The following was written 7-11, homeless in Tha Ton, not so in Chiang Rai.
6:14AM The van dropped me off in Tha Ton at about 4AM. I walked around town a little — not a challenging feat in this place — but all was closed. So I found a small little park, perhaps 20ft x 20ft, right next to the Tourist Police station. It had a couple trees that looked like they could provide rain cover, and a bench to lay on. I was able to get a little sleep before the sun came up.
Now I’m sitting on a pile of dirt across the street from the guest house I want to try, ants crawling all over me. The gate to the guest house is still closed, despite the sun being up and the city being awake.
As I said, the “mini bus” was a van. Packed with rows of seats, we were able to squeeze in 11 people, with one sitting on the stick shift. (Remember when I said I was the 15th to sign up?) Thais love to overbook. And let’s not even start on how they attempted to fit all the luggage. I think that a normal bus to Chiang Mai and then back north would have been a better deal, and more comfortable.
The guest house isn’t showing signs of waking, and a rooster felt the urge to walk up to me and start making loud, annoying noises, so I think I’ll wander around and find breakfast.
8:18AM The idea of me coming here was to spend the night and then jump on the river boat to Chiang Rai tomorrow, where from I could bus back to Chiang Mai at some point. Now I’m of the mind just to leave on the boat today — there isn’t much to hold me here. I look forward to a 3 hour float down the river.
4:14PM I’ve arrived in Chiang Rai!
Whether or not there would be a boat today was questionable. Because of gas prices, they only leave if there are 6 people. I was the first, and until just 30 minutes before the scheduled departure, there were only 5.
I seem to be getting used to sleeping on park benches, which I did all morning. The locals weren’t able to get used to seeing a scruffy, long-haired, white guy taking a nap in their park, though. I might be starting to smell… Perhaps I should bite the bullet and pay to get real laundry done?
As I was lying on the bench, three hill tribe women came up, selling their wares. Though none of us spoke a common language, we carried out a conversation for a bit. It was fun.
Today turned out to be Buddhist Lent, which meant the banks are all closed. A Swiss and her Thai boyfriend were all out of Baht, and needed to get to Chiang Rai so that the Swiss could reach her flight home. They asked me to spot them the 600 Baht for two boat tickets, which I did, and promised to pay me back when we docked at Chiang Rai — they would have a friend waiting at the pier who could pay me. To be honest, I didn’t really care if they could pay me back or not. I happened to have the Baht on me, and they needed to get to Chiang Rai. And that’s it.
In a Buddhist country, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in Karma or not. It just is.
I enjoyed the ride in the long tail boat. They sit so low that it feels like you’re skimming on water. The views (of the parts I didn’t sleep through) were wonderful. Not a road in site. Just green, green hills.
When we got to Chiang Rai, the Thai-Swiss couple’s friend was there with the money. He was a fat old man, whom I was told was a “medicine man”. I named him Bullfrog.
The couple had previously offered to drive me to any guest house I wanted, which I took them up on — a good thing, as there were no taxis waiting at the boats. We jumped in Bullfrog’s little car and zipped through town, defying every traffic law one could. Not even the Buddhist Lent Parade stopped us — we pulled right in, weaving through the monks and nuns.
They were driving down to Nan tomorrow, and offered me a free ride, but I declined. I want a couple nights in Chiang Rai before I bus south to Chiang Mai.
Now I sit in the guest house. It’s nothing much to look at, but has two strong fans and screen doors on the opposite sides of the room for bug-free ventilation.
It’s been exceptionally hot today. I look forward to a cool night in a bed — certainly superior to a night stuck in the back corner of a van, swerving to miss bumps, but still hitting them, in a sit leaning forward from the pressure of the bags behind it.
5:46PM Uh oh. Found another ice cream shop. They have something called a “chocolate trio”. That’s like, chocolate 3 times. Must be good. We’ll see.