It was love at first tuk tuk. Even though I’m melting into a salty puddle onto the streets of Chiang Mai, there was instant appeal after living in one of the Asian Tiger’s supercities.
Everything is GREEN. Hallelujah. Last night, Hannah and I boarded an overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in an air conditioned sleeper car. I had never been on a train quite like this. Sleeping was like being strapped into a roller coaster. And come morning, the landscape opened up to us in its full enchanting beauty. Hannah found a spot to hang off the guardrail, feel the breeze, and wave to passersby.
Tourists. Tourists everywhere. Bangkok is the backpacker’s hub of Asia so there is no shortage of tattooed moms and their babies dressed in hemp, dreaded surfers, or gap year partiers. And on the streets here, everybody wants something from you. Most notably, your baht. We stayed on a noted street for tourists, Khao San Road, which makes you a target for this kind of solicitation. But you don’t have to necessarily be crafty to avoid getting ripped off. They will offer you outrageous deals for boat rides to Wat Arun or tuk tuks to Cowboy Street where young Thai prostitutes lead around elderly white Western men. Jordan’s teacher had an interesting method of dealing with them that I only got to try once. Also, this is under the presumption that you will barter it down. My rule of thumb is to start with half of what they offer if you’re unsure.
Of the temples in Bangkok, Wat Arun was by far my favorite, but Wat Pho and the Golden Mountain are also worth seeing. I am eager to see what Thailand has to offer outside of Bangkok.
With an exchange rate of 30 to 1, Thailand has proven to be a fantasy for those of us coming out of Tokyo and Seoul.
I am writing this from a guesthouse that costs 150 baht a night over a mango shake that is upwards 30 baht. And the food! Tom yum and green curry and coconut on every corner. The heat and spice from the soups is almost unbearable in the 40 C/95 F sun blanket, but only just almost. Water is constantly on your mind. We have escaped daily into the massage houses that cover Khao San and these Thai grandmas have undone the damage done by sleeping on travel beds for months.
We hope to see a nearby Wat before trekking to some nearby waterfalls today.
Also…I’ve been writing this on my phone while I wait for the air to cool enough to sleep.