Travel time…Thailand

Clearly there’s something wrong with my feet.  Both of them.  They just won’t keep still.  It must be all that nervous energy, looking for an outlet.

So South East Asia will be great.  Somebody mentioned Laos, so I think that would be an apt centrepiece.  Early January looks highly possible given the dreary weather at home.

Will start to “plan” something over Christmas.  That means looking for socks down the back of the sofa, clipping my nails, that sort of thing.

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16 Responses to “Travel time…Thailand”

  1. Nadeem Butt Says:

    I couldn’t help but notice the conductor as I took my first river boat journey of the day. She delicately folded each ticket in half ( to the size of a first class stamp ) and then after gesturing passengers to open the palm of their hands, carefully placed the ticket, with any loose change, into the middle. She would then envelope the hand over to ensure the ticket wouldn’t blow away in the river wind.

    I Look forward to visiting the markets and making the most of the weather tomorrow. Just don’t want this to stop… am loving Bangkok, a lot more than I anticipated.

    The traveller area is well worn but surprisingly relaxed. It must be the Thai people, they seem to put your mind at ease about everything. Always smiling – not really surprising when you have a climate to die for.

  2. Nadeem Butt Says:

    I readily accept that there’s just three words/phrases an englishman needs to be familiar with to tackle the local speak – 1. Hello, 2. Thank You and 3. Sorry.

    I am annoying the women in the little food store across the street daily with this. I think i’ve cracked 1 and 2 but just can’t seem to remember 3. Sorry really does seem to be the hardest word. The women keep smiling, followed by the occasional giggle.

    The river Taxi is a great mode of transport across choppy waters. A little addictive infact. Went to Chinatown today and had great food in a cafe place. Its flip flop weather and the people, oh the people, are just great.

    Long Boat Taxi, Bangkok

    Long Boat River Taxi, Bangkok

  3. Nadeem Butt Says:

    The Grand Palace is nothing if not Grand, but its not hype. Just wonderful and a real gem of a place. I felt quite inspired and went away less angst bitten than usual. Very calming and the people, oh my, the people. Just wonderful, really.

    Grand Palace, Bangkok

    Grand Palace, Bangkok

  4. Nadeem Butt Says:

    How peculiar. I just realised, at 4.18am that my favicon colours are very buddhist like. I promise its nothing more than a subliminal gesture. That would go some way to explaining the pending hair loss. I guess it could mean that there’s a monk type bloke inside my very being, trying to get out. Mind you, he’ll have to get past the scatter brained neurotic first. He’s got no chance.

    Hopped onto the skytrain and went to Chatuchak weekend market on a wednesday. Silly Billy. Sad Nad. Never mind.

  5. Nadeem Butt Says:

    Spent much of the day river boating and thinking about my mini train journey tomorrow. Third class, the ticket seller warned me I may have to stand the whole way as its often full from Bangkok. Sounds right up my alley. Can’t wait now.

    Its a 2 hour journey, north of Bangkok to the island of Ayutthaya. The former Thai capital, and now, much of it, a world heritage site. Am looking forward to hiring a bike and cycling, to anywhere.

  6. Nadeem Butt Says:

    The train journey to Ayutthaya was Pakistan all over – not a spare seat in sight and 80 year old vendors selling you cups of tea and wrap up meals. Outside, the lush greenery and harsh morning sun complete my utopia.

    Wandering around the market, I realised that this place is a “real” Thai town – frenetic squirrel like activity everywhere. The chinese influence is very real – men loading materials on and off lorries, selling and buying gold etc etc. You can do nothing but admire their fortitude and diligence. It’s inspiring. The guy who blended my bubble tea worked with the poise and elegance of a ballerina. God I am loving all this.

    Looking forward to cycling around the island tomorrow.

  7. Nadeem Butt Says:

    Not enough superlatives. Cycled around to see the wat’s (monastries), stopping off for coconut juices as often as I could spot a vendor. Ended up out of town in a wonderful little market place and couldn’t stop nodding and smiling at every passer-by. Stopped for lunch in a popular Thai place – spicy vegatable noddles and a noodley type dessert. Wish I could remember what it was called.

    Pics posted on the slideshow at http://www.missedabit.com/worry.htm

    Off to Chiang Mai tomorrow evening, on the sleeper train. The traditional gathering of souls (Sunday Market to me and you) comes first.

    Cycling Around Ayutthaya

    Cycle stop and coconut juice vendor, Ayutthaya

  8. Nadeem Butt Says:

    Waiting at Ayutthaya Train Station, the “overnighter” was invariably late. The unassuming train guard leapt up from his chair and erased the scheduled 21:01 from the whiteboard, changing it to 21:20. Then, dissatisfied, he changed it again to 21:45. People hovered, hanging on his every pen stroke.

    The train arrived at 22:10 and I began my slumber, destination Chiang Mai. Mountains in the morning please, train driver.

    Khao Niaow Ma Muang, the sticky noodley mango dessert. On the tip of my tongue.

  9. Nadeem Butt Says:

    I read an article this morning by a traveller guy outlining what he considered the main dilemma for the modern day wanderer – the romantic need to forage through an increasingly homogenised world for a glimmer of the past. I suspect (with some confidence) that this writer and I are not so far apart in years because to some degree I share his angst. Ofcourse, I accept progress without change is unavoidable and ultimately this is the price you pay for modernity.

    In fact, searching for bygone days may not be so difficult to trace if one looks hard enough – a fisherman casting his rod on the Mekong, people working in the paddy fields, and even walking around the soi’s (alleys) in the old part of Chiang Mai. All provide a pinhole into the past.

