Bali: Ubud – and back to Chiang Mai Week 47: 30.09.2013 – 06.10.2013 Monday:- I woke with very mixed feelings. Deciding to give up my round the world ticket had left me with a sense of relief but also some in trepidation – why? I’ve no idea as logically I knew I could always book a flight. I guess I was just out of my comfort zone. Gusti seemed happy to know I was staying – bless him, it meant the
Bali: Ubud – and back to Chiang Mai
Week 47: 30.09.2013 – 06.10.2013
I woke with very mixed feelings. Deciding to give up my round the world ticket had left me with a sense of relief but also some in trepidation – why? I’ve no idea as logically I knew I could always book a flight. I guess I was just out of my comfort zone. Gusti seemed happy to know I was staying – bless him, it meant the room would be booked for longer.
I had breakfast. Pancakes… again. I knew I shouldn’t have mentioned I like the fried egg sandwiches the best! My sense of relief grew throughout the morning and now I knew I was staying a while longer I did well overdue laundry. My clothes were stinky even before I went to the Gilis and now they were just plain unsociable!! I’d bought a small sachet of washing powder last night and set to trying to give my clothes a new lease of life. At least the weather means things dry quickly here, and there are handy places to hang up clothes.
Having felt like I’d achieved something I set out to continue my exploration of Ubud. I think Gusti was a bit bemused by the fact I’m happy to just have a walk around and not go further afield, but I’m really enjoying it. Every time I take a walk around this place, without exception, I either find a beautiful fragranced frangipani flower or one drops directly in front of me. I always stop to pick it up – it’s becoming a daily ritual. I would say though that one of the side effects of walking around town does mean I keep buying stuff – maybe that’s the enjoyment. I’m starting to think I should be a buyer and sourcer of artsy stuff for home design. Ship it around the world to discerning customers and make a fortune. I’d be in my element – how do I start something like that?? Anyway, my pile of “stuff” in the corner of the room was growing and I’m not convinced even my sweetest, most pleading smile will get it all on the plane. I need to check out postal options.
Today I bought some new sandals (not sure if I mentioned that my lovely TKMax bargain buy Timberland ones had gone missing one night). I’d actually seen them the night before but they needed some adjustment which would take two days. Last night I didn’t know whether I would be staying or not so didn’t want to commit. Well, I was still here and so went back to buy them and get the alterations done. The woman in the shop must have known I’d be back as over night the alterations had been done and the sandals were ready to wear. Which is exactly what I did – with childlike glee I wore my new shoes. Now it’s always risky walking any kind of distance in new footwear but these rose to the challenge. I wore them all day. Anyway, back to my shopping list. I also acquired another mask! I didn’t have quite enough cash on me so I put down a deposit and went in search of an ATM. I think, no I know, the shop keepers have heard “I’ll be back” from the tourists so many times that they now suggest taking a part payment. Good thinking batman!! Anyway, I would definitely be back this time as I’d found another old mask and to me it was a bargain. It seemed I was the first customer for many of the shops and so that entitled me to a “special” discount. I think there are also special discounts for the second, third, etc etc, and last customers of the day. There’s always some excuse to enter into a deal with a tourist.
There wasn’t an ATM in sight so it took me a fair amount of walking to find one. I was now in the vicinity of the Yoga Barn so I decided to give it another try and have lunch there. I’m glad I did, the restaurant was fantastic and the food even more so. Super healthy again but really cheap. I had another fresh coconut, wheatgrass shot and pigged out on food. Now, back to find the shop and pay the remaining money on the mask.
Feeling very pleased with my shopping trip I headed back. Gusti was in a very chatty mood and doing his utmost to suggest I take a trip, and that he could organise it for me. I’m taking it day by day but I’d like to do something in the next few days. For now, it was a lovely afternoon and I decided to use the pool at the guesthouse next door. It’s a small infinity pool with fresh water (both in its chemistry and temperature) and looks out onto rice paddy verandas. There were roosters and chickens everywhere strutting their stuff as only they do in Bali. I think there’s usually a small fee for using the pool but no one asked me to pay up so I didn’t offer. Who dares wins Rodders!!
