Day 2 - Arriving into Bangkok, trains, tuk tuk's, motorbikes and Chiang Mai
So we arrived into Bangkok a little later than scheduled but at 3.30pm local time we arrived.
The flight was brilliant and I managed to sleep loads - prob due to all that stress beforehand.
My plan after going through passport control was to get a bus from the airport to the main train station in order to get the sleeper train i 'd booked to head north to Chiang Mai. Turns out when i arrived that a member of staff on the information desk (who spoke impeccible English) said it'd be easier to get a train, then a quick taxi to the mainline train station (there are many train stations in Bangkok).
so that i did. The first train was lovely. I had to stand but the landscapes i was looking at were so diverse. Shacks, followed by mansions, followed by shacks again. it's like there were pockets of wealth between all the incredibly flat farm land.
The taxi i took was a young fella, probably my age who like it advises in the Lonely Planet book was keen to practice his English on his english fare. The drive took ages. MY god! TRAFFIC! TRAFFIC! I couldn't quite get over how many vehicles on the road there were! Madness! Still he got me to huamlupong train station in one piece where I exited the taxi and headed to the information point to investigate where I got the train from.
The man behind the desk told me that the train was cancelled. All trains to Chiang Mai were cancelled until at least Friday. Today is Wednesday. My first thought was ''You're joking, right?!'' I asked why and he showed me a newspaper cutting of the recent floods that Northern thailand has experienced lately, and so the train is unsafe to take that route. My second thought after this explaination with a VERY sinking gut feeling was - ''OMG i've got to stay in Bangkok until Friday''. Seriously i think i nearly cried. Being alone teaches you to be strong though. So there i found myself asking, ''so how else can i get to Chiang Mai''. He advised that i get a refund on the train ticket and take a bus. The train which was cancelled took 14 hours. the bus took 8 hrs. i figured it couldn't be too bad and anything was better than staying in Bangkok for 2 nights when I hadn't planned a single thing for being there.
So there I was being taken to the Chiang Mai booking office to book onto an overnight bus. Before leaving London i hadn't organised accommodation for CM so whilst in the booking office i did it all in one lump sum. Train, Accomodation and the hill tribe trek which incorporates white water rafting, elephant adventure, waterfull escapes and last but not least, 2 nights stay with the local tribes people. I think i probably paid over the odds but hey- it was done and i needen't worry anymore, particularly for my first night anyway.
there was a lot of hanging around to do because they had to round up all the passengers from 2 train cacellations that day, book them onto a bus and then heard us all out to catch the bus. Whilst waiting I got chatting to a guy who seemed ok. Indian fella who was from Hounslow (West London) also 27. He told me he'd been in Bangkok for 6 nights and couldn't wait to get out. He too was travelling alone and whilst we got onto a transfer bus to get us to the overnight bus taking us to CM, sat with one another and he was giving me lots of advice on hostels, getting around etc.
There were 3 buses which took two train loads of stranded passengers to Chiang Mai. I was hoping i'd be able to get on the same bus as this fella as he seemed well alright but i was on a different bus and when i boarded I was sat next to a Thai fella. probably a good thing really. After hours of not talking to anyone properly I was ready to talk for England - to the Hounslow guy so probably a good thing i was alone again as it meant I closed my eyes and got more sleep. i have to admit, it wasn't the most comfortable of journeys BUT that said at least I was on route. YAY. There was a half way stop over where once again, Raz being Raz started chatting away to a couple of Aussies who were sat behind me on the bus. They were sweet bless em. Telling me i am brave to have re-arranged the plans of Train to Bus and just went with it. They also couldn't believe my luck that this had happened on the very first day of my travels. Bless em, they gave me lots of advice of how to travel Oz and where's best to go. Byron Bay being one of them, but i knew this already from Em :-)
Arriving into the Arcade Bus Station in Chiang Mai was another experience. Taxi and tuk tuk drivers everywhere offering to take us into town. I jumped into the back of a shared tuk tuk with about 10 other passengers (quite a squeeze, escpecially with our lugguage too) but they were all lovely people who were all older than me, i reckon all in their 30's so that was nice rather than be surrounded with a load of 18 year olds. Ha, get me being all particular! The majority were irish couples. Some Germans from Cologne and two Italian. We were all gassing the entire way - it was lovely to be a part of a small group and talk to people again.
it was funny - the tuk tuk driver took me to the wrong 'SK Guesthouse' so from the one i got dropped off at, the next thing i knew one of the members of staff were directing me to his motorbike to take me to the correct one, the sister Guesthouse.
i've never been on the back of a motorbike in my life. My god that was an experience. he was so sweet though. I told him to go slow (considering i had my backpack on my back too) and he was so careful. I've realsied the Thai people are so so friendly and helpful. Naturally i still have my wits about me, but honestly with the wind blowing through my hair driving through the centre of chiang mai, i felt safe and 'free' :-)
the guesthouse i'm staying at is lovely. proper quaint. small. quiet and not to full capacity either. I was shown to my room. Quite sizable. double bed with a fan and en-suite, although no hot water, yikes! To be honest though after nearly 48 hours travelling by plane, bus, tuk tuk and then motorbike - especailly in 30 degree heat i was happy to stand in a cold shower, brush my teeth and change my clothes ;-)
After getting ready in my room i sat in the communal area of the Guesthouse for a couple of hours putting together where and how i'm going next, whilst charging my camera as the battery was nearly dead when I checked it from the last few days i had in London. DOH! Ever so organised Raz, isn't so these days ;-(
Anyway - so with a free day today before my hilltribe experience tomorrow I ventured out into Chiang Mai. With map in one hand, my personal belongings in my rucksack on my back I headed out to find the three main Temples i wanted to see and to see one of the gates which the old city sits within, surrounded by walls to prevent flooding - good job really. the canal and the river is so high that i reckon the city centre would have flooded without the defenses.
Next stop was a coffee shop where i sit typing this update. My first skinny latte followed by a yummy cherry cheesecake - not particularly authentic for being in Thailand but it was calling me. Still adjusting to the jet lag and i feel tired of all the travelling i did yesterday so here i sit literatelly chilling drinking a coffee to perk me up a bit.
it seems thare are loads of bars and restaurants to go to in the area that i'm staying but to be honest i said i wouldn't drink whilst i'm in Asia and this plan I really do hope to stick to. tonight i think i'm going to get some grub in one of the local restaurants and get an early night before the hilltribe trek starts tomorrow. Seriously, i'm so excited!!! The very reason I came to Chiang Mai for is about to begin tomorrow ;-)