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Into the light in Chiang Mai

Bangkok is a toilet!

Welcome to to The Good Will Hostel.. nestling in for a well deserved sleep after wait for it - a 14 hour and a half train journey to our temporary home Chiang Mai, a city about the size of Cork according to Wikepedia Murphy( tell him so anyway!). I will dream I hope of the Asian countryside tonight. The journey here was memorable with amazing scenes of lush yellow and green fields for hundreds of miles. Banana fields, the infamous paddy rice fields and wheat terrains are luscious and rich. One wonders who is profiting from this productive enterprise! I noticed along the way that the land is often subject to intruders of the bird kind. Scores of white birds lay on the paddy fields and lonely birds that are either pelicans or herons cast a lonely shadow over the muddy paddy fields. Scarecrows are alive and kicking out here, a simple attempt to keep the scavengers at bay... a scene reminiscent of 1940s Ireland?

Leaving Bangkok was not a mournful exercise. To be honest it is an incredibly strange place. We felt the usual small fish in the big pond syndrome as we strolled our way around Sumkhumvit. The heavy air of smog and scents of Thai cooking after awhile would make you squirm. It's a sight for sore eyes with beggars prevalent. Sadly, we saw to many little children just lying beside their begging mother, unaware of how disturbing it appeared. I saw one fat rat but dodged him swiftly!Having said that, we didn't feel threatened or see danger rear it's ugly head. Bangkok is pretty dirty and there is a clear and distinct divide between the rich and the poor. Travelling by train, you could easily see this social divide as shanty style houses hung decrepitdly close to the mansions of the Asian rich and powerful. The majestic Buddhist temples ordorned in yellow gold are significant landmarks as are the sight of small alters dedicated to their gods. Now, if you ever are offered a boat ride in this place, tell them you are other wise engaged. It is a rip off and you'd want personal security to save you on the Tuk Tuk! No Quinn Insurance out here. Sure we loved the whizz and excitement for a few minutes and all part of the experience!

Chiang Mai is streets apart from the usual Western notion of a city. Like all of Thailand I'm told these cities have maintained a certain degree of natural integrity, a legacy of the Royal past and present influences. Clearly Thailand has not been westernised unlike colonised areas in other parts of SE Asia. Our plan was to take the sleeper locomotive up North but it wasn't possible to book the night excursion. And I was secretly delighted. I just didn't fancy travelling by night and greeting the dawn with exhaustion. I 'aint AS hard and tough as my fellow companion.

The train service is quite basic here. I think Iarnoid Eireann import their carriages from this side of the world. I'm showing my age here but I have clear memories of the confines of the Dublin to Ennis line. It was not a pretty trip. It was either too cold with a draf that would knock you over from the gaps in the windows or too hot and clammy when the train was crammed with Clare, Limerick and Kerry passengers. The toilets were always mouldy and the facilities here are pretty similiar. The slosh and dripping from the mini power hose used to flush the toilet takes a bit of adjusting. I am now practising the lotus position, assuming the squat postion. My mantra: I am a nature bird. I am flexible!!!

And now to bed on the hardest mattress in the world.... good nite, lights out in Chiang Mai or Tenko!!!

Posted by steakie 11:32

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Hi Niamh, read you write up, yes that is how I remember it, was fortunate never to travel on the trains, but had a bus stop at some restourant along to Pataya, and even I had to pee, I could not. Enjoy your Trip and be safe. Ingrid

by Ingrid Britz

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