We finally left Chiang Mai last week, opting for a day train to Ayutthaya with a plan to start cycling south from there.
Well, best laid plans and all that…after much running around on our final day in Chiang Mai (mailing parcels home and getting a final dental check up on my new crown and packing after being settled for two months) and yes, I have to admit a wee too much beer the night before that, I came down with a nasty flu. I realized I was in trouble about hour 10 of the 16 hours we spent on the non-air-conditioned train between Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya. I had thought perhaps it was just the heat (somewhere between 35 and 37 degrees Celsius) and smoke particles in the air (farmers are burning fields now getting ready for next crop) that were causing a tickle in my throat up until my nose went into overdrive and I realized I had a fever. Arriving in Ayutthaya at midnight and then having to unload the bikes from the train and ride to a hotel probably didn’t help my situation.
We left our guesthouse in Chiang Mai at 5:15 to catch our 5:45 train. This meant cycling in the dark but I didn’t mind as I knew the trade-off would be no traffic and I was right. We did cycle by a few bars that were still hopping and had a good laugh at those silly people partying until the wee hours, unaware of course, that I was just about to come down with the plague. Karma at work I’d say.
At the train station Ian went to find out where we needed to go with the bikes only to learn that the train would be delayed until 7 am, which actually turned out to be 8 am and that we were to put the bikes into the baggage car ourselves.
We settled onto a bench and enjoyed a quiet couple of hours people watching. I felt remarkably peaceful, so much so that I was moved to reflect on it and I can only say that my decision to sell in Vancouver and to focus my life in some new directions felt very right that morning. I also think it was the degree of familiarity I now feel on the bike and in Thailand and so I was excited about moving on without any of the normal anxiety that often accompanies travelling.
I think also it was the people watching and realizing how much I like Thai culture. That morning I watched a young girl hanging out with her mom for the day, at her mom’s snack kiosk at the train station. The girl had her dog with her, a poodle shaved so she/he had a tutu, and the girl made a little bed for herself and the dog on the floor of the kiosk, maneuvering the dog so he had his head on the pillow beside her. Her mother accepted all this and just stepped over the pair of them as she went about her business in the kiosk. I watched another mom at work, the lady responsible for the power washer used to wash the train. Her son decided he wanted to ride on it. She scolded him the first time he tried to climb on it but then gave up and he sat happily on top of it while she took a break from washing down the cars. I loved that these ladies were able to bring their kids to work.
After being here for two months I really believe we are over-regulated at every level (municipally and provincially at least) and that this interferes with entrepreneurship and contributes to higher anxiety levels – or maybe it’s those higher anxiety levels that make us over-regulated to begin with. I’ve heard of a couple of recent studies in Europe that say we are regulating our children’s lives to such a degree that they are growing up without having ever taken a risk. Google the topic and you’ll see what I mean.
I enjoyed the last week in Chiang Mai, doing some of the touristy things Ian and I hadn’t got around to. We cycled to the zoo and although we both struggle with the idea of animals in captivity I have to admit I enjoyed it. I also spent a great day with Pat, a friend we met through Dave and Debby and we had a blast, visiting the hot springs again and then hitting up some of the artisan shops I’ve been wanting to visit. We then met up with Ian and made a great Mediterranean style dinner back at the guesthouse. Oh and yes I think I mentioned something about too much beer ha ha.
The silk factory is worth a visit – it is one in a whole string of artisan places along San Kampaeng Road and the next time I’m in Chiang Mai I will spend at least another day there (sans Ian who finds all that stuff boring). At the silk factory we got to see the whole silk making process from moth to worm to cocoon and getting the thread from the cocoon and then onto spinning wheel and loom. The silk was gorgeous. We also visited a shop that makes umbrellas and a lacquer ware workshop. Pat had arranged a tuk tuk for the whole day and we got an awesome deal at 500 baht (16.00 dollars Canadian). Photos of the silk factory are courtesy of Pat.
The flu is not fun under any circumstances but it certainly has been a challenge this last week and a half – I finally saw a doctor in Ayutthaya after three days of non-improving symptoms and opted for the whole-meal deal pharmaceutical solution: prescribed cold meds including antibiotics, anti-fever etc., all for 12 bucks including the doctor’s visit. Fortunately, Tony’s Guesthouse in Ayutthaya was a good place to be sick. We had a large air con room and the rest of the guesthouse, an old rambling teak building with some beautiful Thai art on display, had all kinds of cubby holes to sit in so Ian was able to escape the sick room and get some work done. The place is popular with backpackers and despite being ill I enjoyed watching them come and go when I emerged from my room for meals in the guesthouse restaurant.
As I write this in Hua Hin, whether it’s the meds or just time, I am finally feeling human again although still a day or two away from being able to cycle.
Ian and I had to rent a minivan to get us to Hua Hin with the bikes. I think the distance is a few hundred kms, through Bangkok and it took us about 3 hours. We paid about 100.00 dollars which seems a reasonable deal. I am much better as I write this but there was no way I could deal with trains or buses the day we left Ayutthaya.
We have found a lovely guesthouse in Hua Hin (Byrds). Our guesthouse and the neighbouring ones are old ramshackle places built on stilts out over the water. At night, if we turn air con off, we can hear the tide coming in under the building. We share a patio with the rest of the guesthouse and we’re enjoying the view of the small beach and fish boats so much we are reluctant to leave the property. The room is a little run down but well worth the 700 baht (23.00) a night and I would not trade our proximity to the water nor the sound of the ocean to stay at the Hilton next door. We plan to spend a couple of extra days here before we head south, making sure I am truly well as it is quite hot (35) before I get back on the bike.
Ciao for now.