i still don't know if i do like this city or if i hate it. but then who cares, at the moment i'm actually enjoying it. got here early this morning after i had spent 24h on melbourne airport and i can tell you i do know every single spot in there by now. i didn't go into town, the weather was not the nicest (actually i was freezing) and it would have cost a fair bit as well.
the trip on the plane boring as usual, the food soso and i was quite tired when i got here. so i slept the whole morning and then went on the search for my ticket back to good old germany (bah!). i think i got a quite good deal, i paid 10600 baht (100 baht = 2,3 US $ = 2,3 Euro) for the single ticket to frankfurt, to get to duesseldorf would have been 600 baht more and even with the train fare to dortmund it was still cheaper to go to frankfurt. so i'll be back in some time and i know by now already that the time will fly by just like nothing.
i think i will go up to chiang mai the day after tomorrow, they offer a quite good deal to get up by bus including one night accomodation for 300 baht. and then i will see what i'm going to do next. i want to go to this place with the caves and after i found derrik's notes back i have got an explanation how to get there. might spent a few weeks up in the north and then head slowly over to laos. but everything is still open. my tourist visa lasts till 29.11. so by then i have to get out of the country somehow anyway.
till now nothing spectacular has happened, i bought a new handbag... and at the moment i'm waiting to get my hair cut. i hope she knows what she's doing and doesn't cut of to much, i'll see in a while.
this morning i went back to this travel agency, i made a mistake yesterday, telling them it would be alright for me to pick up my ticket when i come back. thinking about it i got really into "and what if this is just a rip off?". so i asked them to get my ticket now. i should be able to pick it up tomorrow by 5pm. then i'll actually call kuwait airlines as well just to make sure i'm really booked on that flight. i hate surprises (although i wouldn't mind staying for longer).
anyway, i thought i might go somewhere else then kaosan, so i bargained with one of these tuk tuk drivers to get me to siam square (wanted to have a look for some software). after a little struggle we agreed on 50 baht. shortly after we started the trip of course the same story again. "we make one stop? jewellery cheap?" - "no we don't make one stop we go to siamsquare!" it was going on and on and at the end i agreed to go to one shop, as long as i don't have to buy anything there. no, only ten minutes in the shop and he would get his petrol coupon (that's what all this huzzle is about usually). so i went into this place and left after ten minutes leaving a fairly annoyed clerk back. but after that no problems anymore straight to siam square and off i went. bugger, these shopping centres are massive it's easy to get lost in them.
of course i didn't get my software. i actually never found a place selling some. but i got this thai for beginners with three tapes (no way learning thai just out of a book). after spending some hours around that area i decided it would be time to go back. 200 baht for the tuk tuk - hahaha and then it started to rain as well, so i went back into one of these centres and waited another hour or so. i didn't go back to these tuk tuk drivers, just crossed the road and asked some others. they started with 100 baht as usual and i paid at the end 70 baht - but no more stoppings for jewellery cheap cheap.
back in kaosan i thought i might better look for a cassette recorder, i mean what am i going to do with my thai tapes when i can't listen to them. bargaining again. okay, i got him down to half the price (still a fair bit 330 baht) just to figure out that i didn't have enough money. my goodness, that guy was really pissed off. it took me some time to get to the bank with my cheque but i really went back and bought that recorder- much to his surprise. well, anytime i might think i get bored (never) i can listen to these tapes now, no, i really thought about taking one hour a day and really learn, otherwise i'll get nowhere with that.
so, besides that i don't think i'll loose any weight while i'm here (i can eat all the time, it's just so yummie) nothing really has happend....
so i'm still in bangkok, but not for long anymore. tonight i'm taking the bus up to chiang mai. but before i go i thought i might write about the last experiences.
so, yesterday i decided it would be time for me to see the grand palace. being the third time in bangkok i really should go for it. so i started walking and of course you're surounded by tuk tuk drivers straight away. well, to get to the grand palace from here is really walking distance. but no, i got told it wouldn't be open at that time of the day and i could go to see lots of other wats while waiting for it to open, cheap cheap of course. i mean i'm not that stupid, so i told them it wouldn't matter i would wait. rubbish of course, but you get used to these stupid things they tell you just to get a fare. anyway so i walked down to the palace and was amazed at the amount of tourbuses standing in front of it. not that i didn't expect any tourgroups there, but that many????
