Finally finding time to update the blog, while waiting for my flight to Cambodia.
I took a bus from Nang Rong together with Sean, which made me feel a little less insecure. The ride back to Bangkok took 5,5 hours and the only event worth mentioning was the elderly thai lady next to me, who refused my cookie-offer but took my ornage juice instead and stole the instant coffee sachet from my lunch box when I opened it, wondering what to do with the coffee without hot water and thought at first, she wanted to show me something. Instead, she just stuffed the coffee into her handbag without any sign of thankfulness... Gave me the feeling, I must have missed something :D
I booked the overnight train to Chiang Mai on the same day (I realise a slight preference to covering as much distance and transport as necessary on one day, taking time off for relaxing later) and spent the afternoon in Chinatown. Enjoyed the feeling to be in a place I've been before, and helped myself to another awesome cafe latte at my favorite street vendor.
I left Bangkok with 30 minutes delay at 8 p.m. It remained a mistery to me, why so many travelers are so fond of this trainride. True, it's not necessary to book an accomodation for the night and it's possible to sleep on the train. But I couldn't. The compartment was old, everything was shattering and the compartment shook so heavily that I feared more than once to get thrown out of my bunk. Apart from these inconvenciences, the train was packed with tourists, which somehow spoilt the atmosphere, and the only Thais passing through made a rather creepy impression, which made me feel like I couldn't leave my things unattended for a second. And worst were the toilets. But I have to admit that using a squattoilet at least has the advantage that there is less surfaces to touch with your skin, but trying to keep your balance while the whole compartment is shaking is quite a challenge.
I woke up at half past five, and since my upper bunk had no window, I headed to the board restaurant... Where I found the whole crew lying on the floor and under the tables, sleeping. Feeling like an intruder, I stayed at the open window close to the entrance. Everyone got up at six and I was - rather rudely - offered a coffee, since I was apparantly blocking the narrow gangway. I didn't care and chose a table next to an open window, where I watched the beautiful northern landscape fly by for the next two hours. The coffee was rubish by the way. Brown soup with lacking taste, no wonder they add large amounts of creamer and sugar.
I arrived in Chiang Mai at 10 a.m., got to deejai backpackers hostel without problems and sensed on arrival that something typical for a typical backpackerhostel would happen... I had booked a 4 bed dorm with fan (meaning: one fan for four people) and since there were no lockers in the dorms, I made the guess that some of my stuff would get stolen. Wrong guess.
Mosquitos are a problem in the north and so I hung up my mosquitonet, stringing it to the bedposts with dental floss (I love those little moments, when you realise, how variable the stuff in your pack is). The construction was admired by all of my roommates and I wish I had taken a picture...
I did nothing special that day, just walking around the neighbourhood. Went over to the hostel garden in the evening, which in my opinion is the place to hang out in the hostel. Met others, had a lot of names to learn (I was asked to repeat them and said "Shit" instead of "George", because I couldn't remember his name. Opened all doors instantly, I guess :D) and enjoyed my first night out, exploring Chiang Mai's bar scenery.
Got back at 2.30 in the morning and stayed in the front garden, when my German roommate Cosima came down to tell me, that the guy in the upper bunk had just thrown up on my bed... Selffulfilling prophecy?! His girlfriend tried to clean up the mess (they had celebrated her birthday and I felt so sorry for her), apologising over and over again. He ruined my mosquitonet and luckily that was the only thing that got into his way. But best of all, I got a spare bed, which was located in a private room with aircon, tv, fridge and balcony and was allowed to keep it for the rest of my stay without extra charge.
Feeling hung over the next day, the only senseful thing I did was to subscribe for a cooking class the next day. Getting around Chiang Mai is best done on a scooter and I heard dozens of stories about people crashing scooters due lack of experience, overestamating themselves or the combination of both. The outcome was visible in the hostel front garden, where the scooters where parked. Which made me feel uncertain if this is the place to give the whole thing a try. Chiang Mai is not a hectic city but most of the streets are one way and there's traffic 24/7.