Showered and changed I headed out in search of the post office, more shopping and dinner. I really wanted to treat myself to a carnivorous meal and pud. What happened? I saw that chocolate cake and decided dessert should come first today. After eating it, it’s sublimely rich, I didn’t want anything else. So dinner turned out to be cake. Thank goodness lunch was nutritious!
There appear to be three things to which I’m addicted in Bali; fresh coconut water, chocolate cake and old masks. Today was a triumph – I got a hat trick! It also took my mind right off the fact I was supposed to be on a flight due to take off at 1:15pm.
Walking back a few things struck me. How lucky I was, how clean the streets were (every day, at multiple times, the people of Ubud lay offerings on the pavements outside their shops, on their cars, in the small street temples and anywhere with a flat surface but there is never any mess – like Thailand they are obsessed with sweeping and I’m very grateful) and how sad it was to see the women desperately begging on the streets with a child in their arms. Now, I think I’ve already mentioned what a dilemma I have with begging. Tonight, however, having had such an amazing, carefree and privileged day I truly recognised how fortunate I was and also the proximity of those around me who did not benefit from such a lifestyle. There was a new shop that had just opened up in the main street. It was a bit like the Gregg’s bakery we get at home. I bought 2 chicken pasties and handed them to the first two women I saw. No one with that much gratitude in their eyes or with such a relieved smile on their face is taking the piss. These women are desperate, but have so much grace, and I know giving them hand outs isn’t a long term solution, but for today I felt like I’d given 2 single mums at least one good moment.
Is was still fairly early but for tonight I was calling “time”. I went back to my room and had a quiet one.
So this morning I woke up early and dossed around for a few hours being very busy at doing not very much at all. I checked out the best guidance on getting a Thai visa in Bali, found the address of the consulate in Denpasar, and gathered together my papers. There was varying advice online and I just hoped I was taking the best from all. Some updates were quite old now and so maybe not so currently applicable. I asked Gusti to arrange a driver to take me to Denpasar. He knew a very good friend, a very safe driver, who would take me for a very good price. The consulate closed at 12 for accepting visa applications and so allowing for traffic, admin for form filling, and those little details that can catch you out I wanted to leave by 10. Hey, this is Bali. Things happen in their own sweet time so we left just after 10:30. I was in two minds to leave it for today and go tomorrow as it would take about an hour to get there. I was strongly advised that, nooooo, everything would be OK. However, when I suggested that if I didn’t get there on time today I would get a free trip tomorrow no one except me, liked that idea. Funny that!
So, with the strongest faith possible packed in my bag, along with the necessary papers I climbed on the back of the bike, donned a very sturdy helmet, and we were off. My driver was Ronal, aka Roni, and he was a safe driver so although the traffic was manic the ride was smooth. We left the hubbub of Ubud and got out into the quieter villages and rice fields. Once you get used to an individual’s driving style, so you know when to brace yourself with your feet or arms, you can relax and just rest your hands on your knees. I could tell we were getting close to the city as the traffic and noise increased and there was a demonstration by Denpasar university students. This was the worst time of day to be travelling as the sun was really strong today, but it was what it was.
Roni got the consulate address from me and set up his GPS so he said he knew where to go and I had no other option but to believe him. We made a couple of wrong turns but other than that it was a pretty direct route. The consulate looked just like someone’s house (I guess it was) – not very official. We made it with 25 minutes to spare, just enough time to complete the forms. Remember that time I wanted to set aside for the little details – well, one small detail was that I needed to provide evidence of my flight out of Thailand. Now, bearing in mind I’d just given up my ticket with Virgin I didn’t actually have a flight booked to anywhere, but they didn’t know that. Thankfully, I had an old confirmation email – all I needed to do now was find an Internet cafe and get a print. Roni was a star and instinctively seemed to find one within minutes. The service was a little unpredictable but I eventually got my print. Back on the bike to double back to the consulate. Talk about skin of your teeth. I handed over my passport (still makes me a little uncomfortable to release something so important to a complete stranger) and the now complete paperwork, and was told to come back Thursday.
