It’s beginning to look a lot like winter here today. After a few very emotional and tiring weeks, what better time to resume my trip down memory lane and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, in Thailand?
The next couple of days in Bangkok were quiet. I experienced the first torrential rain since my arrival, which kept us inside one afternoon. We waded through some flooded streets that evening on our way to dinner at the home of the parents of another of Sarah’s students.
On our final day before heading out to experience more of the country, we roamed around the city. We visited the Isaan Village that had been set up around Government House by people protesting the building of a dam that had destroyed their fishing and their rice paddies. We had a ride in one of the Khlong* boats which carry passengers and floating markets up and down the polluted canals that wander throughout the city. Then we boarded an evening train for Chiang Mai.
At 5:15 am I wrote in my journal:
“We have been travelling all night on the train to Chiang Mai. It has been reasonably comfortable with the seats folded out into beds. I think I went to sleep at about 9:00 pm, exhausted after our day of roaming the city.
The train isn’t air-conditioned, but there are ceiling fans and open windows. At night screens and shutters cover the windows. I haven’t tried the toilets yet, after Kendrick’s negative description. I’m hoping I can hold off until we arrive in Chiang Mai. Even then I’ll have to use the squat type, which I find hard to get used to. I thought Sarah had said we’d arrive at 5:00 am, but everyone is still sleeping. A shower and some breakfast would be nice. Some people are starting to stir now.”
I soon discovered that in Thailand, scheduled time has little meaning. We were still on the train at 7:30.
“We’re still on the train but everyone is awake. The seats are back and the windows are open to a beautiful, sunny day. The country is gorgeous – tree covered mountains, lotus growing in the ponds, and a little cooler temperatures. Our new arrival time was supposed to be 7:30 so we should be in Chiang Mai soon.”
We arrived in Chiang Mai at around 8:00 am and had just enough time to grab some breakfast at an outdoor café, where a roll of “toilet” paper set in the centre of the table served as napkins, before catching a tuktuk to the airport. Chiang Mai was not our destination that day. We boarded a plane for Maehongson, which cost only ten baht more than my room at the Atlantis!
*The Thai capital Bangkok was crisscrossed by khlong and so gained the name Venice of the East. The khlongs were used for transportation and for floating markets, but also for sewage. Today, most of the khlongs of Bangkok have been filled in and converted into streets, although the Thonburi side of Bangkok (covering areas west of Chao Phraya River) still retains several of its larger khlongs.
Central Bangkok has the Khlong Saen Saeb, which is a route for a boat service that remains a vital public transportation function in the traffic-congested capital. (Wikipedia)