.  When the train pulled into Chiang Mai, we made the acquaintance of 2 other Europeans on the train, a pleasant pair of Germans, Tony + Monika, + going thro’ the gate, we were all attracted by the forceful personality + attractive photos of one lady among the many anxious for our business, so we all went with her.  Among other advantages, she had a car, so we had a more comfortable ride to her place.  It seemed nice enough, too, so there we stayed.

Over b’fast, chatted with our German friends, and then with a Belgian couple who have just come to the end of their stay around the area.  Previously, we had been quite fixed on exploring the area with one of the local trekking companies, but they had been travelling around under their own steam, + while they had done no trekking on their own themselves, they’d met a few people who had.  So we, ever eager to climb off the roller-coaster if at all possible, were immediately interested.  A problem particularly at the moment, is the border tension with Burma, one of the areas we would be going to.  Where such things are concerned, I definitely err on the side of caution.  We went o the Tourist Office, who could give us some local information, but not very much in trekking, largely because they officially disapprove of trekking at the moment, even with a company, because of the political situation.

We took a bus to a handicraft centre, which has some terrific stuff, + really not at an inflated price.  We can wait, however, until we come back from touring ourselves.  We then spent an hour or 2 wandering around town, visiting a wat or 2. + after enquiry ending up at Daret’s, the town’s travellers’ restaurant + information centre.  We had some fruit drinks, + Val quizzed the bloke about their treks.  We were particularly interested to see that one of their treks actually went into Burma. Tho’, nowadays, with all the troubles, that seemed to be little more than a token entry.  And one paid heavily for the privilege too – $2,200, tho’ that does include some elephant riding.  The clearest thing we found out is that it is difficult to get good information – naturally enough, since the trekking companies are commercial outfits out to make some money.

Returned to the guest-house for a siesta – not that one really needed to escape the sun, it being a misty, muggy day, but we were both very tired.  I intended simply to rest, but fell asleep, feeling upon waking, as a result, bloody awful.  With the sun gone down, we made our way thro’ town, picking our way thro’ the simply amazing pavement vegetable market.  So much food – cauliflowers, tomatoes, everything piled in heaps.  Such a contrast to the scabby dried-up stuff we have seen in so many other places, from Mexico to Malaysia.  Made even PNG’s celebrated Hagen market look sparse by comparison.  And this was a side-affair, not the main market at all.   Just stunning.

Crowds were gathered along the way to watch Thailand’s boxing world champion – sorry, don’t know his name or weight – on television, defending his title against what looked like a very fierce little Mexican, who, from the snatches we saw as we walked along, was making all the running.

At Daret’s again, where we were to eat our dinner, we just had time to order our meal when, to the delight of at least all the Thais in the place, the champion took control, launched a superb attack, + won on a TKO.  I was pleased too.  Difficult really – I know boxing is a barbaric sport, but I love to watch it.  With that over, we were able to concentrate on looking at some photos we had just had done.  Pleasing, too, on the whole, with the more or less average crop of 3 or 4 excellent, 7 or 8 a waste of money, + the rest ranged between.  Our meals too provided a contrast: mine was simply magnificent, Val’s indifferent.  I had a pepper steak with baked potato + vegetables, followed by a plate of fresh strawberries.  I must say, it makes a pleasant change to get things right.

On the way back, stopped to take a couple of photos, first of the amazing sight of a host of Buddhist novices whitewashing the wall of their wat, then of the market.  Home then, to hot drink + bed, none too soon for Val who was tetchy + irritable because of extreme fatigue.

Spending some time in Chiang Mai before heading off to visit the local villages. We do seem to be far more enamoured of Thailand than eityher Malaysia or Indonesia, but maybe we are reacting agasinst the Muslim culture.

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