04.03.2010 - 06.03.2010 29 °C
We spent our last day in Bangkok with Warren, as Ed had supposedly set off for Koh Tao, we still wonder whether he made the 6 am bus after we realised we left him quite drunk at 2am the night before. We went to see the reclining Buddha which is pretty scary and we're still unconvinced that Laura's only fact (that the smile is 5m wide) is true. Having walked round various temples for over an hour using that fact as a guide to finding the famous Buddha...we realised we'd walked straight past it at the entrance, heading instead for the souvenir shop. Brilliant.
We then made our way to the river and got a 3 baht (6p) boat across to Wat Arun and ventured into the much less touristy parts of Bangkok. We had lunch there and the three of us managed to eat and drink for less than 5 pounds. It was one of the best meals we've had so far. Laura was thrilled to see White Jew's Ear on the menu.
We got our first Tuk Tuk to take us back to Khao San Road and were pleased that we managed to barter him down, until we arrived at our 'destination' where he waved at the road and insisted this was it. It was a ten minute walk away and we were very pleased we managed to find our way back to our safe space. We said goodbye to Warren who we hope to see again in Vietnam and got a taxi to the train station.
What follows is an unusual tale of three days of Thai people being nice to us and willing to help without charging or seemingly wanting anything else in return. We both remain suspicious and fearful of the consequences of our tentative trust. The first taxi driver was happy to take us to the station on the meter immediately, dropped us off at the correct location and expected nothing but his 66 baht fare. On entering the station, tourist information told us exactly the tickets we needed, led us to the ticket office and waited to make sure everything was ok. Unfortunately, the overnight train was already fully booked, so he led us to the booking office for coaches and told us this was the next best thing. He left without asking us for money. Wowzers. The lady in the ticket office was absolutlely lovely, and offered us a good fare for an overnight bus "with meals" and "leaving from the station"...which seemed almost too good to be true. It was. We were also offered the chance to leave our bags in the ticket office FOR FREE, but neither of us felt massively comfortable and so we waited approximately 2m away for the 2 hours until the bus.
Then to our horror, a taxi driver appeared shouting Chiang Mai and we were the only people waiting to go there. We double checked with our friendly lady who smiled and waved us to follow him 'in taxi'...WHAT? We got in the taxi and spent the entire journey convinced we'd die...in Laura's mind this was torture, in Donna's a car crash. But no, we arrived at a bus station! The bus journey was absolutely hilarious, and the mixture of fatigue and relief made us somewhat hysterical. The conductor on the bus was a very angry woman and apparently very unsteady on her feet...she unsuccessfully carried a tray of drinks past Laura and covered the man in front with coke. We could hardly contain ourselves, but were a bit scared of her reaction if she was to see us laughing.
Concerningly the bus frequently pulled into lay-bys and petrol stations. Laura fancied a toilet break and was shocked to be offered toilet roll FOR FREE from a nice Thai lady. She then got onto approximately 3 wrong buses and nearly started crying when she eventually stumbled across the correct bus. The journey itself was pretty scary, Thai roads are horrifying...this was illustrated when we heard a screech of tyres and looked out of the window to see a car catapult up the curb and into a park, with a massive thud. Everyone carried on driving. Again we laughed.
We arrived around half 6 and made our way into the old town to find a guesthouse. We were absolutely exhausted, so after a bit of exploring and a foot massage (of course), we went back for a "power nap" and reluctantly awoke four hours later. The evening was good fun, apart from a worrying hour when neither of our cards would work and we were left with only 250baht. We went to the night bazaar and feel that our bartering skills have been significantly improved from our time in Bangkok. We had dinner in the centre, a red thai curry which was amazing. Our favourite Chang beer (6.4%) is also a lot cheaper in Chiang Mai, so we kept it flowing. We ended the evening with a 3 hour, 8 match thai boxing experience which was good fun, and not as gory as we'd imagined.
Today, we were given an amazing deal at our guesthouse for a Thai Cooking course and a trekking day for tomorrow, which again has us disconcerted. We've just finished a bit more exploring, seeing all the main sights in Chiang Mai, our map-reading skills have vastly improved, especially with the map our guesthouse man, Jim, gave us FOR FREE. Our excursion included the Wat Chiang Man temple, the Thai Art and Culture Hall, the Three King Monument and the Wat Phra Sing temple. However the highlight was the Wat Chedi Luang including a temple ruined by an earthquake and much to Laura's delight, 'Monk Chat'. She has been bothering Donna about going to this since she first saw it in the guidebook. Donna said it would be ok providing Laura prepared a number of questions vetted by Donna which would not involve us ending up in a Thai prison. She did very well, and we had a lovely discussion with our monk...who suprisingly recommended that we go tubing in Laos. If we get drunk, it's his fault.