The Sleeper Train to Chiang Mai

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The day I left for Chiang Mai was a bit of a wasted day. The area around me was HELLLLLAAA touristy. Everywhere I went, old white men and young Thai girls were walking hand-and-hand down the street. It’s really a sad sight to see. I took a few sneak pictures of some of the couples and went to the local market near my hostel.

Markets that are directed towards local Thai folks are the shit. Their stuff is more reasonably priced, and they have HELLA good, authentic Thai food. You can tell that they don’t know how to deal with tourists because a lot of the vendors don’t speak a lick of English. I got some bomb-ass pork and scallion stir fry (it was just like Mey’s family food — spicy and hella tasty!) and a fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast. They also have really amazing clothes – Thailand is def the place for shopping if you’re a girl. If I were a cute little Asian girl that wore a size 0 or 2 I’d be in straight heaven here. While most of the clothes didn’t fit me, I did find a nice tank with birds on it (Joy – “Put a BIRD ON IT!!”).

When I went to take the train that evening at the Bang Sue station, I found that I had mistakenly bought the wrong ticket. FUCK. I really feel lost out here sometimes. Luckily Bang Sue was the station after Bangkok, so I was able to hitch a ride on the train at 8 pm instead of 7:30.

The train has a dining area adjacent to the sleeping area. In each area there are 4 beds – two on the top and two on the bottom. I luckily got a bottom bed and met my “roommates” — a couple from Holland that were cupcaking in the bunk above me watching movies on their laptop, and Johnny, this guy from Spain. I thought he was Australian at first with his spikey blond hair. Goes to show what I know. I introduced myself to Johnny and told him I was “from San Francisco”  (that’s what I tell everyone out here).

Later that night I heard, “Francesca, come over here and hang out with us!” It was Johnny with his two friends in the sleeping area adjacent to mine — I noticed that they all got fake henna tattoos on their faces like the guy from “The Hangover 2”. “You mean me?!” I laughed. I guess he forgot my name and only remembered that I was from San Francisco – hence  they called me Francesca for the rest of the trip. I tried to speak in Spanish with them a little bit, but they speak hella fast with a lisp. It sounds like mumbling to me.

I pretty much just spent the rest of the night hanging out and getting to know the boys from Spain (Arian, Moises, and Johnny) who are in their mid to late 20’s and work as Ibiza entertainers. Basically they get paid to mingle with tourists and party with them. Johnny can sing, play sports, and apparently does some amazing card tricks. What a life, eh? But as Johnny said, they get paid to pretty much do nothing, which is kinda dope.

I woke up early when daylight hit my windows. It is HEEELLLLA gorgeous in the morning! Our train was traveling by roadside towns and small homes as well as rich green valleys and streams. I got a seat next to the train windows and took pictures of the scenery that we passed by.

I went to hang out in the dining cabin because it’s open air, so people can smoke there and do whatever (apparently at night they turned the spot into a club by putting on dance music and getting everyone drunk as fuck.). A slightly older French guy whose name I can’t remember sat down across from me and we started talking a bit. He was here with his girlfriend trying to do some business in Thailand. While the conversation was not that continuous, I did break the ice a bit by doing a couple of tarot card readings for him — one about his business, and one about his love life. I had to use playing cards because i didn’t bring my tarot cards (DAMN!) but it actually worked out pretty well. For the reading on his love life, hearts were 5 out of 10 of his cards. It seemed like while there was a lot of passion and love in their future relationship, there would also be a lot of i fighting and struggle too. “That’s okay though, I like it better that way,” he said.

When our train finally made it to Chiang Mai — a good 15 hours later — I hitched a tuk-tuk ride with the Spanish boys into town and got a hostel room at the Deejai Backpacker’s hotel. I pretty much spent the rest of the day renting a bike and riding around town. Chiang Mai has over 100 Buddhist temples here, so proceeded to get lost in the small city looking for temple after temple. All of them are decorated with glass, colored mirrors, and TONS of gold paint. For a religion/philosophy that’s not about extravagance, it’s interesting to see how the temples are so decorative and stunning.

I also hit up the river nearby and biked across the bridges (that have a special, separated lane for bikes and motorbikes) and ran around in traffic for a while. Markets near the river that sells everything from clothes to food to wares. I found a sunglasses stand that sold glasses for only 38 Baht (about a buck and some change!) — which means I got ripped off when I bought 2 pairs for $8US in Bangkok. A local lady next to me was really into some of the sunglasses that I was looking at, so for about 20 minutes, we tried on pair after pair and gave each other advice on which ones looked good  — which was a challenge seeing as she spoke no English and I speak no Thai. It was pretty fun. Though my travels, I’ve noticed that one of the things that I enjoy the most is building with people — more than the sights I see, they’re some of the more meaningful experiences in my life.

After biking around town and getting lost on the streets for a few hours more (the streets signs out here are hella hard to understand – if they exist at all), I finally found my hostel and found the Spanish boys in the lobby. Johnny hella wanted to go out and drink that night, so I planned to meet up with them after I went and got dinner (and shopped) at the Chiang Mai night bazaar down by the river.

The spot we went to had 7 open bars that folks could hop around to all night. It was super clubby club chaos all around us.  I told Ari that I’d pay him $10US if he got a girl to dance with him, so he went out and tried to meet girls. “I can’t tell who’s a prostitute and who’s not!” he told us. I told him to go hit on some nice white girls, so he went and met some Australian girls sitting down at a table nearby. They loved him — he’s a pretty handsome dude — but he ended up not being that interested.

Um. All I gotta say is that if you’re an Asian girl in Thailand and not a sex worker, you’re like gold to the rest of the (white) tourists from around the world. EVERYWHERE you go, old white men are hanging out with Thai women, it’s absolutely disgusting. I don’t know if he has an Asian fetish or not, but I guess Johnny had a bit of a thing for me because he spent the rest of the night trying to make something happen. He’s not pushy so it was more comedy than being gross or offensive. Moises was sick (so he stayed at the hostel) and Arian couldn’t drink (he ended up going home early), so it was mostly me and Johnny hanging out and getting pretty drunk for the rest of the night.

By far the saddest part about Thailand (as well as many other third world countries) are the desperate things that local folks do to scrape together a living, no matter what it takes. Every night around the bars, Hmong women dressed in traditional clothing and young Thai children come up to tourists trying to sell everything from jewelry to light-up devil horn headbands. The children are the craziest! Because they are young and cute, they are HELLA pushy. They will literally put things in people’s hands and demand money from them. They got Johnny and a few other guys to buy roses to give to girls, but it was just too much for us. Some of the kids have gimmicks too. One had a fake tattoo on his chest that he’d show off to people. Another girl would engage people in thumb wars. One kid in particular was a total character — he’d make fun of some of the bar-goers to other tourists (like pretending to pull poo out of their butts and throwing it at them) in order to get their attention.

The music turned bad, Johnny and I were both drunk as hell, and we both had to get up at 7 am for our respective tours the next day. So around 2 am we took a tuk-tuk back to our hostel and went to bed in our respective rooms (I know I’m single and all, but I’m just not that kind of girl! Well, not really. SHIIEEETTT!)


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Posted: December 22, 2011

Author: Tiffany

Category: Blog, Thailand

Tags: , , ,


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