Back on the bike and back to Ubud. I wanted to take a detour to a well know temple, “Tirta Empul – maybe 40 min bike drive from Ubud – where Balinese go for water purification ritual” (thank you Jelena for the recommendation) but after another 50 minutes on the back of the bike in the heat of the day I decided the temple would wait for another day. I needed a drink and I was getting hungry.
We made it back to the guest house in good time and then Roni and I sat in the shade and talked. He was of Sumatran descent but grew up in Jakarta. He moved to Bali to find work. His English was excellent and he had the wanderlust although for him that was restricted to Indonesia. I asked him about the women who beg on the street. He said that a few were genuine but mostly they travel down in cars from the north with borrowed children in the hope they get money. Well, last night I didn’t give money, just food, and the two women I approached seemed very grateful. Roni did say that there are some elderly people here who beg as they no longer have a family to support them – they try to work by sifting through the rubbish for recyclables. If I want to help people, it should be the elderly. Roni was such an interesting guy, and I think a little worried that he had not found a women yet or had a family, and that he may one day be one of the elderly begging on the street! At 33 I told him he still had plenty of time to have a family but apparently in Bali that’s over the hill. Needless to say I didn’t mention my age!!!
I needed to go back to Denpasar to collect my passport and visa. Roni agreed to do the whole thing again on Thursday, although visa pickup was in the afternoon so hopefully it would be a little cooler.
I wanted to go to the post office to find out about shipping costs so I headed back out. First things first though….lunch. I stopped off at the fabulous Italian restaurant and had pasta to keep me going. Feeling re-energised I set off in search of the post office. It was further than I thought and it was tucked down a little side street – another one I hadn’t ventured down yet. This place is like a rabbit warren. The shipping costs were surprisingly reasonable, not cheap, but reasonable. More to the point though, this small side street was full of really interesting book shops, health food stores, and restaurants. I found ‘Bali Buda’, another of the restaurants the Aussie guy had recommended a few days ago and made a mental note. I carried on down the side street which was very quiet with only local housing nestled next to boutique type guesthouses. The road went on for ages and I eventually came to a junction. Oh, I was back onto the Monkey Forest Street! I followed the now familiar road back up to the Main Street and then onto my place.
I’d been slacking on my meditation so spent some time that afternoon trying to clear my mind. I’m actually starting to enjoy this time of quiet although I need to build back up to doing an hour again.
Despite my carb lunch I was hungry and went out for dinner. I thought I’d try Bali Buda. Just around the corner before I got to the restaurant I noticed that Bali Buda had a small bakery and health food store. A lot of the things on the shelf meant nothing to me but I bought a couple of things a did recognise; cacao beans and almonds. I felt pleased with my new find but moments later realised I now didn’t have enough money for dinner – I’d left the rest of my money in the room. Another Dilly Daydream moment!! The first ATM was out of order – I was starting to think I wasn’t supposed to have dinner- but I found another down the street. The sweetest, flowery smelling ATM I’ve ever used – how bizarre!
A trip to the ATM is a fairly regular occurrence here as the withdrawal limit is around 100 quid if you’re lucky. Just as well because that’s 2 million rupiah (IDR) – that’s a lot of notes! As you can imagine that doesn’t last very long. I try to stick to around £30 a day but it’s very flexible. I’ll only be here once! Accommodation here in Ubud is around £8 a night (it was double that at Gili Air), food, drink and bottled water for the room is around £10 a day (which is quite a lot but I’m eating really good quality meals here), which leaves me just over a tenner to cover everything else like transport, trips, massages, visas and movie downloads (if I’m being really careful), and shopping! Flights are extra.
