A two hour ferry cruise and nine hour bus ride and we were in Bangkok. There, we had enough time to make it to the night bus to Chiang Mai, Thailand’s northern capital and second largest city ( but nowhere as big a Bangkok). The only bus that had any room left was the last one so we had a bit of time to kill, which we decided to spend at some beverage stall down the road from the station to have a few beers with stray dogs and locals. Realizing instantly that we were foreigners, some Thais around a crate on the curb waved us to come over for a beer (served in a glass full of ice). Offerings of cigarettes later and many cheers, we had engaged in a rudimentary conversation. None of them could really speak any English and much less us Thai, but through gestures we managed to exchange some pieces of information. They visibly appeared super stoked that they were spending a moment with us, but it took some time for Jesse and I to shed the suspicion that we had gathered during our stay in more touristic spots in Thailand, where usually when a local comes to you, it’s to get to your wallet. One man kept signing me to go to the stall to order something and at first I thoughts he wanted me to buy him a beer, but eventually, I realized that he wanted me to get myself a glass so he could pour me some of his own. Very nice of him and I also ended up buying him and his friends a beer. One of them even went so far as walking us to our gate at the station and making sure with the attendant that we would board the correct bus. Finally, there was the Thai hospitality mentioned so often in the Lonely Planet guide, but of which I had yet to witness any manifestation. Jesse and I became hopeful again for the next installment of the trip as both of us had gotten really disillusioned with the overly artificial atmosphere reigning king on the islands.
The morning after, we arrived in Chiang Mai and not too motivated towards browsing the massive hostel selection of the city, we settled for the first sensible one we came across. There, we took possession of our beds, dropped off our travelling apparatus and after an internet session headed out for a walk around town. Chiang Mai is famous for being a spiritual center as well so temples are abundant as are monks dressed in their Buddhist costumes. Thai temples are quite pretty and somewhat peculiar in their architectures, which is a striking departure from that which I had seen everywhere else Asia. But with any buildings of this type, its only a game of outdoing the neighboring temple so soon enough we became saturated, or “templed out” as they say. While strolling around, we had been handed a couple of flyers advertising Thai boxing fight so we decided that this shall be our Friday night-out but before, we had to find some durian, a quest which for the sake of being concise (and to leave more space for random stories), I have detailed in another post.
After a light street food dinner, we were sitting in a large covered arena waiting for the contenders of the fight. The procession sort of dragged on but soon enough, people were taking jabs and kicks at each other with the crowd cheering around the ring. The first two fights were between men and both ended in knockouts while the following combats were to be between females in a tournament form. We stuck around for a couple of confrontations – which were spectacular not by the force of the hits but by the rate of them – and decided that we had seen enough for the night. A quick stop for an overly spicy snack and we were both in bed and fast asleep, in my case from having spent some odd days sleeping on a concrete floor and lastly in a bus.
I dedicated the next day to work and writing but for the evening, Jesse and I met up with Georgia, someone I had met back in Malaysia and who happened to be in town. We again went for a meal at the night food market, took a walk around the absolutely gigantic Saturday market, at which Georgia, her trip drawing to an end, loaded up with souvenirs. Surprisingly, they had a whole lot of nice things there but since I’m not nearly done with my travels, had to abstain from burdening myself up with more things. In the end, the market was so large that we had to tuk-tuk back in town and for a destination picked an Irish bar as I was craving a glass of whisky. After, we headed to Chiang Mai’s party block and chilled there for some time handing roses Georgia had purchased from a street vendor to random men for them to give away to ladies.
In retrospect, we must have been pretty inebriated. Later in front of a 7-Eleven we were planning to go to for snacks, we decided that the fried insect stall was a better food option and purchased for 30 baht a plate full of differently sized crickets, frogs and larvae. In a few minutes me and Jesse had gobbled the whole thing down under the perplexed look of Georgia, who could only muster enough courage to eat one or two grasshoppers. The kindly spirited individuals that we are, we offered some of our fare to every passing tourist, but understandably, fried insect are not a popular thing with foreigner so most would politely refuse our gesture. That being said, we spotted more than a few Thais coming up to the stall for a bag full of fried critters, so it’s not just a tourist thing. This episode would later be referred between the three of us as the “Smörgåsbord“, of which my favorite were the larvae/maggots.
The next day, Jesse and I had planned to leave on our motorcycle trip but that night, we certainly did not go to bed early.