anyway, i thought i had dressed myself properly but no, my shoes weren't alright, so i had to borrow shoes (which is free of charge) and to get socks as well (which costs you 15 baht). so i've got a new pair of socks, something i really needed. and of course you walk in there and see all these thai people in open shoes without socks!!!
who cares, i really wanted to see the palace so i didn't bother that much. it's an amazing place but it was so crowded, i think i'll never get used to these hordes of tourist walking in groups following their guides (follow the umbrella). i took a fair bit of photos (seems i'm starting to become a good tourist again) and the photos might look fake, because i managed to take them without people on them.
i really enjoyed the wall paintings you find on this wall surrounding the wat and there are less tourists walking along them as well. some of the stories i recollected but for most you need an explanation. but still they are just beautiful. i think i stayed there for about three hours but then it was really enough. you just can take in so much and then it starts giving you headaches.
on the way back i got lost as usual. i don't know why but this big crossing at the national theatre always confuses me and i think till now i never took the right way back in the first place. i always have to ask for directions (feeling fairly stupid when people point out that the place you want to go to is just across the road).
the afternoon i spent having a siesta reading a bit and eating of course. it's horrible with all these foodstalls there's always something to nibble on. if it goes on like this i'm going to be fat when i get back home.
at 5pm i could pick up my ticket, it looked like a proper ticket but because i'm not very trustful i gave kuwait airlines a call to make sure they had me in the computer. okay, i was in and they told me i've to reconfirm my ticket about five days before i'm flying out. that shouldn't be too hard.
the evening i spent with malcom, paul, sarah, richard and some of our thai staff. it was really nice. you sit there chat along. all the others were just starting with there travelas and fairly excited. so i told them a few stories (the strange ones of course) and after a while we figured out that we all were hungry again. so we went out and bought heaps of different things to eat. this is something i really love, having all this different food on the tabel, really nice company and sharing a midnight feast (time is flying by when you're having fun). actually paul went off with one of the thaigirls clubbing (no, not punching. it's australian slang: going out to nightclubs) (he's the youngster) and as it seems they got into an argument and were fairly pissed off with each other. richard told us about that this morning, but he said it was fairly hard to figure out what it was all about because both were drunk and shouting at him at the same time. paul might put this under experience, one not to go through again.
i spent this morning with sarah, she's a really lovely woman from england, and now she's off to the palace and i've got to wait for my bus to leave. so i don't think anything exciting will happen today. bustrips are boring anyway especially with a 13 h drive through the night.
so that's actually all the news from bangkok, next news will come from chiang mai.
isn't it funny you decide nothing exciting will happen for the rest of the day and about half an hour later everything has changed again. i met this aussiegirl in our guesthouse and believe it or not she had been working in a school in japan where they teach english through drama and are desperate for halfway qualified people. seems i might not go for my tefl course in thailand but instead apply directly for this job. they've got several schools in and around tokyo (why has it to be this city?). so another plan....
anyway, i left bangkok that night and went on this bus up to chiang mai, nothing special about this trip besides that instead of listening to thai music or watching indian soap operas, they showed one american movie (don't ask). arriving in chian mai we were taken by this little taxis into town and to this fancy guesthouse (swimmingpool and everything). i must admit i was impressed (there was this deal of one night accomodation for free combined with the busticket). and i was even more impressed by this thai woman who got most people with her smile and little jokes. she sold to everyone who wanted to go for this hiking trip not the ones they had been thinking about but the most expensive one without even giving them the chance to make a choice. but of course that trip goes to an area where no other tour is going to - i just wonder why everyone else in town is selling the same trip with the same explanation and what they do if they meet each other out there.... so that was part one of making money, part two was even better. because most people just come up here for the hiking they don't have a lot of time or think it's too much of an effort to have a look around and check prices. so what she did was giving everyone one of her bright smiles and saying if they didn't get there visa for laos in bangkok bad luck because in chiang mai it costs 900 baht for 15 days. what a rubbish, but if people want to be fooled own choice.
