We decided that the best way to get to Chiang Mai would be on the overnight train. Since first class was sold out, we ‘chose’ to travel second class. The man in seat 61 describes the second class carriage on this train as open planned and great fun, so we were very surprised when we boarded and ended up in a closed off compartment with just one other couple. It’s not really a problem per se, it’s just that we have pretty bad luck when it comes to train compartment companions. Some of our weirder companions have been:
- China: a Chinese/Libyan couple who chose prawns as their snack of choice and changed their baby’s diaper on one of our beds (in case you’ve never seen one a Libyan passport is huge and handwritten, I can’t imagine it makes border crossings a breeze).
- Vietnam: a man who decided that bedtime would be the best time to blast awful Vietpop music on his phone, he was not very popular with us, or our other 3 compartment buddies after that.
This time we didn’t have to put up with strange smells or loud noises, but our train compartment companions were still rather strange. This British/Canadian couple’s luggage consisted solely of two large plastic bags full of dog beds (around 12-15 dog beds in total). We have no idea why they needed so many dog beds, or why they didn’t need any clothes, but a couple of nights later Myles dreamt that they were using the dog beds to sit on while meditating, which if nothing else is testament to the lateral thinking and problem solving powers of the unconscious mind.
As we walk through the carriages towards the dining car, we see the social second class beds that the man in seat 61 mentioned – the beds lie on both sides of the carriage walls with no additional built in walls or doors to separate them. Somehow they seem both more social, and more private, than our 4 bed cabin. But we can only dream of travelling here, after dinner it is back to our cabin full of dog beds. We both wake up in the middle of the night, freezing. We’re not prepared for this, all of our warm clothes are packed away, so we shiver through the night. Despite the cold, and the dog bed mystery, the overnight train was a pleasant journey.
During our time in Chiang Mai, state of origin game one is played. We find an Irish style pub in the old town which promises to play all the sport you may ever want to watch and settle in for some afternoon beers and football. The pub is full of Australians, mainly Queensland supporters. One of the most vociferous Queensland supporters is actually a guy from Yorkshire which seems a bit strange, until you realise his claims to being a Queenslander are probably stronger than those of Greg Inglis.
To our surprise we are the youngest people in the pub, by about 20 years. We attract the attention of one man who comes over to talk to us after the game, it turns out that the bar is heavily frequented by European men who live in Thailand with their young Thai wives. The culture is such there that they didn’t consider to be embarrassed about this in front of us, but at least it explained the age difference.
We dedicate one afternoon to traversing the streets of the old town by Segway (a much more pleasant way to travel in the heat). Past temples and statues, through gardens and even into a museum (with our segways parked safely out the front). It’s a lovely way to get around the city (especially when you have a man dedicated to stopping traffic for you), but it is almost impossible to look cool on a Segway. Unfortunately we can’t afford to travel exclusively by Segway, so we explore outside the walls Chiang Mai by foot, stopping regularly for snacks and beer.