Anyway, with funds restocked I went back to the restaurant. I found a comfy seat and browsed the menu. All very healthy and I didn’t really want to be healthy. I went Italian again. Cheesy pizza!!! Whilst I waited for my food all hell seemed to break out. A tray of what looked like 3 banana smoothies was dropped all the way down the stairs (messy) and there was a flurry of activity to get it cleaned up. I think the furore left the staff rather discombobulated (Angela, that one’s for you as I’m very conscious I don’t have quite the range of vocab that you possess) as customers started getting the wrong orders. I can’t help it I just seem to cause a stir wherever I go!!! The pizza was superb by the way.
I forgot to mention that I had a fresh coconut with my meal. It struck me that maybe not everyone has had this experience. I hadn’t before Thailand. The coconuts they serve here are young so the outer shell/husk is tough but soft. The hollow inside is full to the brim with clear delicious water and, depending on exactly how young the coconut is, there may be a soft jelly like flesh on the inside which can be scraped off with a spoon. It’s not like the thick white hard flesh we are used to at home and what is used and grated for desiccation. If you ever get the chance to try one grab it with both hands, a straw and a spoon.
Walking back that night the women begging on the street were at full strength. Tonight one came right up to me, with a grubby looking child in her arms, blocking the pavement and holding out her hand saying “money”. She was very confident and I guess this is what Roni was talking about earlier today but this woman was very different to the ones I gave food to last night.
Further along the road there was a small crowd gathered around one of the ornate water features in the street. What was going on? On closer inspection I saw what was holding everyone’s attention. The water feature had squatters – a number of toads had moved in. How wonderful that people still find pleasure in the simple things. I don’t think we ever grow out of our childlike fascination for frogs, toads and tadpoles!
I got an early night last night and so woke quite early and decided to get up quite early. What strange behaviour!! Gusti made breakfast which today was a scrambled egg sarnie, a welcome change from pancakes, which are delicious so don’t think I’m not grateful. This morning was a morning of pottering. I wasn’t in a hurry to go anywhere so I sat in the cool morning (today was unusually cloudy), painted my toes (Ange, can you believe I’m still using the same bottle of nail polish I bought when I was with you. It’s still going strong!) and just was. Bless him, Gusti took the opportunity to give my room a good clean and I got fresh sheets. One of the absolute bonuses of travelling is that you really don’t need to do much housework. Anyone who knows me well, will know I am a complete neat freak, I’d even go so far as to say I’m OCD about it, so I keep everything tidy and in its place, but cleaning is not my forte (eh Mum!)
Time ticked by, the sun broke through, and the clouds started to melt away. The birds continued to chirp, coo and twitter regardless, and there was the odd sploosh from the fish when they occasionally came up to suck in an unfortunate unsuspecting insect. That reminds me….the other day I was watching the world go by outside my room, when there was some commotion in the water. Craning my neck to see what was going on I saw a snake glide through the water, up the bank, and into the rice field carrying a fish. Not the fish’s best day but a good one for the snake – yin v yang!
I showered, de haired my legs, as they were getting out of hand, and gave myself a facial. Girls, you know sometimes these things just have to be done. Then I went out for lunch. I still craved a meat meal so went back to the best place in town for ribs and mash. It’s good every time. It was well past lunchtime by most people’s standards so the restaurant was empty and I got the prime spot sitting out the back under the parasol. They have a nifty trick here – every now and again a blast of cooling mist is sprayed into the air and drifts over you. It’s so fine you hardly notice it other than its cooling effect.
I took a stroll around town and dropped into a charity shop which was raising money to help the animals of Bali. It’s a sad situation, but even sadder is that the shop was closing down – some government initiative!
For the rest of the day I bumbled around the guesthouse. I just didn’t feel like the heat of the day or the constant “taxi” bombardment from the locals. In fact I didn’t leave my room at all. The big late lunch kept me full and I was just happy listening to music and watching TV downloads.
Logs have nothing on how I slept last night. Didn’t know a thing until 8. Actually, that’s not true, at some point I dreamt I had a fried egg sandwich for breakfast, which a quite sad! Surprise, surprise ….that’s exactly what Gusti rustled up this morning.
