Travel Blog: Week 55

Chiang Mai Week 55: 25.11.2013 – 01.12.2013 Monday:- I had another double whammy massage session with Shaku this morning. I had breakfast early and then set off. It’s a relaxing experience for the mind, body and soul and I get a two hour treatment for around £10! Shaku was free for the early afternoon and as we were both hungry we went in search for somewhere for lunch. Our first choice was closed so we ended up at Bird’s Nest for

Chiang Mai

Week 55: 25.11.2013 – 01.12.2013

Monday:-

I had another double whammy massage session with Shaku this morning. I had breakfast early and then set off. It’s a relaxing experience for the mind, body and soul and I get a two hour treatment for around £10!

Shaku was free for the early afternoon and as we were both hungry we went in search for somewhere for lunch. Our first choice was closed so we ended up at Bird’s Nest for a fabulous Kaow Soi.

  

More experience of riding around with a passenger as I dropped Shaku back – not before she took me to her favourite bakery. Sweet Sensations. They do the most amazing cakes and she bought me a big wedge of chocolate and lemon cake. Feeling full to the brim I took it home for later……not much later though, it kept calling me from the fridge.

  

 

After putting my feet up for a bit I decided a movie was in order – a full size cinema screen movie. I braved the rush hour traffic, which I have to admit I do not enjoy, and made it to Airport Plaza. I was about 10 minutes late for the 17:50 viewing but bless them, they let me in. I just missed a few of the trailers but was there for the national anthem. The movie was great, but to fully enjoy it I think you really need to have read the books. To me it felt like it was the link between the first and the last sections of the trilogy. Having said that I loved it.

A quick stop at Tops – it had to be a flying visit as they were just closing up. I bought a few things, found my scooter in the parking lot and headed back.

Tuesday:-

I had no appointments at all this morning and it felt good to just let the morning be what it was. I had breakfast, did some laundry and went to the pool. There was only one other person there and he was content to sit in the sun, so the water was all mine. I managed 70 lengths today and the number of times I needed to stop was less. I was getting fitter and it was lifting my spirits!

I met Taywin for lunch. He was back from China – I asked how his trip had gone and he told me the food was bad! It took more questions to find out more about the success of how the Muay Thai training went! He’s a very humble man so completely played down that his ‘student’ was a famous Chinese actor slash pop star! They had been choreographing a music video. Well, that was my best interpretation of events. I dropped Taywin back at the gym, stopping at the nearby market to buy fruit, and headed back to the apartment. I just missed the rain luckily.

I had a lazy few hours and although I was feeling very settled laying on the bed watching TV I decided to get up and make the 6pm Dance Mandala session. Shaku wasn’t facilitating at this one which gave it a different vibe but I enjoyed it just the same. Sweaty and knackered I let my trusty scooter take me home for dinner and eventually bed. I had an early start in the morning.

Wednesday:-

So…..the alarm went off at 5:15. An unearthly hour by anyone’s standards!

I’d slept well and was surprisingly alert. I guess I knew what I had to do and, well, just got on with it. I packed up my passport, copy papers, photos and money, plus water and fruit and my iPad which had numerous options for keeping me entertained. I set off. It was dark and cool but the roads were empty – I don’t think I’ve ever had such freedom around the moat road. The one way system works pretty well here once you get used to it. There’s an inner moat road which goes anti-clockwise and an outer one that goes clockwise, with regular bridges over the moat itself – it’s these that link the two roads and allows you to change direction. Imagine the face of a clock. I needed to travel from say 12 round to 9 – the direct route would be to go from 12, then 11, 10 and then 9, but because of the way the linking bridges are set up (and the positions of my starting and ending points) I needed to travel from 12, to 1, then 2 – cross a bridge – back to 1, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7 – cross another bridge – back to 8, to then arrive at 9! The way back would be much quicker! Not only were the roads empty this morning but the birds were waking up and there was that familiar sound (which happens at dawn and dusk – dusk chorus is the one I usually experience obviously) of their joyful chirps as they welcomed the sun.