and then came the most disappointing part for me, instead of getting my room in this fancy place i was driven at bit further out of the centre (about 20 min walk) to hotel paradise. it's sometimes funny how places get there names, the only really nice thing about that place was the swimmingpool. otherwise it was just average, which wouldn't bother me, but it wasn't even one of the cheapest ones. so i walked back into town (i hate these maps they never show you the right way) and had a good look around in the centre. at the end i found a place to move in the next day (i'm not giving up one nights accomodation when it is for free). the rest of the day i spent fairly relaxed, surrounded by hordes of israelis, went for a swim, read a fair bit and went for an early night sleep.
sunday morning i packed up my gear and walked back into town to get to rose guesthouse. i got a single room for 80 baht, so that's okay with me. although i had seen a fair bit the day before i went for a walk to figure out where i was, to get a bangkok post (newspaper) and to order my visa for laos. i think i did quite well, my visa costs me 1400 baht for a month instead of 1700 or more. i can pick it up on thursday afternoon. with that most of my things are sorted and i can go for a good time.
the evening i spent nearly 4h on the sunday market. it was really fantastic and besides an ashtray for 5 baht i didn't buy anything (the chickencurry, the fried bananas and the lemongrass juice don't count). but i know when i'll get back there (all a question of timing) i might spend some money..... at the end i gave myself a treat - a 10 min footmassage, something i really needed after all that walking.
this morning i had a stroll around some other parts of the old city. i went to wat jedee and to the buag haad city park. actully i needed some time to consider something. at the end i made my mind up and from tomorrow on i start learning thai in a one to one situation. just with the tapes and the book i'm not getting anywhere. but those will be a good help not to forget what i'll learn. well, the rest of the morning i spent walking through these small roads having a look at wat phra sing where i met this nice novice who told me about himself a bit (he started the conversation!).
of course, because it's monday the lanna museum was closed. but then i'll stay here for another ten days anyway, so heaps of time to see all different places. i actually might hire a bicycle for a few days to get out of the centre (but not to get to that wat up the hill...).
now it's time for my siesta...
after my siesta i decided to make the try and ask for a special price for my room. and as usual it worked out fine. so i paid them my rent for the next ten days in advance. because of the thai language course i have to stay here anyway and the place i'm staying is not too bad. so now i pay only 65 baht per night, quite a fair deal.
in the evening i tried to find the place where there are the foodstalls for the night. got nearly lost and wasn't succesfull at all. actually some of the areas i walked through were fairly dark and of course i got nearly run over by a motorbike (one of these days they'll get me either the motorbikes or the tuk tuks). at the end i ended up on loi kroh rd. now i know where most of the tourists are at nighttime and where you can find all these lonely western guys and the not very decent dressed thai women (nice description). but i also found something to eat on one of the foodstalls. no noodlesoup because i had already two during the day.
getting back to my guesthouse i sat down in the restaurant for a while and was accompanied by a chinese guy from california, who was on his first trip through asia.
anyway this morning i went for my first thai lesson, bugger, it is as hard as i thought. but i tried to practise as much as i could during the day (which was not a lot). it's quite hard because you have to concentrate very much for two hours and then you sit down and write everything down in a readable way (actually first i went for a walk, after two hours sitting on your bum you do need some exercise).
of course i had to have a siesta afterwards, what else do you do around lunchtime. it didn't last as long as the day before, so there was heaps of time to do something else. so i went back to the lanna museum or also called the chiang mai city arts and culture centre. i spent over three hours in there and i think i kept the poor girls working there waiting for me to close the place. i was the only foreigner there and there were only very few thai at the same time. okay it's not cheap to get in (90 baht) but it's worth it. it's full of displays, videos and informations. far too much to get into your brain in one visit but still i enjoyed it and would really recomend it to every one coming to this place to get some information about history, culture and society of the chiang mai area. now i'm fairly tired and hungry again, so i better finish this and got to get a bite.
