Wow, today was probably the longest day we’ve had yet. We didn’t get a break, after travelling for a good 10 – 12 hours already, we then had the pleasure of doing it all again. For the most part I slept, but one thing’s for sure, we couldn’t have been happier to reach Chiang Mai that evening. So sit back and relax as I explain the downside to being a backpacker.
• Continuing on from where I left off. After watching everyone’s favourite superhero do his thing, I stayed up for another few hours watching various other tv shows. At first I wasn’t going to give into tiredness, but around 2am I drifted off. At 5am our bus arrived in Bangkok.
• It didn’t take us where we wanted however. We had paid for a bus ride all the way to Bangkok bus station, but instead, the driver stopped just outside of Koah San Road. Typical. We asked him what was going on, and he said, “if you want to go to bus station, you must get a taxi”. There they were, like vultures waiting for a carcass, one by one they came over. Each time offering extortionate prices. We were all pretty tired by this point, but there was no way any of us were paying 600 baht for a half an hour journey. “Long way, very far”, was their explanation for the high price.
• Our bags had been unloaded for us, but instead of being in a sensible place, they threw them down beside the piles of rubbish on the floor. This made my bag quite dirty, I grabbed both mine and Sarah’s, then we hailed a taxi. It was a really nice older gentleman behind the wheel, and he agreed to take us where we wanted. He even allowed us to have the meter on, rather than charge a fixed price. For the whole journey I was like a zombie, after only having 3 hours sleep over a 20 hour period. Luckily the girls were more chatty than me, and they entertained the man. He told us about Songkran, and its duration in certain areas of Thailand. If you were to keep moving to new areas every time it finished in one place, you’d be able to celebrate it for a whole month. When we arrived at the station, the meter read 97 baht. So much for that 600 then. There are rip off merchants everywhere in Thailand. We thanked our driver, then went over to the ticket counter.
• All of the counters were free because it was only 5:30am. We went up to one lady and bought a bus ticket to Chiang Mai for 6:45am. This gave us enough time to have some food. I paid the 7Eleven a visit for some of their delicious toasties, while Sarah ordered something from the food counter. We feared we may have a terrible bus, but after asking the woman behind the counter, she put our minds at ease. It looked to be a comfortable vessel with reclining seats. When we stepped foot outside it was already parked up ready to go, all we were waiting on was the driver. He showed up on time and helped us put our bags aboard, we then located our seats and got comfy. What do you know, out of the two seats in front of me, I sit behind the one woman that chooses to recline hers. She had the front seats, and because of that, had loads of legroom, too much for a woman of her stature. Yet she still felt the need to recline her seat.
• I slept on and off throughout the journey. At one point I was in a really deep sleep, and I was embarrassed to find my mouth wide open as I awoke. When I briefly looked out the window between sleeps, I noticed there had been an accident outside. This was the first one I’d witnessed since being in Thailand, which is surprising given the way they drive. It involved two vehicles, a truck and a car, and there were policeman directing traffic around it. I then fell asleep for another couple hours.
” Around 11 o’clock to midday, I woke up and stayed awake. I watched a tv show or two with Sarah, but found it increasingly difficult to look at the screen. This wasn’t because of travel sickness, we had been on buses for over 24 hours by then, and my back was really beginning to feel it. No matter how I’d twist or turn, there was no escaping it. I couldn’t do a thing to get comfy. Fortunately our bus driver made a stop, and for half an hour we got to stretch our legs. It was a roadside service station, Sarah and myself recognised it straightaway, we had been here during a long haul journey before. By showing our tickets to the people behind the counters we could have either a free meal or drink. Remembering from last time that there was a reason the food was free, I chose to have a drink instead. Sarah ordered the food and shared it with Anna, but they soon realised how bad it was. When our time was up, we begrudgingly climbed back on the bus.
• I watched a film with Sarah, then fell asleep once again for the last couple hours. Our driver made stops along the way for people to get off at various locations, one of which was the woman in front of me. After she’d gone I pushed her chair forward, in an attempt to sit in a better position. It didn’t really make a difference, my lower back still ached. At 5pm our bus pulled up at Chiang Mai bus station, and we couldn’t be happier. If not a little tired.
• We had no accommodation reserved, this was a problem. So, our plan of attack was to find a cafe with wifi. Luckily there was one directly opposite. We went inside the tiny little shop, barely finding any space to put our bags, and ordered some drinks. Sarah then began looking online for places to stay. She found one that went by the name “Junior Guesthouse”. We reserved a room for three people, paid for our drinks, then hailed a red truck to take us there.