I found the immigration office straight away, pulled into the gateway, parked up and took my place. It was 5:55 and I was #9 in the queue. Now the wait until 8am when the office opened and there’d be the hectic filling of forms and queuing again. When the doors open it’s always a bit of a bundle so I ended up with ticket #13. But the good news was I was 2nd in the queue when my number 13 got converted to the tourist visa extension queue. I waited an hour before any actual numbers got called and I used the time to get a copy of the exit card page on my passport – I’d forgotten I needed that! Number 001 was called and soon after 002 – me! Despite my best efforts there’s always something on the form or papers I’ve missed. Today I needed to add the name of the guesthouse where I was staying, my email and phone number (there’s no box for that info you just have to remember) and sign each page. Impressively, I can now remember my Thai phone number – it’s only taken 6 months! I paid my cash, got the nod that everything was in order, and took a seat again. Now the wait to get my passport back with the official stamp which allows me to stay another 30 days. Like any waiting area there’s such a mix of people; those waiting for their study visa, retirement visa, tourist visa extensions and marriage visa. All shapes, sizes, ages, and nationalities gather here in a communal waiting. Interesting how many older ‘western’ men are there with local wives and girlfriends. Very symbiotic!

I was done and out by 9 – only three hours. That’s got to be some record!

Getting out of immigration was fun. I’d parked my scooter near the entrance so I could make a quick getaway. When I returned to leave my bike was gone and there were only cars parked. I don’t know how they moved my bike, because I’d locked the steering, but they did. They must have lifted it and then carried it to a different part of the car park!!! Anyway, I found my scooter tucked away in one of the corners and completely fenced in by cars. I found the car park security – they must have been expecting me because without many words and gestures they knew what I was getting at. After a bit of shoving cars around, fortunately parked without hand brakes on, a small enough gap was made to squeeze my bike through. I was free to go! Woo hoo!

Seeing as I was up and out early. I decided to make the most of the morning. I stopped by at Dream House to see how things were going. The tourism in Chiang Mai had picked and but sadly the demonstrations in Bangkok were having some impact. The takings for the month weren’t as good as everyone was expecting. Let’s hope for better times.

After Dream House I crossed the river and went to Rim Ping – as usual there was nowhere to park, well apart from the spaces that were on a ramp. Last time I parked there the scooter nearly rolled back into the road as I struggled with the steep angle, trying to find the brakes, put the parking stand down and lock the steering column. Having that experience once was more than enough! I’m still a novice at this scooter lark. I drove further down the road and found an area I hoped would be OK to leave the bike. I gestured across the road to a side kitchen and they signalled that they would keep an eye on the scooter for me.

I was in search of marmite today. I didn’t find any but bought a bag full of goodies. I’d only had a banana for breakfast and we all know what happens when you go food shopping on an empty stomach! I loaded up the scooter with my stash of deliciousness – true to their word the couple at the roadside kitchen had kept my bike safe. A big smile, a wave and a silent palms together ‘khop khun kha’ (thank you) and I was away. I stopped off at the organic shop to buy granola and then back to the apartment. It was quite a round trip all told!

  

  

As I’d pretty much skipped breakfast I was really hungry so had a midday lunch – god damn is was good though. A mixture of the things I’d bought which didn’t really go together but who cares! I didn’t go out again for the rest of the day. I watched movies, did some hula hooping and had a few snoozettes (it had already been a long day) and then set to making veggie soup and attempting again to make yoghurt. The soup was fabulous although there seemed to be a hell of a lot of washing up! The success of the yoghurt would only be clear in the morning.

  

  

Thursday:-

Today I could have a lay in. I was meeting Shaku for my last massage with her but not until 10 so I had a slow morning. After another fabulous massage we took a trip to the ceramics factory just around the corner. From the road it looked like a small shop but once through the gate I realised it was huge – the shelves and racks just went on and on. Some beautiful things. Unfortunately, ceramics = weight. Shaku bought a number of things to give as gifts to the people she’d met in Chiang Mai, I bought one tiny dish in the shape of a lily pad.

  

  

I dropped Shaku at her yogi leaving party and went back to the apartment for lunch – homemade pumpkin and carrot soup. I also checked on my batch of yoghurt – yay, it had worked this time!

In the late afternoon I went to the Burmese library to meet Sarah and help her with her English. To help the conversation flow, as we’d covered all the basics; name, age, family, studies, work etc etc, the last time we met, I took my story dice with me. It was fun and we came up with some fabulous stories.

