The Railway Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Around Phitsanulok, the train to Chiang Mai rocks on a less smooth stretch of the line. Adele is not intimidated. He tells his daughter to hold on, sticks his head out the window, and takes another one of his many railroad photos from the already long journey.
"Are you on vacation or on work?" we ask him when we can no longer sustain our curiosity. “Well, it's a mix of both. To tell you the truth, this time, with the girl, it's looking like a lot more work.” he answers us in French, half sighed, half drawn out because of a tiredness that had already become obvious.
Adèle, return to the long seat you share with little Niquita. She picks up a painting book and a set of crayons and tries to distract the girl from an impending tantrum.
What a woman in arms she was, we ended up concluding, in conversation, after we also found out that, in addition to traveling, she was at the service of the magazine. Paris-Match in some editorial project that they had remembered there.
Meanwhile night falls. An hour later, Niquita is already yawning and scratching her eyes. The engineer doesn't look better. After leaving a long tunnel, it makes the train stop, start moving again and brake sharply to the despair of all passengers.
For that night, Adele gives up teaching her daughter to write. It starts to tell you a bedtime story, with the right to representation of the characters and everything. Niquita surrenders to heat and exhaustion. The French mother snuggles her as best as possible on the carriage seat. The three of us stayed in conversation. We don't last much longer.
Final Destination: Chiang Mai, the Northern Thai Capital
We only woke up in the morning, at the terminal station in Chiang Mai. The train had already stopped and Adele's disembarkation was complicated. We helped her down first with the baby carriage and her big green military bag a lot heavier than we thought. After which we return to the interior and recover what we lacked.
We walk together on the platform when a policeman stops us and all the passersby. As soon as the Thai anthem began to be played through the station's loudspeakers, we realized that, just as it had happened before the departure of Bangkok, we were once again victims of the solemn and bi-daily flag ceremonies of the Land of a Thousand Smiles.
Contrary to what we remembered from the carriage and further south on the Thai map, it was cold in this north and at a mere 300 meters of altitude.
We say goodbye to Adele and Niquita. we get into a Tuk tuk on the way to a guest houses with the name of the city. The owner and hostess doesn't waste time promoting her borrowed parent figure from guests younger enough than she is. “Sit down and rest.
Mama Honey and the Chiang Mai Guest House
Mama Honey treats you like you were at your dads' house!”. It serves us a breakfast worthy of farangs – as Thais treat outsiders – that in satisfying them, Thailand has always been ahead of most nations.
During the entire stay, the funny old lady, expedited and damned for the business, would shack us with drinks and other niceties. He barely realized that we had already started them, he informed us of the price with a mischievous smile on his lips. "There are 35 bathroom, kids! I sit here, don't worry!"
We realize it's Sunday. For a change, we beat the drowsiness of any tiredness with a full belly. We took advantage of the spirit and set out to discover Chiang Mai. We walked through the historic center without much concern for orientation.
We contemplated and visited the most important Buddhist temples in the northern Thai capital, Wat Chiang Man – the oldest – Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phan Tao, Wat Jet Yot and so on. Wats were not lacking in those parts. Some of them, so important in the historical panorama of Southeast Asia that they are UNESCO classified.
Temples and More Buddhist Temples
There are more than 300 in Chiang Mai, almost as many as there are in Bangkok, a megalopolis many times larger. Of these 300, 120 are within the restricted limits of the municipality, several of the main ones, within the quadrangular historical domain, protected by moats and, in part, still by walls.
Os watts they are the most obvious legacy of the city's troubled past and the surrounding region, incorporated over the centuries into Tai, Lanna Tai, and empires. Burma and again Tai.
As the sun rises, the day heats up and a crowd fills the old urban arteries under the pretext of celebrating the cultural and spiritual richness of their ancestry.
We enter a pedestrian street and come across a real fair full of handicrafts, clothing and food stalls. Thais and foreign visitors roamed it. As far as we can see, many expatriates were also part of it.
Chiang Mai's Lanna Culture Celebration
Chiang Mai is one of the cities in Thailand where foreigners like to settle the most. There are plenty of jobs available as language teachers, guides or bartenders. The cost of living is much lower than that of Bangkok and there are no traffic jams or the infernal pollution of the capital.
Some farangs they were even already part of cultural and ethnic exhibitions, singing, dancing and examples of other arts and crafts that also animated the market.
A cultural parade is carried out that travels through other streets. They give it color dancing deer that certain spectators bite into large necklaces.
Women and girls dressed in red and white synchronize smooth choreographies. Other young women in bright costumes move quickly to better represent the kinarees, mythological figures that the different buddhist nations and Hindus were adapting to their culture
In Thailand, they're half human, half bird. They have swan wings, exemplary lovers and eternal symbols of pleasure, beauty and success. We understood, thus, why the dancers incarnated them with such determination and joy.
By late afternoon, most of the participants and spectators were already overrun. Not on purpose, in the middle of a square next to a patch of wall, is there a kind of outdoor Thai massage clinic installed under large umbrellas.
The Always Convenient Thai Massages
New patients keep coming. We take advantage of and pamper the bodies with the sensory refinement of that millenary therapy. For the umpteenth time since we first visited Thailand.
Unsurprisingly, the sleep we'd managed to get rid of in the morning seduced us again. During certain more soothing sequences, we were unable to resist its charms, much to the delight of the ladies in charge. "I have good hands, don't I?" one of them asks us proudly when we come back to consciousness.
We confirmed it without hesitation, not least because that was the truth, but we suspect that, with the fatigue we had on top, the Incredible Hulk's would have had the same effect.
Vertically again, we reactivate the explorer mode and enter the night market. Unlike in Bangkok, we resisted impulse purchases among the countless creations and imitations that the Thais perfected with poor materials and cost to match.
Mama Honey seemed to be waiting for us at the guest houses but this time he couldn't foist anything on us. The plan was to not even touch the beds and leave as soon as possible for dinner.
After a Thai street meal, then yes, we went back to the room determined to replenish the energy that, unlike those of Chiang Mai, was almost zero. We spent a few more days exploring the city and several of its other temples. Then we traveled to the triple border that we crossed to Laos.