A couple of girls from Birmingham had moved into the room next to mine. They’d been travelling around Malaysia and Indonesia for a few weeks and were now considering going to the Gili Islands. We chatted for a while weighing up the pros and cons of which island, and whether to take the fast or slow boat. I could only comment on the fast boat (and you know what that was like) and Gili Air. Gusti came and sat next to me. He needed to talk. He was stressed!!! Stressed? That’s the first time I’ve ever heard anyone in this part of the world use that word. He didn’t look stressed casually sitting there in shorts and t-shirts with his feet up.
Today I decided to check out a little gallery that was tucked in back roads near to the guesthouse – Owl House. I was greeted by two very excited dogs. Tails wagging like mad. It was nice to see them looking so healthy and both with collars. The artwork was wonderful but too much for my purse. I carried on the wandering and eventually found a comfy place for lunch and fresh coconut.
I got back around 1:30 and not long after Roni turned up to take me into Denpasar. It was cooler today, thank goodness, but we looked to the clouds and hoped it would stay dry. Roni made swift work of the journey and knowing where to go meant it was a direct route. The place looked closed!!! I tentatively rolled back the imposing metal front gate and called out. Phew! Someone came out, took my name, disappeared, then moments later returned with my passport. It was all done. I had a visa to get me back into Thailand. Despite my stiff back and legs, not to mention numb bum, I got back on the bike for the return journey. The weather held and in the last 20 minutes the sun shone – hard. I was glad to get back for some shade, a drink and a chance to stretch my legs.
I was going to send a load of stuff home so I decided to buy the last few things I’d had my eye on – I drew out some more cash. See my picture – they take VISA, Cirrus and gecko here!
At this time my new sandals decided to throw a wobbly. The soul partially came away and I ended up flapping my way back to my room.
I realised that I was done with Ubud. I hadn’t seen much of Bali and that’s because I just wanted to settle for a while longer. Even staying in a guesthouse, as comfortable as it was, was not like having your own space. Everyday you are asked what you’re going to do, and they don’t miss a trick here – I get comments like ‘you went to bed early last night’. It’s a bit like being in a goldfish bowl.
I had dinner at a nearby restaurant and headed back. I bought a big bottle of water for the room but passed a women with her child begging for a drink, not money, water!!! I handed over my bottle and carried on. I decided to book a flight back to Chiang Mai that night. I’d had every intention of staying until the 10th but something in me shifted today and I felt it was time to leave. I managed to get a reasonable ticket for Saturday which was lucky as the airport was closing for the next 5 days due the APEC convention. I’d have to stop in Bangkok but only for two hours, so it was a relatively direct flight. Not like the Virgin offering which would have meant a 36 hour stopover in Singapore. I also received an email, out of the blue, asking if I’d be available for a few weeks to house sit a place just outside Chiang Mai old town to look after the cat. A tabby called Willow. How wonderful!
One of the ladies I met at a raw chocolate making class, Anna, had asked me to bring back some organic ingredients they have in Ubud. So this evening I sorted through my bag to see what I could discard or send home to give me some baggage allowance. I also gathered together all the things I’d bought so that I could take them to the post office tomorrow. Enough for one day.
My last full day. I woke early, got up early and had eaten and was out by 9.
I wanted to drop off my sandals for repair and to find the things Anna had requested. Even at this time of the morning it was a scorcher. The streets were full of the mornings offerings and there was much waving of flowers dipped in water. The air was full of the scent of incense and the expectation of a good day. There was another cremation ceremony (I thought they were only once every 5 years!) so the town was preparing itself.
I found the coffee shop where Anna had requested a bag of coffee beans. The rest of her request could be filled in the Bintang supermarket next door. What Bintang supermarket next door? Apparently there were 2 of these coffee shops called ‘Freak’ but my internet search only gave me this one. The other one was waaaay the other side of town and that’s where the supermarket was!!!!!! Is was too hot to walk there now – it would have to wait until tomorrow. I sought the shade of my room for the rest of the morning before finding a restaurant for lunch. I had THE best salad nicoise. (Oh, and this was the place with the nifty hand towel tablet – it still amazed me!)