    

I left Sarah and headed to the Yoga Tree for my first Restorative yoga class with Stef. On the way I saw the most amazing thing. What I thought was a standard scooter and sidecar, which are usually used as mobile kitchens, had actually been converted. No one was sitting on the scooter but a man in a wheelchair was parked up inside the sidecar and the scooter handle bars had been extended across to where he was sitting so he could manoeuvre the vehicle. On the roads, when we all have the freedom of movement everyone is equal! The yoga class was gentle but by no means easy. I really enjoyed the stretches and flexes though. Hopefully I still would in the morning! I had a quick catch up with Shaku and then called it a night.

Friday:-

I woke up early but spent the morning in the apartment which I turned into a spa – body scrub, manicure, pedicure and conditioning treatment for my hair. I felt pampered and squeaky clean.

The need for lunch forced me out and I decided to try somewhere new – a place called ‘Brown Rice’. I found a table and sat down. Waited and waited but no one appeared. OK, change of plan. I moved onto Birds Nest. I ordered a Massaman Curry and fresh coconut. I’d just started to tuck in when I received a text from Shaku. She was leaving in 30 minutes! What!! I thought she was going at 5pm, it was only 3pm. I downed my meal and headed off to see her before she left for India. A taxi was waiting for her at Yoga Tree and after helping her with her luggage (the check in was going to be fun with all this weight) she asked if I would come to the airport with her. I joined her in the taxi and off we went. It’s only a short journey and we were soon there. So…..she was 23kg overweight. We did a bit of juggling between her cases (I carried one bag through to the departure gate so they didn’t think it was hers), she was now 10kg over. The check-in lady gave her 5kg grace and she paid the excess on the rest ($50) . We said our ‘goodbyes’, well it was more like ‘see you soon’ and I headed for the exit. Now, I just needed to get back to my scooter which was parked at Yoga Tree! Just as I walked through the exit doors a Song Tao (red bus) arrived and agreed to take me back to the old town for 50THB. Perfect!

I picked up my scooter and took the Huay Keaw road to the swimming pool. It was popular at this time of night and swimming lengths was challenging with the kids playing ball and a couple of Chinese tourists who seemed to want to push me to the edge. Not giving in to either of those – I finished my 60 lengths and left. It was dark and chilly – it had been a wonderfully cool day today anyway and now the evening temperature was dropping.

I stopped off at Tops on the way, and bought a bagful of spuds. Tomorrow was a Thanksgiving party and I was taking potato salad. Home through the traffic – I really enjoyed the scooter today. I know my way around now and how to find the cut throughs which take me to the nearest inner/outer link roads or the shortcuts to skip the queues. The traffic and the lights seemed to be in my favour today.

Home for dinner and making a mountain of potato salad!

Saturday:-

The alarm woke me this morning. What was I thinking …..a yoga class at 9am!

The lady I’d met months ago when I joined her raw chocolate class, Anna, was leaving Chiang Mai. As well as making chocolates, she taught yoga. Today was her last class and she had invited me to come along. It was a tough class but forgiving too – we were told to listen to our bodies and only do what was comfortable. The improvement would come over time I’m sure.

Anna also had her own line of yoga clothing and because she was moving to Bangkok she didn’t want to carry the excess weight of her remaining stock. I’d done her a favour and brought some things back from Bali for her and so in addition to the already knock down price of the clothes she gave me a heavy discount. I left with two high quality, fairly unique yoga tops for next to nothing. After the class Anna, Stef and I went to Brown Rice for a drink and a plate of fresh spring rolls – how delicious do these look!!

  

On the way back to the apartment I stopped off to see Waew and then Leo. Leo had a new kitten. The most adorable little thing – black with a few splodges of white on her paws and nose. Leo and I hadn’t seen each other for a while and we spent hours catching up. Too many hours actually. We were supposed to be at the Thanksgiving party but when we checked the time the party had been and gone! Oops – apology to Luise required and suggestions for what to do with the mountain of potato salad I had sitting in my fridge.

