Monday, June 13, 2005

chiang mai

Chiang Mai is Thailand's second city, and it up in the North. To get from Kanchanaburi to here, I had to go back to Bangkok. I engaged a partner in crime for this - a Canadian guy named Tom who had just come from India. Nice enough, but going through the idealist stage that 19 year olds do, which I have sadly left behind. Yes, I know that Nike are a big bad multinational corporation who keep children locked up inside cages for 23 hours a day, but I still like their shoes, okay? No, he wasn't that bad, but I was happy enough to leave him upon arrival in Chiang Mai. Whilst I was in Bangkok for a couple of hours, I did those endless tasks that I seem to have to accomplish whilst I am there - booking flights for Kate and I, buying some more medical supplies, boring stuff like that. I also met some volunteers randomly, as you do, and even more randomly, a guy who I went to school with over five years ago. Stranger and stranger, but all very good.

I had not been looking forward to the night train to Chiang Mai. In a fit of feeling broke, we opted for the sleeper with no air-con, and I spent a long time imagining that I was going to be sweating all night. Actually, it was a fantastic experience, just making me love trains even more. My bed was comfortable, I had a huge window that I could open, and a nice little curtain that gave me privacy. I spent the night reading, listening to Graceland, and getting excited by watching the world not quite speed by (Thai trains only go about 40miles an hour). I also slept like a baby for a good 6hrs. A great way to travel, and to be recommended to anyone.

Dumping Tom in Chiang Mai was made easy enough by meeting two Californian brothers, who I have been hanging out with since then. Pretty cool guys, and makes a change from defending my meat eating beliefs. Last night we ate faux mexican food (sometimes you need a break from Thai food, nice though it is. And besides, at home, its not like people eat Irish food all day every day. So its okay to change the scene once in a while) and went to the Night Market. Chiang Mai's night market is absolutely huge. You could walk for days around it and still not see everything. My personal highlights were some puppies we found - playing with them was obviously therapy to get over my fear of dogs. Actually, I don't really have a fear of dogs, but puppies are fun. There was tons of hill tribes goods - gorgeous clothes, and beautiful ornaments to take home. Definitely to be recommened for the shopper in all of us. But no, I came away empty handed, thank goodness. My backpack certainly does not need anymore things inside it.

Today I made another trip to the hospital. Yet again I was registered as a full blown patient with my own hospital card. I actually managed to forget my passport, but once I made up a passport number, they seemed happy enough to take me on. I was able to give them my correct blood group, so I'm sure that makes up for it. Every time I go to the hospital they weigh me, and so in the last 2 weeks, I have been weighed more times than I have in the last 10 years of my life. Each time its the same - a solid 62kg. I think that's pretty normal, but I'm showing no signs of the mass weight loss that most people get whilst travelling in Asia. Not fair.

Walking to the hospital was a good, "real Chiang Mai" experience. I love walking through a city because you see much more than just getting a taxi, and this was no different, particularly since the Lonely Planet map had left out half the streets (as usual) so I ended up wandering some back streets through people's laundry etc, which is always fun. After the hospital it was more wandering hoping to happen upon some wats, which I did, and were fascinating. For being such religious places, I rarely see Thai people paying their respects to Buddha, but then again, I suppose wandering into a British church doesn't necessarily bring about masses of people praying. Thai buddhism, I am also learning, is much more centred on Karma, and doing good to bring about good, rather than the path to self-enlightenment, and so that may have something to do with it. And that's my Buddhist fact of the day


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