I was pleased we had set off 1 and a half hours before our train was due to leave as we were stuck in traffic for 45 minutes during rush hour. Even though the train station was less than a mile away from the hotel it was impossible to get anywhere quickly in Bangkok.
We made our way through the crowded station and found our platform with enough time to spare for a cigarette or 2. Finding our seats brought us both a new wave of excitement- the feeling of the unknown, moving on to somewhere new. We had tickets for the 2nd class sleeper car and the journey was to take 13 hours, arriving in Chiang Mai at 7am. We both had top bunks which were a tad small and uncomfortable but I was out like a light at 8pm. Alba wasn't so fortunate and hardly slept a wink!
Sitting in the tuk tuk on the way to our guest house I looked out at this new city and quickly came to like it; it was cleaner, quieter and more peaceful than Bangkok for a start.The old town has kept its old buildings intact surrounded by a moat and castle walls that once protected them. Buildings in the old town must be built at no higher than 4 stories which also helps keep the feel and authenticity as there are no glass skyscrapers next door to old sandstone temples.
I had planned on hiring a bike to explore the city but upon checking the prices I found that a half decent mountain bike was double that of a scooter so we opted for the latter. Aside from the price of a bike everything else is noticabley cheaper here than any of the places we had been previous; accommodation, food, booze and internet are all dirt cheap. After the blowout in Bangkok we had planned the week or so here to be one of detox and relaxation but these ideals were short lived and we went out on the first 3 nights. Oh well. 'We're on holiday' was the excuse used most often for our lack of commitment to our healthy vows.
Those 2 lads are Seb and Charlie your stereotype textbook travelers. Charlie is a posh lad and was in India before Thailand and wears beads and a headband. Seb is from Sweden and can stretch a simple story into a 2 hour monologue. Both of them never stop going on about weed. Alba summed it up best ''They are just a pair of tossers man, they are trying to sponge money off you cos there're tramps and anyway smoking weed is for knobs!"
Since seeing some peoples work that had been done in Koh Chang I was keen to get a traditional Sak Yant style tattoo done with bamboo. I checked out a few places here and found a place that had a design I liked and got booked in. The tattoo came out great and healed within 4 days without any bleeding or scrabbing. I was so pleased with it I got another one a few days later. I had them done at Magic Tattoo.
Of all the temples and touristy things we have done so far this trip the humorously named temple of 'Wat Umong' was the best. Within a large and quiet park sits a 800 year old temple surrounded by small ponds full of huge carp. The temple has a system of underground tunnels which were built to keep a mad monk from wandering off into the forest and the whole place is still lived in and maintained by Buddhist Monks. This was in contrast to Doi Suthep which is dubbed the 'holiest sight in Northern Thailand'. We found a tourist trap with as many street hawkers as any market in Chiang Mai.
Another good day out we had was at the Zoo and Aquarium. The Zoo was a fair size and had the usual array of animals that you would expect and all of them seemed well looked after and happy enough.
Our next stop is Pai before maybe coming back to Chiang Mai for the Thai new year and giant water fight Songkran before nashing over the border into Laos before our visas run out!