Car 3, Seat 29

The following was written 7-2, on the train to Chiang Mai.

9:57AM I’m on the train to Chiang Mai now.

Yesterday I went on the tour with 4 others.

5:22PM The hills here are not as huge and other-worldly as the Cascades, but are so jagged and chaotic in shape and nature that they still seem to resist the notion of human subservience. I look forward to meeting their inhabitants, animal and other.

5:45PM I stopped writing before due to the bumpiness of the ride, but it’s better now. Where was I?

I went on the tour with 4 other folks from the guest house. A French couple and an Irish couple. We cruised to the first Wat, which had a large tower in the center you could climb up. Inside, there were 5 Buddhas surrounding a deep shaft in the center. Bats flew all over the roof. I didn’t want to scare them with my flash, so I avoided taking many pictures.

One thing I particularly enjoy about the ruins in Thailand is that one is free to explore and climb all over them. So unlike many historical objects and sites in the West, which one is rarely allowed to even touch.

From there, it was to the royal elephant stable. We pet, fed, and watched the elephants bathe. One baby couldn’t get enough of me. She kept attempting to eat my foot and, when that wasn’t working, decided she would wrap her trunk around my leg and go for the whole thing. She was strong enough to lift my leg and I was soon on all fours for balance. Later, when I turned around to leave, she grabbed my backpack and held me there.

By the time we were done with the elephants, it was pouring like I had never seen, with thunder and lightning, too.

We made another stop at a monument to the king, but one second out of the shelter of the tuk-tuk and you were taking a bath, so we canceled the rest of the tour and headed back to the guest house. Roughly an hour after that, the rain held up enough for us to venture out to a restaurant for dinner (the night market was closed due to the rain). That was my first restaurant in Thailand.

Then we headed back to the guest house, reaching it a bit after 11PM. I was told the England vs. Portugal match would be “a bit of crock” (gotta love the Irish), so I watched about an hour of that.

I’m not sure what people see in soccer. It didn’t seem anymore entertaining than other sports, perhaps less. Though I was told that this wasn’t a very good game, what with Portugal tumbling around and crying every time they got kicked in the shin-guards. I went to bed when it was still 0-0, so I don’t know who won.

A good day.

The Irishman suggested a guest-house in Chiang Mai, so I plan to head there when I get in tonight. It’s not listed in Lonely Planet, but he’s stayed there 3 times, and has also done treks through them.

When I left this morning, the Baan Lotus lady was sad to see me go. She made me promise to come back, and told me to bring a girlfriend. She also told me I was very smart, but then outlined her face, so I assume she was referring once again to my good looks.

Did I mention she arranged a tuk-tuk to taxi me from the guest house to the train station?

And so now I’m on the train. It’s about a 9 hour ride, with a couple hours left to go. I don’t know where we are now, but we’ve been stopped at this station for 5-or-so minutes. A lot of people got off – I hope I’m not supposed to. But it hasn’t been 9 hours yet and I think Chiang Mai will be larger than this.

Lunch was served about noon. It was chicken and rice, with a side dish of what seemed to be a cross between pot-stickers and banana bread. Tasty. There were also 2 of what I can only describe as Thai chicken nuggets.

The water had ice in it – I hope that won’t kill me. Later, at 3PM, we were given a piece of some sort of cake and two of what resembled sugar cookies. I also got a cup or orange soda, but wasn’t as carbonated as what you normally get in the states. I liked it better. (I also noticed that, last night, the Lemon Juice I had with dinner wasn’t as acidic as back home.) The food here on the train is processed and microwaved – obviously not up to street vendor par – but kicks the shit out of what you’re given on American trains or airplanes.

The seating is like that of an airplane. Not as comfortable as Amtrak, but nice. All in all, very good for just under 600 Baht

We’ve begun to move again.

I wonder if they’ll serve us dinner?

6:30PM The scenery on the second half of the trip has been beautiful. The mist shrouded hills, rice fields. I almost feel as if I’m in some old Vietnam movie.

It’s not surprising the trains and buses are knocked out so much in the rainy season. Some of the hills and cliffs we pass so close to show signs of sliding in the past, and appear to want to slide again very soon. I should take pictures for my Geology professors.

As I noticed us pass by one such spectacular hill, it started pouring. An impressive site. It stopped soon after, but I wonder what would happen if the track was covered in front of us?

What with the greenery and clouds that have been with us ever since, it at times looks as if I could be back home in the Pacific Northwest. I wonder if it’s hot and muggy out there? It doesn’t look it, but the train has AC and, knowing Thailand, it probably is.

My seat is stuck in the back position.

Most people, I think, take the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. I prefer this. It’s cheaper than a sleeper train and you can see what you’re moving through. Plus we’re fed, which I doubt happens on the night train.

Yet another lengthy stop we’re making.

This could very well be my first day in Thailand without eating a pineapple. I’ve been averaging at least one whole one from street vendors a day.

6:53PM Thais love to ask where Farang are from. I always respond “United States” and most of the time they understand, but sometimes I have to say “American”. I’ve often used the word to refer to myself in opposition to, say, Canadians, but I don’t understand it. Are not Canadians, Mexicans, and Patagonians just as American as those of us in the USA? It seems to me that all residents of North America, Central America, and South America are equally American. Claiming otherwise would be to say that only Germans are Europeans or Laoations the only Asians. I wonder if Bush realizes the implications when he claims to do something for America or Americans.

…I wonder if Bush realizes the implications of anything he says.

7:05PM It’s the density of the trees and the rest of the greenery that really awes me here. You don’t get this back home. It’s such that one can hardly imagine something like what I’m seeing now is even possible. Untouched.

And the houses. We pass small tin shacks, with nothing more cleared away than the space needed for the building. No yards, no driveways.

The telephone polls and occasional power station are out of place here.

We’re now stopped at “Khan Tan”.

7:14PM What’s with these long stops? Earlier we would stop at stations for no more than a minute, but now it’s no less than 10. I hope I’m not supposed to be getting off.