Today once more we were moving on, this time from one Chang to its relative – Rai to Mai – by public bus transport. The short walk to the bus station today was made slightly more difficult by us having a fair bit more in our little old backpacks but, though a struggle it was do-able so we did what we do in these situations and just got on with it!
The staff of the (Jolly) Green Bus Company seemed to be a bit lacking in some basic customer care techniques but maybe this is just an issue with us not being able to talk Thai which probably frustrates them somewhat as well. To begin with one of the girls on the counter simply would not get off her mobile phone to serve us and then the guy she sent us over to for the bus was one of those angry sounding shouting Asians, who was a bit of an ass really! Like I say though, maybe they feel quite frustrated at us not speaking their language too.
The trip though was really nice and relaxed and in some parts not too dissimilar from some of the journeys we had taken the other side of the border in Laos with the exception that the scenery was a bit flatter and not quite as dramatic and the countryside more populated. As ever, just when you think that you are having a nice relaxing journey and starting to drift a bit, the driver always adds a bit of nervous danger to keep you alert and make sleep just that bit more difficult to come by. We soon enough though reached Chiang Mai, in fact quite a bit quicker than we had anticipated so the highs and lows of the journey were soon enough over.
Once we were dropped off at the bus station we then boarded a Tuk Tuk and were whisked off to our hotel, the journey took us zigging and a zagging across the city but soon enough we were there at our hotel just inside the old town, within the city walls and next to a very old and somewhat shabby looking market. From what we saw on the journey Chiang Mai has a real depth of character moats on the outside of the city walls and is a place steeped in history so we were looking forward to getting straight out and about. So it was that we just dropped our bags in our room and within ten minutes or so were back outside in the hustle and bustle that is Chiang Mai.
First off we needed to load up on some nourishment so stopped off at a cafe on our way to the city’s inner heart. Although the travel here had been quite easy this did not stop us wanting to indulge ourselves with a massage and at Chiang Mai this could be one with a bit of a difference in that the masseur would be a woman ex-prisoner. Well it would have been if the place was open but it was now closed for lunch so we decided to go for a wander and come back a bit later on.
We decided to walk a bit further to have a look at the very grand Wat Phra Singh, one of the alleys we had to go down to get there had some extraordinary graffiti, very arty it looked too. Not long till we reached the Wat though which was rather a bustling place. This was a very ornate looking place with a lot of golds and oranges and reds, very beautiful looking. Inside the temple was an impressive golden buddha with offerings placed around it. Although it was not unlike many of the other wats we had visited on our travels it did have a couple of ‘twists’ all of its own. Firstly, coming as a great surprise to me, was that it advertised a ‘wat’ that was based in Helsby, England the village where my sister lives – small world eh! – maybe this is where she and my brother-in-law Simon nip off to of a weekend! Secondly, for some reason unbeknownst to me this temple seemed to attract more than its fair share of dogs, a phenomena I had never seen before they even seemed to have the run of the place although one of the monks did seem to be trying to shoo one of them away but it simply kept running round and coming back!
Lastly, but not leastly, and still to this day I have no idea what I actually saw, there ‘appeared’ to be a statue of an old buddhist monk praying or it is a real buddhist monk who does not move and when I say do not move, he didn’t even seem to be breathing! It was weirdness personified or perhaps more aptly ‘buddhist statuified’. Liz watched it/him closely, so closely she thought she him move I didn’t though, not even a twitch. You cannot get close enough to him to touch or inspect closer as his area is roped off so it was difficult to confirm one way or another. It was winding me up so much that I had the ‘bright’ idea of throwing through the nearby open window one of the dogs that were hanging around just to try and startle the ‘statue’, another great idea was to perhaps set off the fire alarm see if he ran out with the others! – I am sure the heat over here is getting to me!
After the temple we took a nice stroll through the meditation gardens on the way which had in it some very thought provoking sayings on boards placed so you could contemplate them. Anyhow we now walked back to the masseurs which by this time was now open so time for our little ‘relaxing’ massage by female ex-prisoners of all people! After a very short while I think I new why my masseur had been convicted, possibly for husband battering as this was apparently her way of massaging my aching bones! Liz was next to me and kept laughing at the noises coming from the bed I was on, there were snaps, cracks, creaks and pops of bones but also these strange strangled cries which at one point I realised were actually coming from me! Afterwards I felt like I had been thoroughly pummelled which was not too far from the truth as she really had pummelled me and I had actually paid her for the privilege – who is the fool here? To cure my aching and battered body she gave me a cup of tea, I mean a cup of tea! I needed painkillers, I needed alcohol, I needed my broken bones putting in plaster, I needed hospital and here was I sipping my oolong!
We grabbed a bite to eat after our ‘soothing’ massage – I am sure I will feel much better tomorrow! Tonight I needed a cure though so we went for a beer or two, which may not cure me but would at least help nullify my aches a little. We ended up ‘people watching’ at a bar which sold its beers and cocktails from a modified and lit up campervan before wending our achy way back past the very arty graffiti to our hotel hoping that we would be more mobile and feeling less achy tomorrow.