Actually, Chiang Mai was more like Awesome Awesome, but Same Same was the first guest house I stayed in. Same Same contributed to the awesomeness by giving me a room for only 200 bhat/night (under $7). Same Same is also a popular band in Southeast Asia made up of Canadian identical twins. Though I’ve not listened to their work, with winning titles like ‘Love Isn’t’, ‘Hearts Collide’, and ‘Can’t Get Any Worse’, I’m happy my guest house owners chose not to blast tunes from their eponymous band.
Since this is my first post, I should explain the title. If you were led here by google in your search of scholarly individuals caught on camera removing their clothing, you will be sorely disappointed. No, the wonk I refer to is none other than myself; see the three official sheets of paper decorating the inside of cardboard boxes in my parents’ garage for wonkish credentials. I now embark on a journey of undetermined length into Southeast Asia, where I plan to ‘go wild’ – though understand this is a relative term. Short story long, this is my travel blog to update friends and relatives and anyone else who strangely finds my journey captivating. I’m lugging my camera as I go, so you’ll probably have to endure photos as well.
At the moment I’m safe in Jakarta, Indonesia, staying with my most excellent and generous lady friend. However, I have a lot of catching up to do with this blog so you’ll forgive me for writing about my week and a half in Thailand in the past tense. This should give me time to build up some good material from my more routine but still awesome Jakarta life before telling you about it.
I left Seattle on a red eye shortly after Thanksgiving, connecting in Taipei before reaching Bangkok. Taipei has the best airport I’ve ever seen. They had me with the free internet access and I used the entire layover writing emails, but I later found out that had I looked further I might have found the complimentary massage chairs. Also, this is probably old news to most of you but why can’t American airlines get airplane food right? I was flying EVA air and every meal was absolutely delicious.
Upon arrival at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok, I picked up my two enormous checked bags and started waddling through the airport like an incompetent sherpa. My plan was to drop two suitcases at the hotel I’d be staying at a week later with lady friend and company, leaving me a light and limber backpacker for my journey north to Chiang Mai. Looking at a map and consulting airport employees with broken English, I determined that I would save money by taking the sky train to as near the hotel as possible and walk the rest of the way. The distance looked manageable on a map, but I had forgotten to factor a developing country safety factor into my calculation. An hour and a half later I found myself sweating through my shirt on a broken cobblestone sidewalk that smelled like a compost heap, large suitcase damaged by attempts to drag it over yawning chasms in the pavement. I succeeding on my third attempt to hail a cab the rest of the way to the hotel.
It was smooth sailing from there as I checked bags with the concierge at the Plaza Atenee hotel and flagged another cab to Hualamphong train station. I killed a few hours in the food court, where I was disappointed by an unremarkable first meal in Thailand; however, I reminded myself no country should be judged by its train stations. As I later walked to my train, an attendant standing outside the first car blocked my way and asked to see my ticket, then helpfully informed me that my car was the last one. It turned out that the attendants outside every car were just as helpful, not letting me pass until they could examine my ticket and tell me that my car was the last one. I definitely was not lost on the way to my seat.
This sleeper train was laid out differently than the ones I have ridden in China. Chinese trains have beds arranged perpendicular to the length of the train cars, with a narrow walkway up one side for access. This Thai train had a walkway down the middle, with beds arranged parallel to the walkway on each side. I’d picked a top bunk because it’s cheaper, as in China; only the Chinese top bunks have windows, while the Thai top bunks do not. This left me unable to admire the countryside when I woke up in the morning (the train ride was ~12 hours, 7:30pm to 7:30am). Still, I reconfirmed that I sleep great on trains and should really find a way to ride them more often.
I arrived at the Same Same guest Friday morning and had my second and final disappointing meal in Thailand. If you ever make it up to Chiang Mai the Phad See Ew at Same Same is Bland Bland, but everything else was great. After breakfast I rented a motor scooter and headed out for the afternoon on the 100km loop which winds through the countryside north and east of Chiang Mai, called the Samoeng loop or the Mae Sa valley loop. On my way out of town, a noodle shop reversed my gastronomic fortunes. The noodles simple and eye-watering hot. I don’t always like to sweat while eating, but at least I felt I could check something off my Thailand to do list (two things actually, when the heat came back to haunt me the next day).
The Mae Sa valley loop is disgusting city for the first 20km, touristy goodness for the second, and beautiful jungle mountains punctuated by valley villages and farmland for the remainder. I bypassed the snake farm, monkey show, orchid farm, and waterfalls but did stop to get a quick shot of the elephant camp visible from the road.
My favorite part of the ride was after the gimmicky tourist stuff, when the road just wound through the mountains and valleys.
That does it for today; more Thailand to come.