wednesday morning i met this guy brian from tasmania (i feel like i'm followed by tasmanians. i'm not sure if there are any living in germany as well). he and i had a quite nice chat about how to learn thai (he speaks thai fairly well) and how difficult it is to get it right. anyway, he actually told me that in nan they are desperate for english teachers and if i would find my way to nan i could stay at his appartment and he would introduce me to the teachers there. nice one, seems i'm just stepping over jobs all the time. joy, my thai teacher had me already asked if i would like to work at her school as an english and german teacher, any time i would come back i can get a job with her. what else do you want.
after my thai lesson i went for a long walk. i always feel like some exercise after sitting two hours concentrated over this language. so i walked down to narawat bridge to see what there would be on the other side of the ping river. not much actually, some nice old buildings, some very posh places as well but otherwise nothing really special. crossing back over the footbridge i came pass the warorot market and got my supply of fruits for the next days. the way back i spent window shopping. most of the things are just too expensive. which is not too bad because that keeps me off going shopping and spending money.
getting back to my place i figured out that i had been out for three hours. i never realise how much time i spent walking around but i think it's an average of 4-6 hours a day.
after my siesta i went out to have a look at the nightmarket. another 3 hours and i nearly got lost. it's fun just walking along all the stalls but i prefer the sunday market. it's far more space and you don't have to squeeze yourself through the stalls and people and there are far more thais at the weekend market as well. but i found one stall where i spent some time sorting through broken jewellery. now i've got a little bag full of things to fix, gives me something else to do besides doing my homework.
i ended up in the guesthouse just across the street because my place had already closed and i felt like a beer (what a change to australian beer). it was so funny, i always thought men go to thailand for sextourism... anyway, sitting there with a lovely cat on my lap the guys were quite interested in my doings. two of them asked me actually if i would like to be there foreign girl friend, then they could learn english, i could save my rent.... sorry, but i started laughing i thought it really funny. they didn't take it badly and still kept on talking to me but without any other try.
thursday i felt a little bit tired and it's not easy to get your brain started for the next thai lesson.
in the afternoon i could pick up my passport with the laos visa, so that's sorted. i didn't do a lot, relaxed a lot, did my homework as usual and at 6pm i started waiting for joy to come over. she had asked me if we could go out that night. why not. so i sat there and waited for her... and waited... and waited... and then i decided she's even worse then my friends silvia and regina together. so i walked over to her place and there she was sitting, chatting with another woman, smiling at me. i think she had completely forgotten about our date. anyway, we shared a beer, had a chat, but because i was still a bit tired and hungry as well i didn't stay long.
yesterday i went back to warorot market. i wanted to have a look for shoes, trousers and a sarong. i spent about three hours there and around the area as well and got home with a little bag full of bells.... it's just too much, it always takes me a few times going to these big markets to buy what i want (besides the shoes i liked were either too expensive or not my size - seems here i've got size 9-10). i thought not to do anything for the rest of the day, just doing my homework, reading a bit, going for the internet...hahaha. whatever you plan something different happens. joy came over (one day late) and brought israel with her, one of her former students. so the three of us went out. we actually went to this printer shop and sitting between all the machines surrounded by thais we tried to survive. no, it was good fun, but they had a bad drinking habit, everytime you finished a glass it was filled up straight away and no "mai ka!" would stop them. but then they cooked a big meal for us as well. and i must say these men can cook, it was one of the best thai dinners i ever got. four different dishes with rice and soup and it was "aroy ti-sud" (delicious very). later we went out to a pub, joy just didn't want to go back home and i started thinking about my thai lesson in the morning. anyway at the end we ended up in a place where they were showing thai boxing for tourists. after a while i got so tired that i left israel and joy and went back.
so you can imagine how i felt this morning - very tired. that doesn't make learning thai easier, but then who cares, i had a terrific night. so today was one of these i might do nothing besides going for a walk days. well, not really i went for a thai massage (they never understand what i want - i said back massage and got a thai massage, but then that's cheaper anyway). now i feel quite well, but not in the mood of going for another long night with too many beers. so i just might get some noodle soup, grab my book (thor heyerdal at the moment) and go for a nice and quiet evening.
