March 29th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0
The view from the restaurant

Obviously we slept well + late.  When we awoke, we re-packed our bags, so that we could take a light bag with us, + leave the heavy one behind.  It was our intention to go west, over to the Burmese border, + see if it were possible to visit some of the hill-tribes in that area, staying out there for a couple of days.  We weren’t in any rush however, tho’ probably we should have been.  We certainly didn’t rush our breakfast, but at the end of it, we discovered that it was getting on for 11 o’clock, a discovery that dealt us a severe blow, there not being all that many buses going out that way, + most of them being concentrated in the morning.  We were galvanised into action, paying up, seizing our bag, + marching off to the bus station.  It was further away than we had thought, too, which didn’t add to our self-composure – we seemed to be striding out for ages along the road, + since we’d also managed to mislay our town map, we weren’t exactly sure (being stricken, as always, by self-doubt) that it was the right road.

We did arrive, however, at a huge, new, relatively empty bus station, at 11.30, + discovered that the next bus heading out to where we wanted to go didn’t leave until 2.30.  After a moment or two of inaction, caused by self-pity, self-annoyance, etc, we decided to try a different attack, + check out buses heading north, up to the Golden Triangle – this we had intended to do after our trek west, so it wasn’t too violent a change.  There was a bus going up to Chiang Rai almost immediately, + we were lucky to get the last 2 seats on it, just climbing aboard before we pulled out.  The conductor was good enough to arrange things for us to allow us to sit together as well.

The journey to Chiang Rai took something over 3 hours, + was uneventful.  The countryside was flat + barren, the villages, towns + people Western.  The highlight was when, to our huge delight, we passed an elephant plodding along the road, working.  This caused Val to launch into a paroxysm of elephant impersonations – she has become quite a dab hand at quite a number of clever + funny little mimes, always guaranteed to amuse both myself + her.  Communicated a little with a young, male fellow-passenger – he offered us food, + we showed him our small photo album, from which he requested 2 photos: the one of the pair of us, naturally enough, + one of me crossing a log bridge in PNG.  I scrawled my address on the back of one- he returned by doing the same on a B10 note… except that for him both name + address seemed to consist of one word, nothing more: PRAKOB – not even a town name.  He couldn’t be induced to give more, evidently feeling this was sufficient information, so it was left at that.  I’ll send a card at some stage, but have severe doubts about it ever reaching him.

At Chiang Rai we transferred direct to a bus continuing further north to Chang Seng, another hour and a half or so.  We were very pleasantly surprised by the town, which was on the bank of the Mae Khong river, + small, quiet, + peaceful, a pleasant contrast to the bustling + crowded towns that we had come thro’.  There seemed , to our surprise, to be a choice of guest-houses too, so we headed toward the one that the Belgian couple had stayed in + recommended.  It was basic, but clean enough, + cheap, so suited us.  Because of some forthcoming Buddhist festival, they weren’t serving dinner however, forcing us to go out for a meal. – we wanted, in any case, to have a look round.  There was very little to see, so it didn’t take long.  We were only able to find the one restaurant, however, tho’ there were supposed to be two, so, after a brief look at the market, + having purchased a half-bottle of Mekong whiskey, that was where we went.  The restaurant itself was nice, built on a platform overlooking the river (which was being Asian + mysterious, disappearing from our view in both directions into shrouds of mist.)  The menu was unexciting, but we both hit the Mekong bottle pretty hard, + I at least was able to provoke an appetite.  Of more importance however was the fact that the booze was able to loosen both our tongues on a subject previously strictly taboo: our bust-up + my relationship with Sue.  I can’t say it didn’t raise a few pangs of various emotions on both sides, but they were controllable, and the experience was on the whole beneficial.  We were able to clear up matters of fact that we hadn’t been clear about, + to a large extent we were able to exorcise the ghost that the whole thing had become.  We talked + talked + talked, that’s for sure, + even when we were in bed we kept talking, showing, I suppose, the hold that the events of those years ago still held over us.

Shan’t dwell on the final discussion(s), as all of that is even more firmly lodged in the distant past. but clearly beneficial to clear the air at the time.

Good to have some flexibility in our arrangements, heading north to the Laos border rather than west to the Burmese, and it was good to sit, watch the river, and drink Mekong whisky (laced as ever with coke.)

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