Next on the agenda was the post office. I had filled both my small day bags with stuff as well as having another huge plastic bag and of course the shield I bought. Somehow when Roni arrived we managed to get it all on the bike and we wobbled our way through the traffic to the post office. Thankfully it was quiet but I was there a good 40 minutes not only negotiating a good (??) price but also the things into one box. Eventually I realised it wasn’t all going in one box and I resigned myself that a couple of things, including the rather large wooden shield, would need to be carried and taken on the plane. Hope you’ve still got your fingers crossed for me. Roni, bless him, had waited the whole time as the plan was to go straight onto a temple. Sadly now with my shield still very much on Balinese soil I’d need to take a trip back to my room to dump it.
At last we set off in earnest. The traffic down the main road was awful but with some patience we got through and out onto the open roads. It was magical to be in the villages and away from the tourists.
The day had cooled and as we climbed into the hills it was perfect. We made it to the Tirta Empul temple. This is where the locals come for the water purification ceremony using what they consider holy spring water. Roni, as a local got in for free, whereas I had to pay a small fee. Both of us had to don sarongs. He took me around the temple and as someone originally from Jakarta, with very different beliefs, was very well informed. He explained much about the temple and it’s rituals.
The temple had been built on the site of a natural spring and the locals believed the water, and consequently the fish in the surrounding pool, was holy. This is why they use the temple as the place to bathe and undertake the water purification ceremony.
OK, so I may only get this chance once. I had to take part in the water ceremony. I hadn’t taken a change of clothes but they conveniently had lockers here, so I stripped off to my undies and tied the sarong around me, under my arms, like a bath towel. I was decent enough to take part. I followed the locals up the steps to the pools.
I was the only tourist that I could see and all of a sudden the place had filled with locals. It was full moon tomorrow and traditionally this ceremony is done on the night of a full moon. I guess some people were getting in early. Anyway, Roni took a side seat whilst I lowered myself into the water. My god, it was freezing! I was surrounded by local men who didn’t really want to let me into their little line up. Eventually they conceded and then proceeded to take the piss. I had no idea what they were saying but they were having quite the laugh on me. It was rather a lovely experience to be included. The line moved slowly and the small children and elderly shivered in the cold water. Eventually we got to the water spouts where it was customary to submerge your head in the stream of water. It was also customary to give an offering at this point. Something I didn’t do as I didn’t bring anything with me. There were a number of spouts, maybe 10, so it took a some time. All the while treading carefully over the pebbly floor and dodging the beautiful fish which swam around everyone. There were 3 different pools, and each one with its set of water spouts. All three needed to be visited. I managed 2 – the place was filling up so it was taking longer and longer to move along and I was now pretty cold.
I did a quick change, grateful that I had some dry clothes to put on. I had to wrap the wet sarong around my waist to go back through the temple grounds but I wrung it out and only had to wear it for 5 minutes to the exit. So all was well. A quick trip to the toilet – a really smart looking one too. Sadly with no toilet paper so an ATM receipt had to suffice! Then back on the bike.
It was a tad chilly in the evening air. On the way back we had just enough time to stop off at the Rocky Temple. We stopped in a really dodgy looking car park and walked down the road with the usual gauntlet of sellers. It was the end of the day and they were almost giving stuff away. We reached the temple entrance which didn’t look anything special but once we started to take a few of the many, many steps to the temple the vista opened up to the most amazing rice field verandas. I’ve seen some sights in my time but this really took my breath away and no photo would ever do it justice. We continued down the steps and there in the valley was the temple. Not your classic temple but one carved out of the rock in the side of the hill. It was now quite late in the evening and we had the place to ourselves. It gave me a little shiver – you know that spooky kind of shiver you get when you’re not supposed to be somewhere. It was magical and to think I nearly said ‘let’s skip it’ because I was a bit cold.
We huffed and puffed back up the steps and made it to the top. It was dusk now and so we headed back to Ubud with the huge round peachy orange sunset seemingly following us back. We’d almost reached Ubud when we came across a road block. They wouldn’t let us through and there was no shortcut. We had to retrace our route and take a new road – it was probably nearly an hours detour.