The cooking class was great fun, at an organic farm where most of the ingredients are grown. It was only me and a chinese "photographer", which was kind of funny, since he interrupted our teachers explanations every two minutes to take a photo. She took it with more patience than I could have offered, and I took it easy, since I was not in a rush amd enjoyed the day on the farm.
I was glad that I talked to Des about my doubts to rent a scooter, because he agreed to join me and visit the mountain temple the next day.
Went to watch the soccer match Germany vs USA in the night, which was fun, since Adam (American) was with us. Everyone was convinced that Germany is going to win the world cup. Don't ask me why, I wasn't.
Scooter rent the next morning. Felt nervous and dropped it at the first traffic light (100 m from the hostel). Fortunately no damage on my body and the scooter, just the lesson not to pull the eccelerator and brakes at the same time while trying to turn right...
Lost Des and another girl, who joined us, after a couple of minutes, which is pretty bad in a traffic system with many one way streets. But they were so kind to wait for me and I was proud that I had mastered the first difficulties myself.
The way up to the temple was rewarding after all the worries and doubts. I think, I will never win a race on a scooter, but I felt safer with every meter and I was happy to lose my scooter virginity, since I enjoyed the feeling of independence straight away. Won't be my last scooter ride for sure.
Learned another lesson on the way back. It's a bad idea to have only one person on the team, who knows the way back to the hostel. We lost Des in the traffic and missed the last opportunity to turn left for kilometers. While Des was back at the hostel after half an hour, it took us more than two to make our way back. But suddenly having other problems on my mind helped me a lot with my scooter riding progress.
I had difficulties with the decision, whether to extend my stay in Chiang Mai or not. I hadn't seen and done everything I wanted to see and do, but some of my hostel mades were about to leave to Pai and that seemed tempting aswell.
Since I got my private for 4 nights and might have had to change the room, I decided to leave with the others. I joined Oli and Twaney and booked the bus to Pai the next morning. Aart went on his scooter and we met him later at the hostel.
The busride was the worst I have had in my life so far. We were sure that our driver was on drugs and he drove like crazy. The 3 hour minibusride to Chiang Mai covers 762 curves, perfect for feeling motion sick. Never a problem for me in the past, but this driver pushed me over the edge. Glad that I had my chewing gum in the handluggage. Nothing happened, I just couldn't enjoy the ride as much as the others did and tried to concentrate on the view through the window instead of having chat with others. Was happy to have Oli on the bus. I just listened, while he was talking to them and his sarcastic remarks made me giggle every once and a while. (I still remember two of my farvorite quotes "The last thing I want to do before I die is to be really unhappy for at least six hours" (when talking about the risk of taking a speedboat to Lao, since they have the reputation to be uncomfortable and lose passangers from time to time) and "I'm trying not to do that many temples. I want to visit Angkor Wat not thinking "Oh look a pile of rocks. And I paid for that."). I suppose, it's the comedy of the situation, which is probably not transferable, but it made me feel a lot better.
Tawney chose the hostel, named Circus school, and it turned out to be a good choice. Not in the center of Pai, but with a beautiful view over the valley and the mountains in the distance. And it was circus school indeed, with artists practising for fireshows etc. We shared a dorm, which was literellaly basic, but different. Sleeping in a bamboo hut on a bamboo bunk bed without solid walls and a free standing floor, made of - guess what - bamboo, was a new experience for me and I found it pretty exciting (as long as you can prevent your younger pyromanic travelmates from burning the place down (and they had lots of ideas, e.g. mosquito coils, candles, inscent coans on a cardboardbox and trowsers, tranked with liquor while Tawney was wearing them).
In fact those little crazy ideas were the spice in my Pai-trip-soup, and since being grown-up somehow and probably way too reasonable, I sometimes envy you guys for your sometimes stupid, but always funny and entertaining actions.