  

By going to yoga this morning I had missed the chance of another trip to the Farang Farm bakery. Luckily for me Leo had picked up a few things for me and we carried on our conversation over a plate of fresh baguette and homemade pate. This is the life!

Feeling rather full I made it back to the apartment, and subsequently fell asleep. Early morning yoga classes can do that!

Sunday:-

Well, it was an emotional morning which came completely out of the blue – I guess the trials of this journey, both the internal and external, came crashing in around me today. From the outside this journey looks like the trip of a lifetime and it is. What isn’t so obvious is the constant flexing with change, the making and then the leaving of friends, the times of loneliness, the ongoing battle to be a better person, the unknown, the conversations with myself about what am I searching for, and the disappointments. Most of the time these are the voices far in the background but today, for some reason, they were shouting and screaming at me. Maybe all these alternative therapies are shifting something inside me and allowing me to release hidden negativities, who knows. I rolled with it and just curled up this morning and waited for these feelings to pass, as all things do!

I had lunch in the apartment and then decided to go out. Enough of the emotional stuff! I needed to speak to Waew so headed for the old town. I’d just got inside the moat when my bike cut out – I know this is a new bike to me and each fuel gauge is different but the needle was only just on the red. Great! It was Sunday Market too so the old town was heaving, and many of the roads were closed. I just couldn’t get the bike started. I pushed it to a place I thought would be safe to leave it, and did just that. I abandoned it. Today of all days I was really not impressed with my current predicament. I walked (well stomped with a big lip and a few expletives) through the market, interestingly passing the ‘production team’ vehicle for ‘The Coup’ (remember, I’d auditioned to be an extra). After 20 minutes, thank goodness it was cool today, I arrived at Dream House. As it was market day the roads would only get worse. Waew said it’s probably the gas level, so I borrowed her bike (my old one) and went to the gas station. After waiting what seemed like ages and paying a 400THB deposit, I came away with a spare can full of fuel. After going the long way around to avoid the market road closure, not to mention I’d broken down on a one way street, I got back to my scooter. There was a different feel on the roads today, of course it was busy but the usual calm and thoughtfulness towards scooters had gone – it felt like it was every man for himself, which is fine if your in a huge 4×4. Maybe it was my mood and maybe the Chiang Mai gloss was wearing off. Time will tell! Huuuhhhhhh! I opened the gas tank to find there was some fuel inside – so the fuel gauge was right. Anyway, I topped up the gas to the max and tried to start it up. Nothing!! Fortunately, I’d parked in a residential area full of locals and they gathered around to help. Eventually, a girl put the bike up on its stand and started it manually with the kick lever. There is a real skill to doing that. It took a few attempts but eventually it spluttered and then purred, although I had to switch it off and leave it. Back the long way again to Dream House with Waew’s bike and the spare can – there was still some fuel in it so I topped up Waew’s bike. I spent a few hours with Waew then went a cross to see Leo.

There were 4 of us there, well five if you count Leo’s adorable little kitten. Me, Leo, Jelena and Luise. After chatting a while we went down to Beetroot corner and signed up for a foot massage. They couldn’t do all four of us for another hour so we sat in the lantern lit courtyard garden, which is surrounded by open restaurants, and each chose what we wanted to eat and drink. In the end we chose from 3 of the restaurants and all the food was delivered around the same ish time to our central table – vegetarian, Italian and Vietnamese. We ate, drank and were merry. Fun times and greatly appreciated on this day.

We sat in a row of four large chairs and lost ourselves in the bliss of a foot massage. An hour seems to fly by when you melt into the relaxation, and the massage was soon over. We said our farewells, I collected my bag, helmet and gas can and walked back through the packed market to find my scooter. By now it was dark and when I turned into where I thought I’d left the bike I was a tad worried to see many bikes parked there – none of which looked like mine. Oh god, did I lock it up when I left before! After a moment to collect my thoughts I went back to the main road and onto the next turning – an exact replica of the last one. The one big difference was my bike was there to greet me. Phew!!!! And the best thing was it started. Back around the one way system, avoiding the closed roads and doubling back on the outer moat road I stopped off at the gas station, retrieved my 400THB deposit and finally got back to the apartment.

It had been quite a day and I was ready to bring it to a close. Onwards and upwards!

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