When we reached Ubud it was dark and the traffic buzzing. The preparations for tomorrow’s cremation were in full swing. At last we were back and both of us stiff and thirsty. I hadn’t agreed a price with Roni and to be honest I don’t think he’d given it any thought. He kept asking me what I wanted to pay – that’s always a tricky one, you don’t want to over pitch it but you also don’t want to offend anyone. I left it to him and he said he would just charge me the same as the trip to Denpasar. That didn’t seem fair – Denpasar was 2 hours and today, including the wait at the post office, was 5 hours. I decided to pay him more and was repaid with a huge smile. He’d taken time out of his day, acted like a guide by giving me local insight, and got me back safe. You can’t really put a value on that.
I felt much more human after a shower and change of clothes. I went in search of dinner. Tonight I didn’t really know what I wanted to eat so I just wandered until I found somewhere that took my fancy. Sadly, my wanderings took me past shops that were still open. I’m cringing as I type this, but I bought another wood carving. This time a modern one. Just down the road from my purchase I found a restaurant. A new one and the big fat burger on the front of the menu caught my attention. As it happens I chose something completely different. I local dish made up of many smaller sample plates. It was huge, unbelievably cheap, and fabulously delicious. As I tucked in to my meal some live music started up in the corner of the bar area – Indonesian James Blunt. The singers voice was great but I didn’t really recognise any of the words.
Well, that was my last night – dare I mention the picture I bought from the quirkiest artist I’ve ever met on the way home? What a character!
The walk home was as usual met with calls for ‘taxi’ but tonight as the street lights flickered I also realised it was the shadow of the bats circling the bulbs, attracted my the insects also circling the light, that was causing the flickering. I love all that staff. I had another little gift from nature too. As I got to my room there sat a little frog on the doorstep. I nudged him out of the way and he adorably jumped into the shadows.
I woke really early. The sun was just coming up, but was already hot, and the doves were cooing in full voice. I sneaked a peak at the day through the curtains and saw the drops of dew still hanging on the rice leaves – like thousands of tiny sparkly diamonds. It wouldn’t be long before the full heat of the day evaporated them into the ether.
I set to on the packing. It’s the same old story, pint into a half pint pot. But as always my trusty back pack which has travelled the world with me for almost 10 years came up trumps – Mum, bet you never realised what a great investment you were paying for when you funded this little extravagance! Once the bulk of the packing was done Gusti appeared and asked the first question of the day “do you want breakfast now?” As usual he proudly presented me with my bowl of fruit and banana pancake.
After breakfast I had time to find the Bintang supermarket and collect my shoes. Roni had said it was a 15 minute walk or 20 if you’re a slow walker. I’m not sure who his pacemaker was but it’s got to be someone like Paula Radcliffe. There is no way anyone would get there in 15 minutes. It’s a trek and up hill to boot! Anyway, a tad sweaty I made it. Passing the usual roadworks (interesting that the women seem to do most of the hard labour over here), the quirky art gallery and the more sophisticated one, and locals calling ‘taxi’. It was a big supermarket but I found what I was looking for and headed back.
I had a quick shower, packed the last few things, said my goodbyes to Gusti, and followed the taxi driver (who bless him carried my big bag) out to the main road and his awaiting taxi.
It was a straightforward trip to the airport and with good traffic was done and dusted in an hour.
The streets were all decked out with banners for the APEC convention which would start in a few days. This is a big thing for such a small island. I followed the walkway into International departures – thank goodness for trolleys!
Here they scan your bags as you enter the airport. My check in was smooth and the lady at the counter kindly turned a blind eye to the little extra weight I’d packed in my bag. She also didn’t weigh my carry on bag (thank god) or question the large strange shaped object I was carrying. Through to the departure lounge, via the luggage scanner AGAIN. I had plenty of time so decided to sit in one of the restaurants. I wasn’t really hungry but they were the only places with seats. The first restaurant turned me away as they were closing – at 2pm – really???! Understandably the other restaurant was packed. I had to share a table with a couple of German guys who turned out to be great fun and true gents, helping me with my bags. It also meant I could legitimately sit at the table and not eat – they were eating and drinking enough for the three of us.