I spent the first afternoon with Oli, Beth and Clare (two girls that arrived on the same bus as we did), exploring one of the many waterfalls in the area. I sat on the back of the scooter, while Oli drove, because there weren't enough scooters available for all of us, and was ever since called the "Copilot". Though I felt like lacking orientation from the first day on, so did a bad job probably :D
We rode through the beautiful landscape around Pai and I felt more than sorry that I had left all my SD-cards at the hostel
At the waterfall, we met Jaan and John. It started raining heavily minutes later and we decided to get back to town. Jaan offered us to take us to an indian restaurant, which turned out to be a very good choice.
I gave the reggae festival that night a miss, since I felt worn out after 4,5 hours of sleep the night before and the horrible busride. All the others went and I'm sure that I missed something, but wouldn't have been a good company anyway, so that was alright.
We actually intended to head to a waterfall with pools you can bathe in, but ended up in an even cooler place. Though cool is definetly the wrong word for a natural hot spring. If Oli hadn't told me that he has never been to a hot spring before, I wouldn't have picked that, since we had an airtemperature of 36 degrees. But it turned out to be a good decision. Always being entertaining without wanting to, I slipped on one of the stones and fell in one of the pools >.< Cuts under my toes, but no further injuries.
Ended up in a bar called Edible Jazz that night. Unfortunately, most of the bars closed at midnight. Oli was tired and being the only person I trusted to carry me on the back of a scooter without causing an accident (I can't count the horrible stories I heard and the wounds and bandages I saw. Seemed like crashing a scooter was part of other peoples' bucket list), I followed him home.
We actually planned to do a hiking tour the next day, but the Pai atmosphere made me drousy. It's literellaly a hang out, perfect place for being lazy. Could have stayed in the hammock at our hostel for the whole day.
We made it to town in the evening and ran into John at a restaurant called Burger Queen. You would never expect such delicious burgers in a small town like Pai! Another Oli-comment I remember "You could lose a limb getting between her and that burger". True.
I extended my stay for another night, giving up on the idea to make my way back to Bangkok via Sukothai and Ayutthaya. Went out that night with Chloe, Ruby and John. Took dextrometorphan droplets to suppress the coughing, cause it hurts in the muskles under my right rips. Bad idea to combine them with beer. Felt like standing next to myself half of the evening... Fortunately that effect wore off when we got to one of the few bars that is open until the next morning. Would have missed many funny stories, like the men who didn't notice they were in the ladies toilet, and, even better, the drunk girl that found a very "ladylike" way to use a urinal. Gave the Germany vs Algeria match a miss, which turned out to be another good decision.
Planned again to do a hiking trip the next day, didn't do it yet again. Which made me sure it was time to leave Pai. There's not that much to see and do around there and then doing nothing is quite a waste of time. It was good to take a break, but I felt like I had to cut myself loose from the place, otherwise getting stuck there for too long. And I was glad, I had booked the flight to Cambodia when I was back at home, so I had some kind of appointment to get back to Bangkok.
Unfortunately there was no direct connection from Pai to Bangkok, so I booked a minibus trip to Chiang Mai for the next morning, hoping to find a quick bus connection back in Chiang Mai.
I felt a little depressed on my last day in Pai. It wasn't about Pai itself, it was more about leaving the others. Got so used to their pleasant company in the past week and it upset me somehow, that we would go separate ways soon.
Enjoyed the last night out with them never the less. Got back to the hostel at around four in the morning. Oli offered me a lift to the busterminal, but since we were both pretty drunk, I changed my mind about this the next morning. Everything around Pai is within walking distance and I felt like I needed the motion to sober up a bit.
Still not used to letting go I have to admit, it was hard to say goodbye. But I think I got the most honest hugs in my life
I will finish this entry at this point, because I want to thank you guys for giving me such a great time in Chiang Mai and Pai! Will miss you dearly and hope we can stay in touch somehow and meet again maybe one day. Safe & happy travels to all of you, take care of yourselves and your stuff (especially you, Aart )