Living in Japan, you learn that things run on time. To the second. Thailand, not so much. From the start we were running behind our slightly planned schedule. Leaving Ayutthaya was no different. The train left about 30 minutes late and arrived in Chiang Mai about 1.5 hours late. Luckily, Wade and I had nothing major planned. In fact, we only had one day with an actual plan, everything else was just go with the flow.
But lets talk sleeper trains. I loved the idea of this. Being able to spend a day in Ayutthaya and not have to book a hotel or waste time traveling during the day! Perfect concept. So we bought our tickets to Chiang Mai in Bangkok while getting our train tickets to Ayutthaya. When the train finally arrived at midnight, the beds were made up and all the curtains were closed from other passengers already on board. Wade took the bottom, I took the top. We thought it would be safer. Well, let me tell you. Top bunk blows!!! The curtains kept you from being seen but they do not keep the incredibly bright florescent lighting from the ceiling out of your bunk. AND THEY DO NOT TURN THE LIGHTS OFF EVER! I resorted to taking off my pants and piling them on my face to help block the light. The train is old and rickety. The noise and shifting on the tracks added to my lack of sleep and fear of derailment. But still, at least I would be able to watch the sunrise and the hills of Thailand roll by in the morning. NOPE! We had the only seat on the train with an old scratched up window you couldn’t see a lick out of!!! Eight am rolls around and that is it for sleeping! The one thing on time in Thailand was the women who was in charge of our sleeper car making sure everyone was up and at ’em for breakfast (extra charge) at eight am. Then we sat there for another 5.5 hours!!!! I spent those hours staring across the way, out our neighbors window and taking cat naps. All that being said, I wouldn’t trade the ride at all! I was grumpy at the time but overall it is awesome to say we did it and it gives us a story to tell. It was an experience and that is what we love about travel. Getting out of our comfort zone and learning how the world lives and functions differently.
If you are wondering, Wade slept slightly better and didn’t have florescent light issues.
We used our time in Chiang Mai to roam the old city. We stopped by some active and modern Wats (Buddhist temples), and were invited by the young monks to come back in the evening to see the lighting ceremony for Asalha Puja. Asalha Puja is a holiday celebrated for Buddhas first sermon after his enlightenment. It is sometimes called the Buddhist lent because the Thais abstain from all drinking and alcohol sales. Wade and I really enjoy a good mug of beer or glass of wine…. or 5. This was a slight curve ball in our plans but we had a great time in Chiang Mai regardless. I felt lucky to be able to see such a ceremony while there.
Our last night in Chiang Mai, Alcohol sales were back on. We spent the night in the old city looking for bars and good conversation. It is not uncommon for us to strike up a conversation with locals, travelers or, in this example, expats at a bar. Major highlights of our trips are often nights spent throwing a few back with some strangers and talking about anything. Since Chiang Mai is home to many expatriates we were able to hang out with a worldly crew at the bar Lost Hut. We met people from Thailand, the U.K., Boston (go figure) and New Zealand. We had an amazing time… too amazing actually. Making up for lost booze time made the bus ride to Chiang Rai the next morning more than a little nauseating. But first, the highlight of our trip.