Today was a bit frustrating, but we made the best of it. Last night we boarded the cold, stinky night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and the cold and the smell seemed to be the worst of it. But in the morning as the time stretched on, we overheard a nearby passenger mention that this train is always a few hours late. On and on we traveled through lush jungles and expansive plains and when we finally arrived, we were four hours behind schedule. We were meant to arrive at 10am and instead we arrived at 2pm. I was disappointed to miss half a day of adventuring, but it was one of those times where our minimal planning worked in our favor. There were no plans to cancel, no money lost, just a little time needed to figure out, “what’s next?”
Because time was short, we decided to explore the old city of Chiang Mai. The city is surrounded by canals and the broken down remains of ancient walls. While many people seem to speak less English than the citizens of Bangkok, this university city is quite international in terms of its cuisine and is teeming with cheap lodgings for backpackers and students.
We walked along the perimeter of the city and then wandered through some of the streets. We discovered at least half a dozen wats along the way. In Bangkok, you have to pay to enter each wat and guards monitor appropriate dress and shoe removal. In Chiang Mai, the wats are true village temples, mostly empty aside from a few initiates sweeping leaves or an orange clad monk catching a bit of sunlight on a bench.
One truly magnificent wat was Wat Chedi Luang. When we stumbled upon it, we were first awed by the pillars and the many golden Buddah images within. Then we strolled behind the wat in search of a jade Buddah image mentioned in our guide book and we were taken aback by the enormous chedi, which we discovered is one of the tallest structures in Chiang Mai. I look forward to posting more pictures of this epic structure when I return to the states.
After all the walking, our feet were getting a bit tired so we refreshed in a cafe, then visited the local Night Bazaar for, guess what..? More shopping! There is just an unending amount of markets here – weekly, nightly, floating, and more. They carry clothes and trinkets and knock offs and souvenirs. I only have about seven more souvenirs to buy, so hopefully the shopping tapers off while my carry on can still zip up!
Most of our meals today were embarrassingly unremarkable due to the train issues putting our eating schedule out of whack. I did have a nice Massaman curry for lunch and Jess tried fried rice with northern sausage. Tomorrow I’m hoping for khao soi and pad si ew to get my Northern Thai eat on!