sunday morning i went as usual over to joy for my thai lesson. we only had an hour this time, she was not very well prepared. instead she took me to wat chedi luang. there was some kind of festival going on with a fairly long congregation. so i had to kneel for about an hour. i'm still not good in that, i think a meditation course would kill me, just don't have the patience. anyway after the ceremony was over there was free food for every one, so that was really nice and yummy. afterwards we went for a walk, something i really needed, stretching my legs and getting some exercise.
in the afternoon we went together to the sunday market and i went for some serious shopping (it wasn't that bad i'm still very tight with my money). but i've got a new sarong and a pair of trousers now. there were also some funny things going on at pratu thaphae (gate through the city wall). one of the police stations had put up a stall where you could shoot. "come enjoy shooting with so and so policestation!" and they were also doing a music program, which was the most hilarious part. there were these guys (all policemen) on stage imitating elvis (all four of them) with three girls in the background dressed up like in the fifties and some other girls in the front dancing. sometimes it was rather out of tune and it can hurt your ears i can tell you. but altogether it was just funny. and then malcolm (the guy who stayed at the same guesthouse in bangkok with me) walked pass. so we made a date for later in the evening to have a beer together. i think joy and i spent nearly four hours on the market and this time without having a foot massage at the end.
when we met malcolm again we went over to my place (beer there is far cheaper then in one of the pubs and there is not that loud music going on as well) and had a few beers together exchanging gossip about people we had met in bangkok (somehow nobody knows where sara is, she should be in chiang mai as well, but non of us had heard from her again). it was a really nice night.
but the next day was not as nice. actually i think too much chilli, acid (oranges, pomelos and lemonjuice) and beer just doesn't go well together. i had so much pain in my stomach that i had to skip my thai lesson. instead i went back and stayed most of the day in bed, just to get rid of the pain. it got better in the afternoon which was good, because malcolm and i had planned to get up to doi suthep. so he came over at 3pm to pick me up. we walked to wat phra sing and i started haggling with the busdrivers. one of the drivers and malcolm were laughing all the time while i was working on the price but i think malcolm was quite happy to pay less for the trip at the end.
it's a quite winding steep road up to the wat and it was so fantastic to get out of the town for once and see really lush green vegetation. i really need to get out of town, it's only a few more days but i've got enough now of cities.
the wat is quite beautiful and we got sprinkled with water by a monk and got a good luck string around our wrist and so on. it was just a shame that it was quite dizzy, but it was the same all week long, still the view is great from up there.
back in chiang mai we went into wat phra sing. they were preparing the wat for some kind of a ceremony and the monks seemed fairly busy.
the rest of the evening i didn't do a lot, i went to bed early, just felt still worn out.
but today is another day and because i missed my course yesterday i've got two lessons today. at the moment i've got a break for a few hours till i've got to get back. this is actually the good thing when you are the only student, you can always change times or subjects and i prefer learning one to one anyway. most of the time i either have to read out loud, so that she can correct my pronounciation or i have to write sentences so that i learn how to use the words and then there is a lot of translation to see how the sentences are build as well. so it's quite good. there might be far better qualified teachers then her, but for what i wanted the course she's allright.
my tuesday was really filled up with learning and i tried to use my time to do some study for myself and actually have some exercise as well. sitting all day long makes you feel stiff otherwise. in the evening malcolm came over to see how it was going. we had a couple of beers and went for a banana-pancake. i invited him to come over early the next morning to join me for breakfast (i mean early as in early).
he actually managed to get up and we went to my little place, she cooks really good food and is always smiling when she sees me and sometimes we try to have a chat in a mixture of thai and english. otherwise the day went as usual, thailesson, long walk, siesta, lemonjuice, a bite to eat and so on. i really felt more and more that i had enough of cities so i just couldn't have been bothered to do much. but malcolm and i got an e-mail from sara, that she was in town (at last) and was going out with a few people to the great view restaurant. so i went over to malcolm's place to see what he was up to. we decided to get something to eat first (all the places at the ping river are not in my price class and we found out that it was a wise move when we got there). on the way to that restaurant malcolm told me that i'm his german tutor in economizing. well there was not a lot about that in the great view. we shared a jug of beer which costed 170 baht. that's ridicolous! anyway we waited there and waited and waited (why is it always women i'm waiting for) and about 1 1/4 hours later sara arrived but not with just some people it was like masses storming into that place. we had a chat with her and then decided that it was better to look out what the pancake man was doing.
