Date: Dec 16th, 2009
The next day, I woke up and checked out of Rux Thai by 8am. I left my bags at their store room as the first thing I needed to do was to get a bus ticket to Phuket. I took a pick-up taxi (unlike Bangkok, few Toyota Corollas here) and headed for the Chiang Mai bus terminal (cost me 50 baht).
Unnnnnfortunately, when I got there, I was informed that the buses to Phuket go via Bangkok — (“Oh crap” moment #4) — which meant a one-and-half day journey.
Disappointed as hell, and it felt like hell given the heat, I went to a internet cafe nearby and tried again for flight tickets. There was the option of train but apparently even that goes via Bangkok — meaning, one really long journey. I would have taken the train if I had the time because I would have loved to see the country side but time was not on my side. All the budget carriers were full and the only flight that was available from Chiang Mai to Phuket the next day was with Thai Airways. Even though it cost me around 5900 baht (Rs. 8,300), I had no other choice, I had to go for it.
I booked my flight, printed my tickets and headed back to Rux Thai Guesthouse by pickup taxi. In a way, I was kind of happy that I now had another day in Chiang Mai. But now, I had to find another room to stay in.
Just before I picked up my bags from Rux Thai, I stepped into an adjascent guesthouse called City House. They had rooms from 200 baht, 300 baht and above (!) Since it was already noon and I was going to be checking out by early morning, I opted for the single room w/fan (200 baht/Rs. 270) plus 50 baht (Rs. 69) for their WiFi service.
Small room, but it was clean, had the basic frills and it had a working hot shower (important to me). Overall, a very good deal given the location.
I freshened up, planned where I needed to go next and then headed out for lunch.
Which was at a small family-run restaurant…
… and I had the sea-food curry rice meal. At just 40 baht (Rs. 55), it was filling — and good.
After lunch, I walked around the area and looked for a specific bike I thought I’d rent to go to Doi Suthep.
I crossed the road and walked to the other side and… just kept walking. The bylanes all housed small hotels and casual bars making it a ‘quieter side’ compared to Loi Kroh road.
After having checked out a few rental bike shops, I realized time was going by. I stopped at a travel agent who was renting bikes for 200 baht (Rs. 270) a day. He didn’t have the bike I was looking for (which damn bike? That I shall talk about in a later post) so I opted for a Honda Click — a 110cc regular automatic scooter.
Tip: It’s advisable to take photos of whatever vehicle you rent in Thailand, be it a a bike, car, jet ski etc. There so many cases of scams or renters accusing you of a damage you may not have caused and seeking a lot of money. I’m not saying this agent looked like he was going to pull one on me but you never know. At least having evidence in your hands helps.
I rented a bike because I needed to go to a temple called Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai’s most famous temple. I also knew it was a bit of a drive there and taking a taxi would have cost me 600 baht/Rs. 830 or more (that’s what they were quoting anyway). So renting a bike seemed like a better option.
But what I didn’t know was that it was perched on top of a hill and that it was 17kms away.
So I set off quickly after getting a few directions and filling up a litre of petrol (40 baht/Rs. 55)… and then some more directions after taking a few wrong turns.
I was finally on the right path and I drove past Chiang Mai Zoo and the Night Safari to enter the foot of the hill. What I also didn’t know was, how beautiful the drive was going to be!
I absolutely loved it! Tall trees on either side, the sunlight barely making it through the trees, dried leaves on either side of the road, professional cyclists biking their way up hill… it was just lovely. The road was divided into 2 lanes going up and 1 lane going down. There wasn’t much traffic going up as most people were on their way down. I really wished I had stopped to take a few photos but I just couldn’t! It was already 5pm and I had to drive 7kms uphill on a 110cc scooter before it got too dark. (Not taking photos of the uphill drive was one of my biggest regrets of this trip but I’m definitely coming back to Chiang Mai to do it right.)
By 5:20pm I finally reached my destination. Took a left, went a bit downhill to the parking area, then walked back up and then saw I had even more climbing to do.
I was quite knackered after I took a few steps with my camera bag and the tripod on either shoulders. Panting for breath, I stopped for a while…
… took a few photos, drank some water and then made my way back up.
There was a sign board pointing to a ticket counter for tourists, but when I went there, nobody was to be seen at the counter. I didn’t wait as it was already late, so I went inside the temple after leaving my shoes outside (as is the requirement).
By the time I had gone around the temple, the sun had nearly set. After I felt I had clicked enough, I went down, got my shoes and stepped out of the temple.
I was dreading the ride back downhill as it was quite chilly on the way up. And the fact that I was only wearing a T-shirt and shorts, it was only going to get chillier on the way down with the sun all set.
But I braved the chill factor and still made my way down in the dark. Until I saw this…
I drove a bit further down to an observation deck.
It was a hassle setting up the tripod in pitch darkness, not to mention changing lenses too. I played around with the camera’s settings to try and capture the starry sky.
By the time I slowly packed up all the equipment (it was dark, so I had to be careful) and left the observation point, it was 7:30pm. It was a pain to carry the camera tripod around but I wouldn’t have been able to take these shots had I not used it.
I made my way back down and by then, the evening had come alive with locals thronging the side streets. I stopped on the side when I saw a fairly large ‘food court’. It’s something I saw a lot of in Chiang Mai. Community eating. A stretch of food stalls serving a variety of dishes at very economical prices with enough tables and chairs for the groups of people — from school kids to young adults — who throng to such places.
I saw a ‘dosa’ stall but it was nothing close to the one I’m used to having with curry. These ‘dosas’ (some here even call it ‘roti’) are mostly sweet and can be filled with all sorts of delicious high-calorie stuffing.
The batter is fried (margarine was used here) and then folded in with the filling, cut into squares and then topped with condensed milk and sugar if you want. I said ‘I want’
At 20 baht (Rs. 27), there’s enough for two… but I enjoyed having it all. I tried to get back to Loi Kroh road after that but being new to the city, ended up taking a few wrong turns. Not that I was complaining, I loved Chiang Mai. It looked lovely with the lit up fountains in the canals that divided roads. Again, I regret not stopping and taking photos.
As I did near Loi Kroh, I stopped at another road with food stalls lined up by the canal.
Just after I took the above photo, I hastily packed up and set off. And then I hear something fall onto the road. I quickly moved to the side of the road and I knew the tripod bag had fallen off because I had placed the strap on the open hook the Honda Click had below the seat. But just as I was about to turn — “CRRRAACCKK!!”
A car ran over it. I quickly ran towards it as the vehicles slowed down seeing this dark long object on the road. I picked it up and I could already feel pieces move inside the bag.
I reach my hotel room and instantly assessed the damage…
… “Oh crap” moment #5
It was beyond repairable. So I just trashed it in the bin.
The irony was, I was thinking about picking up a really good tripod as the Canon 7D is a slightly heavy camera but decided to manage with the one I was carrying for two reasons. One, I had already spent enough and two, it would have definitely been heavier. But now, I had to get one!
It’s like God heard my thoughts and assumed that’s what I wanted. (God, if you are reading this, thanks — but this is not exactly the way I wanted it to happen!)
Instead of dreading over my loss, I went out for dinner. Back to the Night Bazaar it was. I had seen some very tempting fare the previous night so I decided to eat from Anusarn tonight.
I also had a bit of deep-fried crab cakes. They were okay, nothing exceptional. The duck was nice though.
After dinner, I checked out the Night Bazaar one last time (photos in previous post) and then called it a night as I had to wake up early to first, give back the bike and then, waste precious time looking for a new camera tripod.
(Something I saw on the way back to my hotel room)
Other posts in this series: