When we arrived at the Chiang Mai train station – on the bus – we grabbed a taxi to our guesthouse. We could have grabbed a songthaew (red utes with bench seats in the back under cover, that drive round and round the old part of the city and usually only cost 20 baht) but we were pretty ragged around the edges from sleeping sitting up with the other sausages on the bus and chose a bit of luxury to end our journey, in the form of a taxi. All to ourselves. We were horrendously overcharged but we just didn’t care. When I say overcharged, it cost us 180 Baht, which is the equivalent of approximately $7 NZ – hardly a tragedy, but you’d be surprised how quickly you become protective over your wallet contents when you have to survive somewhere for five weeks, forking out for absolutely everything you do. You even have to pay 3 Baht to use the toilet in some public places – add that up for 7 days a week, times 5 weeks, plus food (insert in and out joke here), transport and accommodation costs, and the gallons of water you have to buy and drink ongoingly, and you’ll begin to see what I mean. Your Scrooge McDuck alter ego tends to kick in pretty much as soon as you hit the ground.
I had booked rooms at Diva Guesthouse over the internet, sight unseen. It turned out be a pleasant surprise and really did look like it does on the web, miracle of miracles. Thankfully our room was only up one flight of stairs, so it only took us and our luggage about half an hour to climb them. It was a nice room, painted bright colours with glow in the dark stars on the wooden ceiling, a nice painting on the walls, a large bed and a bathroom with a toilet and a hot water shower. Though only a madman would want a hot shower in this heat, so that got turned down immediately. The first thing we did was test all the power points, always an interesting pastime in Asia. As suspected, they were very loose, so out came the duct tape from our cunning plan accessory kit and the matter was soon sorted. Next, we tried the Wifi situation out. I wanted to know if my Kindle was going to play the game, and so it did. Things were going smoothly so far. Always makes me just a tiny bit nervous, that does…
Just as an interesting aside, when we were on the train, just before I woke up, I dreamed about my daughter being unhappy in some way, and I mentioned it to Peter. She had been travelling around the Balkans at the time. When I checked my email, there was a message from her saying that she was unwell in Bulgaria. She’s one of the gutsiest young people I know, but when she’s unwell she has a hard time with fevers and the occasional febrile convulsion and really craves the comfort of her Mama, understandably. Amazing how my mother radar picked up on it from another part of the world.
While strolling up the road from our guesthouse, we discovered we were very close to the Elephant Nature Park office, so we went in and offloaded some of our money to them – our fees payable for being at the park for the following two weeks of pachyderm pandemonium. Then I dragged Peter down Moonmuang Road to the Somphet Market where the ‘Best Place in Chiang Mai’ can be found for sumptuous eating. It proved to be as good as ever, plus we got a free lesson in Thai speaking from the owners, who a friendly and funny people. Next stop – the dragonfruit lady for a demonstration on purchasing and quaffing the fabulous fruit smoothies that abound in Chiang Mai. These delicious drinks have heaps of fresh fruit and ice in them and only cost 40 Baht – about $1.60 NZ. Heaven through a straw!
By then my feet were hurting and my first blisters were beginning to sing to me, so we took a songthaew home – always good fun and excellent on the wallet. You never know who you’re going to meet in a songthaew – you have interesting conversations with folks from all over the world. I wish Whangamata had these. It’s sometimes tempting to just pay to ride round and round and look at the scenery and the city inhabitants from a great viewpoint. Old Chiang Mai is a canal city surrounded by ancient walls, and has many skinny little alleyways leading to goodness knows where, to fascinate the eye. I could ride around it for hours.
My adopted Thai brother Chaiw turned up at about 5.30 pm and it didn’t take long for the drinks to begin to flow. All in the name of politeness, of course. For some reason they had evaporated by 10 pm and we had to do the proverbial and typical scooter run to the nearest 7/11 shop to replenish the supply. Chaiw hadn’t drunk much and he’s always very careful, so I felt pretty safe about climbing aboard. He couldn’t find a 7/11 that had the right drinks, however, so we ended up getting some from one of those roadside shops that consist largely of bits of wood and some tarpaulin. They always manage to have a modern fridge and an ice chest though. Prudent and infinitely practical people, these Thais.
We had been joined by a couple of Dutch people, who weren’t backward in coming forward, and a merry ol’ night was had by all until we staggered to bed not that far from midnight. Our first day and night in Chiang Mai had turned out rather well – long may it continue.