04.02.2009 - 08.02.2009 3 °C
Last time I reported in we were all set to go to the famous waterfalls near Kanchanaburi - which we did!
We grabbed a local bus and enjoyed a 2 ish hour ride though the countryside. Great bus - the back door was held open with rope so I sat right by it on the back seat - almost like air conditioning, though I always had a hand firmly grasped to the back of my seat!
The waterfalls are 2km "high" and it is a good old climb to get up to the 7th (top) fall. With some cute bridges....
I managed, once again, to kick a tree stump and smash off my healing toe nail. I'm getting used to it now. The walk (and pain) was worth it though...
On the way up we noticed loads of huge fish in the pools...
... which I discovered bite you if you stand still in the water - a very odd feeling, and it totally freaked us out. But still, I braved it :-)
Next stop was Chiang Mai - a long way up into the North of Thailand.
We caught a Government bus back to Bangkok (2.5 hours and about £1) - at one point, two Thai guys got on, spoke to the driver, then punched him in the face! then promptly walked off - I guess the driver cut them up. When we got to the bus station the driver (the punched one) asked us where we were going next, suspicious that he was going to tuck us up I reluctantly told him, "The train station", and then, to our surprise, he kindly told us which bus to catch - most helpful! We got a local bus from the bus depot to the train station - 20 pence and another hour. We are feeling quite smug now. We are regularly using public transport as it is dirt cheap compared to tourist coaches and taxis and you get a good Thai experience.
Not having prebooked anything I tried to get 2 tickets to Chiang Mai in a 1st class private sleeper cabin, but alas, they were sold out so we grabbed 2 second class sleeper tickets - half the price though! :-)
After chilling for a few hours in a bar we boarded our train. It was pretty darn good. The lady who told us our beds were (together) lied. We were sat each side of the train - opposite each other. We both had top bunks. The bottom bunks are almost twice the width of the top ones so people book them in preference. They had double beds, we had submarine bunks.... still - who cares - you are only going to sleep right? Mind you, being that we were sleeping above strangers meant we had to go to bed when they wanted to, and when we got up, they had to, or we'd have nowhere to sit.
Fortunately the Thai woman on K's side let us sit together until bed time so we could watch a movie and eat together.
Kirstin slept like a log. She loved the rocking motion. I fared less well, but we got there alive.
I will admit, I stunk so bad after all that traveling I had to wash myself in my bed with the blanket and a bottle of drinking water - phew! I was minging!
We arrived at Chiang Mai at 7.30 am and , now well versed in the experience, ignored all the taxi and accommodation touts and sat down for a coffee or two. Half an hour later, the dust had settled and we got a cheap cab to our hotel. Which was opposite a huge sound system , set up for the Chiang Mai flower festival. We moved the next day and now we are in a lovely hideaway in the back streets, paying £8 a day for a good room with a fan. No need for air con. It's hot but not unbearably so. It is a touch cooler up north, and all the better for it.
We have had a lazy explore, and stumbled into the flower parade...
(I know I know, no flowers - but these peeps were colourful, and loud)
We have also had a good walk around the bars....
.. and even went to a "reggae bar" - although they played techno!?!?!
Walking the streets is a real eye opener. Chiang Mai is 100% nicer than Bangkok - I think it is like how "Bristol" is to "London", and the prices are way cheaper here. As little as 38 Baht (70p) for a beer compared to the usual 60-70 Baht in Bangkok.
I say it is an eye opener because we somehow manage to walk down all the "red light" streets. It seems the sex trade is booming here. The format is always the same - bar with pool table, several scantily "dressed" Thai girls sitting around, lots of middle aged (and a lot older) English and Dutch men choosing their lady (they hope), for the night. Not the type of people we'd share bar space with. Rather creepy and sad.
We rented a scooter last night and subsequently took a 17k ride up the mountain to see the Wat at Doi Suthep - the most famous one here. A very scenic ride too.
(It was very busy, being Sunday and a big Thai festival too where they all flock to the Wats)
(The 319 odd stairs up to the temples, flanked by Nagas with tails that run all the way up)
(I was the slutty one this time, I had to cover my legs in a rather fetching wrap around thingie)
(Hard to take a pic of something opaque)
(At least they painted the scaffolding gold!)
(The main Buddha inside a temple)
(An ornate building, not a Buddha)
(These are everywhere, I think you ring them for good luck)
(Another beautifully ornate building)
(Something is missing from this picture......)
(Oh yes! Me! - This one is for you, Michael ;-) )
A really beautiful place and a lovely ride through the country.
Back at base now and downloading loads of movies on the free internet. We have even been to "Tesco Lotus" and got ourself a £1 polystyrene ice box so we can make a "fridge" for our room - we are spending time in there catching up on the new "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica" in the evenings. Sad but true. After over a year of traveling so far, we like our creature comforts.
(Riding down the lanes back to our place. A very carefully, and gingerly self portrait on the move)