    Perhaps the trick is to look up once in a while, take a deep breath and soak it up.

    Wandered around the soi’s of old Chiang Mai and stopped off in a few wats. Drank tea in a tranquil garden, protected from the sun by the tall plants that shrouded my space.

  10. Nadeem Butt Says:

    Decided to hire the kind of bicycle more suited to the streets of Oxford. It had a basket and everything. In my less than infinite wisdom I elected to cycle up a mountain on it to visit an emerald Buddha.

    I got 3km up the hill before a red taxi (sawngthaew) driver bloke pulled up beside me and said something along the lines of “you’ve got no chance”. I agreed, we haggled and he dropped me at my destination. “Where you from my friend?” I recall him asking as he pulled my bicycle from his truck. “Ah yes, well, erm, yep, I am indeed, thanks all the same”.

    The emerald Buddha (at Doi Suthep Temple) with the carved Singha lions guarding the entrance was worth the trek up. I can’t find the words anymore, really.

    Dropped the bicycle off in the Old City and went to the same restaurant I have been to everyday since I arrived in Chiang Mai. Great day.

    Sawngthaew, Chiang Mai

    Sawngthaew and Emerald Buddha, Chiang Mai

  11. Nadeem Butt Says:

    The short and winding road led me from Chiang Mai to Pai. A hill station getaway of sorts. I arrived mid afternoon and after finding a place to stay, slept my way into the early evening.

    Around 6pm this small tribal town comes to life. Artists, musicians, craftsmen and food vendors illuminate the streets and give the place a vibrant psychadelic feel (in a hippy reggae sort of way). As dusk fell I walked along the river and the scene was picture perfect. Set against the backdrop of thick mountainous forest, the wooden bungalows hugged the river side and people meandered. I like meandering, me.

    I wandered the streets in search of food. This was my first experience of meeting Chinese Muslim’s, Shan and Thai all in the same place. Unable to resist, I fell for the Roti Allee vendor – just great. A light roti, fried, with a beaten egg thrown into the middle. The roti is neatly folded around the egg and allowed to settle. Finally, its chopped into small squares and devoured by yours truly. Tired, I found a little tearoom and ordered a Lipton’s.

    I will need my rest. Tomorrow (I suspect) will involve a lot of walking.

    Roti Allee Seller and Pai Riverside

    Roti allee vendor and the riverside, Pai

  12. Nadeem Butt Says:

    For more about the Shan peoples, this is always a start:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shan

    I ditched the walking and enquired about a scooter. The “salesman” grinned. “No problem my friend, you try, you like, you take”. His colleague took me to a dirt track, instructed me where the accelerator and brakes were and handed me the keys. Induction over.

    I loved it. I whizzed around the hills of Pai (of which there are many) on my Yamaha scooter with not a care in the world. The scenery, needless to say, was stunning. I don’t want this to stop.

    Scooting in Pai, Northern Thailand

    My scooter and the hills of Pai, Pai

  13. Nadeem Butt Says:

    I struggle at times to get over the generosity of people. Maybe its my western sensibilities getting the better of me. The lass at the gas station; the elderly lady at the little village shop; the coffee vendor – just restore your faith in humanity at times.

    Smiling, warm and hospitable – words I rarely collate in the same sentence. As I weaved and threaded my way through the hills of Pai, this, beyond all else, is etched firmly in my mind.

    The people are just great here.

  14. Nadeem Butt Says:

    The man at the scooter gas station doesn’t just fill your motor with gasoline, he also runs a laundry service on the side. An odd combination but very handy if you happen to have a bag of laundry with you.

    He gestured the cost with lots of finger pointing – I just nodded and smiled back. “No problem, I’ll see you tomorrow sir.” I always raise my voice for some reason as if that will make a difference. Then I zoomed off.

    petrol station, Pai

    Gas station, Pai

    I took a late tea and contemplated where I should head off to on Saturday. I am beginning to appreciate the value of writing things down in a way that has been alien to me for many years. Suddenly, presenting my travel experience as a kind of narrative feels like its being “kept alive”; making it all the more meaningful and memorable.

  15. Nadeem Butt Says:

    I have a strange compulsion for nuts. Can’t stop eating them.

    Had a slow unwinding weekend cycling around a hill town and thinking mostly of Laos, next week. For the most part, Mae Hong Son is a non-descript town perched high in the mountains – it pulls you back in time, not into the future. This, for me, is its redeeming feature.

    Monks and tribal people (Shan, Hmong, Long Neck) make up most of the population – but the things that strike me most of all are the glorious teak homes (on stilts) steeped high in the mountains and the normality of the place – very little cosmetic surgery here.

    Glad for the rest. Back to Chiang Mai tomorrow for a few days before I set off for Chiang Khong, the border crossing for Laos.

    Mae Hong Son

    Central Mae Hong Son, Mae Hong Son

  16. Nadeem Butt Says:

    Old buses take the long way around. They stop off in small, dusty, forgotten towns and villages – people of all manner get on and off, adding to the colour of the journey. I’m like a school kid in a sweet shop – for me this is the best way to observe cultures “in action” – people just going about their daily business and me peering, like a fly on the wall.

    Rather that than a fly in the ointment.

    Bus journey from Mae Hong Son

    Mae Hong Son – Chiang Mai (9 hours)

    For travel time in Malaysia, click here.
    For travel time in Vietnam, click here.
    For travel time in Jordan, click here.
    For travel time in Syria, click here.
    For travel time in Turkey, click here.
    For travel time in Laos, click here.
    For travel time in Cambodia, click here.
    For travel time in Myanmar, click here.
    To go to the start of this blog, click here.
    To go to missedabit.com, click here.

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