We boarded with ease but sat on the runway for an hour or so. This was going to be fun. I only had 2 hours between this flight to Bangkok and the following one to Chiang Mai. I got my meal on the flight and had time for a couple of good movies. The last hour of the flight was nothing but turbulence and I have to admit I was glad to land. I’m not sure how much longer I would have kept my meal down. We disembarked onto the tarmac and were shuttled to the main terminal which took an age. At the top of the first escalator was a sign ‘WAINWRIGHT – CHIANG MAI’. It was cutting it fine until the next flight so I was escorted through the terminal, which must have been getting on for a mile, to passport control, immigration (where I had to speedily complete the immigration form I’d been given on the flight – for some reason I thought I’d need that at Chiang Mai), get my bags re scanned (sadly, I lost my cherished Swiss Army knife credit card gismo here. I’d forgotten about it because it must have passed through the last half a dozen scans undetected), and walk another trek to the gate. I was last on! The plane was only half full and the flight was just under an hour. I was flagging and I still felt really sick from the previous flight.
Touch down. At last I was back in Chiang Mai. It was 11:30, I was tired, nauseous, and still needed to get to the old town. I’d emailed Leo to reserve a room at Dream House but hadn’t heard back so I really had my fingers crossed there would be a room for me at this time of night. Today Customs decided to stop me and ask me about my shield but let me through.
Right, now for that taxi! Scanning the exit for the taxi sign I spotted a familiar face – Art. How lovely! I was greeted by not only Art, but Waew, Woody, Odd, and Leo. What a wonderful surprise. My bags were bundled in the back of the car, I was presented with a Jasmine garland, and then we were off……to Dream House. They’d done the room up for me and even had flowers. Waew and I chatted briefly, but for me I was spent and headed for bed.
I was back! The street sounds I woke to were all too familiar. I drew the curtain and there, as if to welcome me back, was the strange little squirrel thing running across the street wires.
I had a croissant for breakfast with Waew then pooped across the road to see Leo, where I had my second breakfast of the day. I was meeting Marian and Irene for brunch (more food) so they could show me the ropes on the place that would be my home for the next three weeks. Waew took me on her bike and I loaded up with minimal bags for this trip. I knew the route well as it was the road that took me to Taywin’s gym. The side street was easy to find, and just as before Irene was walking the road and could give me a last directions in person. The place was fabulous and I was introduced to Willow who seemed to take to strangers incredibly easily. I was also given the house rules and the handy tips for keeping the place ship shape. Marian and Irene left and Willow, the cat, and I were left to get acquainted.
I needed to get back to Dream House for the rest of my stuff but the day was hot and so I just chilled for a few hours before setting out. I tried to get a Song Tao but my pronunciation of the Dream House road name (Ratchapakinai) obviously needs work as the driver couldn’t understand where I wanted to of and drove off. I ended up walking it and arrived fetchingly sweaty. I was still in the clothes I’d travelled in yesterday as I didn’t want to open up my bag only to repack it again, so I’m sure I was a tad fragrant. Woody arrived in his tuk tuk and I loaded my bags, together with the stuff I’d left with Leo. Waew followed on my scooter and then got a lift home with Woody. I could now settle!
I did some unpacking but most of the evening was spent watching a movie with Willow. I did need to eat though and that would mean a trip out somewhere. The fabulous Tops supermarket was only a 15 minute walk away so I went there. I would be in this house for three weeks and so I stocked up. The food here is expensive compared to the local stuff but it’s much better quality. For me it was a hefty food bill but worth it. The main road was busy and it seemed to take forever for a break in the traffic so I could cross the road. There are zebra crossings but drivers rarely stop. Eventually someone on a scooter stopped. Who was it? Only Taywin! On his way to the Sunday market. We chatted a while and agreed to meet up sometime.
I had a great dinner, finished watching the movie and called it a night. Willow slept at the bottom of the bed. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!