thursday was my last day in chiang mai and my last day with joy. it was funny, i got her to write me down everything i need to order any kind of food (i mean that's the most important you have to know or rather i want to know) and then we went shopping to a centre a bit out of the inner city. it was embarrassing. i tried to buy a pair of shoes, cheaply of course, after two hours we gave up because i was not prepared to cut my toes off to fit in a pair of shoes. i know i don't have small feet, but that was a bit hard. they finish at size 40, which is usually my size, but with their sizes compared i might have 42!
so we had lunch together and that was another embarrassment. we ordered some rice with green curry for me and a noodlesoup for joy. she didn't even finish half of it telling me she already had a lot to eat - two bananas and a coffee. so i finished the soup as well....
because i left her that day she gave me a little silverbox as a present, so nice of her. i think we both had quite a lot of fun together. the rest of the day just went by, but malcolm had moved into the same guesthouse (about 180 baht cheaper then his old place, he's learning!) and we went out for dinner together. something we already had decided on a couple of days ago, because i wanted to show him this indian restaurant. just a nice change to all the thai food, which i still love. what i didn't know was that he was inviting me, that was so nice. and we did have a feast of vegetables, curry, rice and roti (fried bread dessert). still, there was a little space for the pancake man left.... i can't believe how much i'm eating, i really have to do something about it.
friday i took the bus up to pai. it was actually quite weird because i got so many different timetables for the bus beforehand that at the end i decided just to go to the busstation and see what would happen. my bus left at a completely different time then anybody had told me and i was right on time. at the busstation i met jodie from melbourne so somebody to talk to. we went to the same guesthouse as well, which is really a lovely spot. mr jan's it's called and you get your own little hut, with or without bath, with a little balcony, they provide free lemongrass tea and bananas, free herbal shower (buckets), have hammocks and then they've got the best massage service in the whole town. otherwise it was a bit of a shock to see how many tourists there are in this small place. but there was a nice surprise we actually arrived right for the festival to celebrate the end of the rain season. so they had lots of foodstalls and in the nighttime different stages with classic dances, theatre, some rockmusic and so on. so the next two days were sorted.
saturday morning i got up early and went for a walk up to one of the villages. even in the early morning when it's still cooler and a little overcast the sweat is running down your back. but then who cares there will be a cold shower at the end of the walk. in the night i went out with jodie and fiona. with nice, i really like to have a lot of time on my own, but it's also nice to have some company once in a while.
sunday was weird. no, it started before. i hadn't slept properly since i arrived in pai so i decided the best thing to do would be doing nothing and trying to find out what was wrong. so i did that (i'm good in doing nothing), well, to feel even more relaxed i went for a massage as well and that was really good. the night was weird. the three of us went out together and fiona and i enden up in this strange place where i got deliberatly drunken (it's just nice to sleep once in while). i slept really well and stayed the whole morning in bed till i got so hungry that i had to get up. but by the end of the day i got my thoughts sorted. so i don't mind having done nothing for two days (doing nothing still mans that i do read a fair bit while i'm lying in the hammock). but there was one magic moment, that was to see the full moon just right next to one of the wqats (??) which was illuminated by candles.
today was another day. i went for a two hours walk, but because jodie still had my map i couldn't find the way to the wat on the hill, so i ended up in another village. mai pen rai, as the thai says (mai pen rai is ultimately a philosophy of life: bend with the wind, like a bamboo tree. and above all, keep smiling), it was still a very nice walk and i enjoyed the exercise after two lazy days. the rest as usual, heaps of food, a good siesta, lying in the hammock, reading my book and tomorrw i'll move on.