International Writers Magazine: Thailand Journey
Chiang Mai and Sleep
If God had wanted
woman to fly, hed have given her wings. And I am certainly
no angel. Closing my eyes on the six hour journey from Kuwait to
Bangkok was an action of frustration rather than fatigue. I was
happily flying along, sealed tightly under a statically charged
blanket and watching a scratchy version of Bratz the Movie
when every single screen on the plane blinked once, blinked twice,
and gave up entirely.
as the lights went out and I was unofficially told to be nice and go
to sleep. I huffed and I puffed and eventually did so, forehead first
on the collapsible tray that clattered from the seat in front. I woke
up groggy, cross and in a new and distant land..... "Welcome
to Bangkok! The city of Angles!" our friendly tourist
map gleefully proclaimed, we smirked and giggled and boarded the bus
that would take us to the train station.
I find it extremely difficult sleeping whilst travelling, and was none
too excited about the prospect of a twelve hour journey to Chiang Mai,
but now I was armed with an eye mask pinched from Kuwait Airways business
class and some ear plugs that looked like Wotsits I felt I may sleep
like a baby, or a log....or perhaps a baby on a log. With this confidence
I switched into experienced backpacker mode.
Bangkok was dirty, big, smelly and surprisingly angular after all. The
unfinished carriageways that didnt yet sweep into the centre had
builders hanging spiderlike in hammocks beneath them, snoozing peacefully
in the shade. The heat got to my boyfriend first. After buying our tickets
to Chiang Mai we had a few hours to burn (almost literally) before departure.
We got ripped off by a Tuk-Tuk driver who was so thrilled with the extra
cash he allowed the boyfriend to pose in the front while my female friend
and I smiled nervously in the back as he manhandled our cameras. Whizzing
through the traffic was something we probably wouldnt tell our
mums about, especially when Mr Look no hands! Tuk Tuk kept
forgetting to indicate and stop at every urgent red light.
Lhumpini Park was very pretty, a little green haven that looked like
Eden but smelt like the back of Macdonalds. It was here that Mark suddenly
and alarmingly started dripping thick red blood from both nostrils.
Alerting a passing Policeman we gestured at the blood on the floor and
his gory looking face. The policeman smiled, and laughed and went to
wake up a homeless man who appeared to be his mate. Having nothing to
stop the flow, save for my friends old tissue, we resorted to
desperate measures....and shoved my orange earplugs up his nose. Tonight
wasnt looking as blissfully silent as I had hoped.
Returning to the train station, we were greeted by the same woman who
had tried to force us into her tiny tourist office before. Scuse
me! Scuse me! Where you going?" Embarrassed and irritated, we plunged
through into the stuffy building that looked like every other train
station ever, and collected our bags from the luggage deposit. Our train
left in half an hour, plenty of time for a brief toilet stop.
Ugh. The ladies loos were about as nice as any local public convenience
can be, but the heat seemed to make everything feel and smell ever so
slightly worse. We exchanged 5 Baht (about 7p) for a swift wee. I was
in fact, so swift in my haste to get out I actually broke the string
in my trousers. My boyfriend spend the rest of the journey up to Chiang
Mai horrifyingly pointing out my ever British waist line.We werent
sure that Thai Etiquette tolerated three inches of visible knicker elastic.....
The train journey however, soon dispelled any dignities we sweating,
dirty looking travellers had previously maintained. Thankfully, as soon
as we stepped aboard we were blasted with ice-cold air. We had splashed
out on air-con. It soon transgressed that we hadnt quite splashed
out on anything worth sleeping on. The promised reclining
chairs were a little more slanted than the planes, but I was still nowhere
near as horizontal as I would like to be. Nonetheless, we were so exhausted
we didnt care. The boyfriend and I bunked up so to
speak, and my friend Emma bagged herself two seats together. She moved
about three times in the first hour, I would hear her furtive grumblings
as various backpackers slid into the seat next to her.
I woke up an hour later full of the joys of spring, convinced I had
slept through the whole night and we were in Chiang Mai. When the boyfriend
burst my bubble I think I could have cried. Twelve hours left.......
Annoying American Tourist number One was speaking loudly into her mobile
"Oh youll just LOVE the photo I took today, its so
so super cute! Youll see it soon cos it will be my Facebook
picture....oh its just so SUPER CUTE!"
I had slept for another hour lolled against my boyfriend and had horrifyingly
dribbled on his shoulder. In that moment I wished I was sat next to
her and it was her shoulder that wore my spit.
Sleeping on a train is a most discombobulating experience. I think I
woke up more times than I actually fell asleep. Leaving my dozing boy
with his head against the window, I would stretch out on a vacated double
seat. I use stretch extremely loosely. In the foetal position,
my head knocking rhythmically against the wall, legs curled beneath
me and knicker elastic well and truly displayed.
Everyone walking past to smoke outside knocked my feet ever so slightly
and I would wake up. I dont really need to tell you how uncomfortable
I was. Despite that, Jet lag conquered all, and sleep came in some form
or other. I woke up every other hour in a position that no person has
ever slept in before, blissfully ignorant to my personal appearance,
which by now was dishevelled to say the least.
At seven am, I woke up properly when the lady who gave us blankets in
the night poked me in the shoulder with a tray of rice. No one on First
Great Western has ever been so obliging.
Breakfast was free apparently, and surprisingly welcome. I was sat next
to my boyfriend again, with little memory as to how I got there. Emma
sat opposite, next to a guy who was apparently belching and/or singing
all night, and currently clipping his fingernails. There was slight
desperation in her eyes, and it transpired she had not slept much at
But joy of joys! We arrived! And Chiang Mai was bright, cool and beautiful.
We could see mountains in the distance with the gold of Buddhist temples
glittering on the summits. This was the land where elephants walked
with their carers down the streets, and you could hire a Moped with
no need for proof of driving ability (you know theres something
to worry about when the girl filling her ped up behind you is
wearing Winnie the Pooh sandals)
this was waiting to be discovered and I smiled at everyone as we
left the train station to wait for our lift. The friendly faces
shouting for us to use their taxi would not bother me now, the nice
man urging me to go see some Thai Boxing was only doing his job
after all, and we three weary travellers could only think of cool
crisp sheets and hot running water......
Davis March 5th 2008
abydavis at hotmail.co.uk
We arrived, sleep deprived. The spooky darkness below the plane was
Iceland. A small island poised above masses of red hot rock, straddling
the north American plate. Two nosy kids on a gap year, wanting to see
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