Finally got a move on and off to Northern Thailand it is. I was booked on the 10pm sleeper train to Chaing Mai and for second class it was pretty decent. A bed I could stretch out on (as previously said being a little on the short side this isn't much of a challenge), clean and comfy. I was instantly pounced on by the catering woman planning my breakfast but actually just wanted a b**** and a moan about Chinese tourists. The evening was a bumpy one and in bed it was similar to the sensation of falling into the bed when you're almost asleep. The night passed quickly and at 9am you're kicked out of bed to change the beds into big seats for breakfast to be served. At this point I made a quick run to the toilet and discovered why you wouldn't want to use it when pulled in at a a station...you pee straight onto the track. Having been told and experienced that Thai trains do not run on time I was surprised that not only did we arrive on time we arrived a whole ten minutes early.
Jumped into an overpriced taxi to Kikie's House, which is not what the pictures lead you to believe and for a hostel had no communal area and the room was average at best. Least had only booked one night here, so I dumped my bag and went to explore the town, which actually consisted of sitting in the beer garden of an Irish pub with a long overdue (bloody expensive but totally worth it) pint of Guinness. I love the way travelling works, so that evening I met up with Warren and Jenn, the Canadian couple I met on the plane from Philippines. We explored the Sunday walking street night market which was massive and so busy. There are so many stalls selling all local tat and plenty of tasty street food stalls. Very easy to lose a night just wandering about the numerous streets and stalls.
Chiang Mai is literally full of temples and very little else so this is the place to get templed out. So the following day I took myself on a walking tour around Chiang Mai looking at temples. They are all rather grand and beautiful. But I definitely got templed out. I spent the evening wandering about the stalls of the night bazaar, which isn't as large as the weekend night markets but still worth having a nosy about.
On 13th January I spent the morning ambling about again and got chatting to one monk at Wat Chet Win. He was lovely and was telling me how he had found happiness and had been a novice and a monk for the last 6 years. His family were catholic but accepted him being a Buddhist. He was struggling with the 20 degree temperature, shivering in his hat and blanket. At the end of our conversation he wished me happiness in my travels. I met up with Lise and Andrew, who I had met at the hostel in Bangkok, for some food and an afternoon of strolling about, eating and drinking. Sampling the street food is definitely good in Chiang Mai and I tried some bizarre sweet/savoury batter balls filled with spring onion. Surprisingly tasty. That evening we found a great little jazz bar - North Gate Jazz Coop for live music which was really good and several beers.
Found a great Vietnamese cafe for breakfast and for £1 (55baht) you get a coffee, two fried eggs and 2 small baguettes. Perfect breakfast spot. Again, having a rather lazy time in Chiang Mai just wandering about aimlessly, I headed out of the main forted area of the city and towards the river, where I found Warorat market in the china town. Again, plenty of little stalls selling everything from trinkets to fruit and flowers. I grabbed a load of watermelon for 40p. Heading back to the main area of the city I, as had become pretty standard, had a look around a few more temples. The most impressive being Wat Buppharam with it's elaborate gold intricate detailing everywhere. Lise, Andrew and I treated ourselves to a 'fancy' curry at Hinlay Curry House which was still inexpensive and very tasty. Shame the garlic naan didn't have much of a garlic taste though.
Wanting to do something a little different than wandering about the town doing nothing, the three of us took a day trip over to Lake Huay Tung Tao where we grabbed a tuk tuk for 600 bahts. Bless the driver, he even just sits around for the several hours we were there waiting for us. The lake itself is pretty and scenic with the mountains behind it. Around the lake are little wooden platforms where we plonked ourselves whilst eating and drinking and just doing nothing.
Having thought that I had visited what felt like most of the temples in the city, the next morning I realised I hadn't been to the main one famous in Chiang Mai - Wat Chedi Luang. So after my standard Vietnamese breakfast, I headed there for a nosy at the large complex of old and modern temples. After a bit of lazy time, I decided to walk a few kilometres out of town to Wat Umong which is set just outside a national park and hidden in a large wooded complex. There are tunnels here containing some of the shrines. A very nice and relaxing area and there are lovely little sayings posted on the trees, such as - 'cut yourself some slack. Remember one hundred years from now. All new people.' I loved it as it was just so peaceful. That evening, Ole, also who I met in Bangkok with Lise and Andrew arrived in Chiang Mai so we chilled at the hostel with a beer and caught up.
Time for my last day in Chiang Mai which was just as lazy as all the other days here. Ole and I went to try and find a mini golf place which we saw on a map and having walked for over an hour out of town and trying to hunt it down we failed. Some of the locals felt like there had been one but couldn't tell us where. I think, annoyingly it had moved location. So the day was spent in a German beer house and KFC before heading back to town. The evening however was a very boozy affair leaving with a hazy memory of the four of us doing shots of Sangsom (the local rum) and a bucket of the stuff. A heavy fun night which I think ended at around 4.30am and before we split off from each other (well until we met again in Pai).