• The driver said he knew where it was, but Sarah remembered they often said that to get a fare, and actually didn’t. This happened to be the case with this guy. He had to stop at one point to come and ask us again where we were staying. It wouldn’t have been so bad, driving around aimlessly until we found it, had it not been Songkran. We had been travelling for over 30 hours now, so an additional half an hour around Chiang Mai didn’t really make a difference. What did however, was the hundreds of people dotted around various streets, squirting and throwing buckets of water at anything that moved. Targeting us out as we passed. I causally moved to the front of the truck, and took refuge behind the bags, meaning Anna and Sarah were the two most exposed. I blamed my hiding on the fact I had an iPhone in my pocket, but truth was, I didn’t want to get wet. Eventually the driver found the building, we paid him 20 baht each, and walked up the side street towards it.
• The people at Junior Guesthouse couldn’t have been more helpful if they’d tried. We explained how we’d made, and paid for, a reservation for one of their rooms. The owner looking very surprised asked us for our reservation number. Sarah hadn’t taken a screenshot of it, so instead, I showed him an email confirmation. He couldn’t believe it. He explained to us that because of Songkran he was full, and that a week ago he had taken their rooms off Agoda’s website. This was the site we’d used to book our stay. It was then they helped us out greatly, rather than just giving us a refund, they walked us down the street to a different guesthouse named Mountain View Guesthouse. The only downside of having to walk there was having to pass a water fight. The locals sprayed us once again, just before we stepped foot inside the building.
• Jeff was the name of the man who’d led us there, and he did one last kindness before leaving. He paid for our stay for one night. He apologised sincerely for the mistake with the booking, then returned to his own guesthouse. The room was very nice I thought, whereas Sarah said she found it creepy. The only creepy thing in the room were the creepy crawlies, I guess that’s the category Mosquitos fall under. There were hundreds of them flying around. At first we tried swatting them with our hands, but missed every time. I then returned to reception to see if they had any other rooms. They didn’t, but the guy have me something far more pleasurable. He armed me with killing devices. I returned to the room with a can of pest repellent, and the best thing of all, an electric tennis racket.
• “Hahahahahahahahahaha”, I shouted, as I swung the electric bat of death around the room. “Crack”, “pop”, “fizz”, “snap”, were the sounds echoing from the walls of our new home. I couldn’t even see what I was killing, but anytime I moved the bat from side to side, it lit up like a Christmas tree, killing hundreds of the blood sucking buggers with each fell swoop. Their deaths filled the room with a pungent singed hair scent, but it didn’t bother us, too long had they caused us pain over the last 7 months; now they were getting what they deserved. The girls then took it in turns to scan the room, each feeling joy as the bat cracked with the death of another mini vampire. We were then able to walk about our room in peace. We each took a shower to freshen up, then sprayed the room with repellent, before heading out for food.
• Stupidly we took bags of laundry with us, thinking somewhere might actually be open at 9pm during Songkran. It turned out there wasn’t. We caught a red truck to the night bazaar for 20 baht each, and began looking there. We came up trumps once again, but it wasn’t a complete waste. Sarah remembered hearing good reviews of a place called Soho Hostel from our friend Duncan. We checked it out, as apparently they had cheap accommodation. It was about the same as anywhere else, it was only cheap if you bought a package deal with them, e.g a bus ticket to Pai, or a day trip. They wouldn’t even take our laundry unless we were staying there. In the end, we went back towards the night bazaar for food, with our clothing in tow.
• We managed to find a lovely local restaurant opposite the sea food restaurant Sarah and I used to eat at during our last visit. Massaman was the dish of the day for the three of us, with Anna ordering hers a little more spicy. After we ate, we wandered around the market stalls for half an hour. It sucked, at the start of our arrival there was talk of visiting the cinema, but because there wasn’t anything on that late, I was now walking around the market. Talk about disappointment, I think I need some guy friends again. I guess by comparison to other visits, half an hour is nothing. We paid a quick visit to a 7Eleven for water, then caught a red truck back to Mountain View Guesthouse. At least the driver knew the way this time.
• When we got back, I made a very patchy Skype call to my mum. The Internet was good, for as long as it lasted, but it continued to cut out throughout the conversation. That little saviour of mine back home had managed to fix the banking crisis I was going through. Claiming a man at the bank told her, the reason my credit card stopped working was because it “timed out”. According to this man, if you make a transaction three times in a row, and it doesn’t get acknowledged by the bank quick enough, it can time out and freeze. The guy could see all the transactions I had tried to make, and everything was back to normal. God bless Janet Howe, the Lightning God.
• Time was getting on by the end of the phone call, and I was feeling really tired. I returned to the room to find Sarah and Anna looking up new accommodation. I joined in and eventually we found somewhere, but by the time we had finished, and had gone through the evening rituals, it was getting on for 1am. I was too tired to think, let alone write about my day. I chose to leave it for the following morning, and I collapsed in bed, going into the deepest sleep I had been in, in a while.