What Wat is that Wat?
Train to Chiang Mai
The overnight train isn’t too bad, you get your hawkers trying to sell you stuff every half hour or so, but they stop eventually, and you can put the curtain across the cabin to give you some privacy. However these are only thin, and they don’t turn of the lights, so it is still very light all night.
Thais are also a very early morning people. I think it has something to do with being in the temples at some stage. They get up at four or five each morning when in the Temple, but this carries through to normal life where they get to sleep in until six!
Everyone on the train was up at six. This was ok, as the train was supposed to arrive at 7:45. 8am passed and our stomachs were growling. 9am came and went. Eventually the train arrived after 10am.
We had expected to be met at the train station to be taken to B.M.P the hostel we were booked into, but with the train being so delayed we didn’t think it likely. To our surprise and delight, there was a guy standing near the platform with a sign up for BMP and Mr Andrew on it. So they had waited for us! There was another name on the list, but apparently they hadn’t made the train. On exiting the station we were very glad about this. There was a huge mob of people that were waiting for tourists, fresh off the train but exhausted and easy to con. I take you here, I take you there. My place better and cheaper. Apparently they charge a huge commission to the hotel they take the tourists to. We didn’t have to worry about any of this.
The drive out to the hostel wasn’t too bad, but we did find out that it was a fair walk to the old city centre from there. The roads are interesting, and a lot of them are one way. Bikes and tuktuks optional. At BMP we checked in and got the rundown of the trek we were going to do. there would be an orientation meeting at 6pm and then we would leave at 8:30 in the morning.
This let us the rest of the day to explore Chang Mai. We walked the ten minutes to the canal surrounding the old city. This canal is a large square, and the original city was built behind the walls on the inside of the canal. However today there are only a few sections of walls left, mainly the corners and the entrance gates. The entire city was raised by the Burmese during one of their wars, and was left deserted for over two hundred years. Now there is almost no evidence of this. The city is a bit old and rundown, however I think this is due mainly to the tropical climate and bad building rather than age.
Walking around is taking a bit out of us, as we are still not used to the humidity yet, and you can almost see the steam rising off us. But it is still the best way to see feel smell and experience a place. As usual it wasn’t long until we found a Wat. There are several fairly close together in the city centre. This Wat was nice, so we decided to walk in and have a look at it. It turned out that the Wat is built besides the ruin of an older building, that was in remarkably good shape. Walking around this there were four staircases up to the centre, and very similar to photos we had seen of central American ruins. The staircases were all smooth except for one that had steps, and Nagas flanked each side. At the top in large alcoves where statues of Buddha facing the compass points, and as we walked around we saw that the middle tier used to be covered with Elephant statues sticking out of the walls.
Back at the hostel we typed for a little as we are falling majorly behind at the moment, and the trip has only just started (I am writing this one sitting on the bus to Chiang Dao). The information session started and the only people there were the two of us and two Japanese guys. We thought hooray a small group. No. There were another 5 Americans that were doing the trip with us, but they were not going to be at the info session, as they only had a limited time in chiang mai. (they had beej sitting next to us drinking at the hostel half an hour before) It turned out that there were people doing the three day trek and the rest of us were doing the two day hike. This meant that for the first day the Japanese guys would be walking with us and then they would split off on their own to continue up the hills while we made our way back. So far so good. The next bit on the agenda was what we needed to bring. As there wasn’t much it was fairly simple. However Anna needed swimmers, and I needed a pair of shoes that didn’t matter if they got wet.
We were told we could pick up everything we needed at the night market, or at the market we would be stopping at briefly to get supplies for the two days. That was about it. Well, we had our itinerary, and we had our start time with what we needed, so what else was there to mention.
We joined up with the Japanese guys to split a tuktuk to the night markets. This is supposed to be one of the better markets in Thailand. Its not. Very touristy (well, that’s ok), very EXPENSIVE, and no haggling. We walked around for a long time trying to find shoes, and swimmers. This wasn’t very fun, especially when it started raining. We did manage to find an under cover shopping complex where they tried to sell us fake Billabong board shorts for $20! Right. Eventually we found some ripoff slippers/sandals that although overpriced was doable. This made Andrew set for the trip. Giving up on the swimmers we headed back to the hostel to get a good nights sleep.