Song of the day: Redemption Song by Bob Marley
Last night we went for a couple of quiet beverages at a reggae bar round the corner from us. I’m usually a bit suspicious of these places that have pictures of Bob Marley pasted all over the wall, cos they’re often a bit generic and naf. Happily this one had a really good atmosphere and whilst it was nearly empty when we went in, it was heaving by the time we left. A Thai band were playing a load of ska covers and a jolly good time was had by all. I don’t know if we stumbled upon the local Thai indie “scene”, but all of the locals we saw had really long, straight hair and fringes over their eyes. If anybody reading this is an Oasis fan, it reminded me of the music video to the song Acquiesce, when a Japanese version of the band play Oasis songs to a Japanese audience. If you don’t know what I’m on about, it doesn’t matter. If you do, well yeah, that’s what it looked like. Halfway through our evening here I was invited by one of the staff to take a shot of tequila from a large slide made out of a block of ice. Never being one to turn down a challenge, I accepted and Hollie – that little pap – took some very flattering shots of me necking it. I have to say, it was the most refreshing shot I’ve ever had – after the feeling came back into my tongue, which had stuck to the ice – that is.
Today we woke up fairly late as we had intended. I know what you’re thinking, but we weren’t hung over. This was a carefully co-ordinated lie-in because we knew that we wouldn’t be getting one over the coming days. Because the climate is a bit cooler here, we are able to walk around without having to sit down and guzzle a gallon of water every ten minutes. We walked across the old town of Chiang Mai to Suan Buak Had Park, where the annual flower festival was into it’s third and final day. We arrived too late to catch the parade on Saturday morning, but the floats that had been involved were all parked up in a line down the street, and we were impressed with the scale and skill of the floristry on show. All sorts of images of Buddhism, Chinese and Thai mythology had been created completely out of flowers. We walked round various tents displaying the entries into amateur flower-growing competitions and were particularly struck by the mesmerising qualities of the bonsai trees. There is a fine art to sculpting those tiny trees so that they look like miniature versions of a much larger tree. It sounds like a fairly tame pastime on the face of it and I suppose it is, but there’s a certain meditative Zen-ness about bonsai trees and the delicate pruning work that’s involved in keeping them looking all groovy and miniature. Being somebody who likes plants but can’t be arsed with gardening, I reckon I could just about stretch to looking after one of these tiny trees. Having said that, I clearly have no taste in them because the ones I kept singling out as my winner didn’t even place, whereas Hollie seemed to be picking the winner or runner-up every time.
The Thais do not need an excuse to have a market. They’ll set up shop on any piece of pavement that’s convenient and sometimes where it isn’t convenient. By the time we’d looked round all of the flower exhibits we were really hungry, so the location of a market was very convenient. A very long, straight road adjacent to the park had been lined with a vast array of tabletop eateries. It was fill yer boots o’clock and Hollie struck first, buying some spinach dumplings for twenty baht (about 40p). I followed that up with some honey-roast pork Thai-style, complete with crackling, and some sprigs of enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon and cooked on a hot-plate with plenty of oil. We finished the feast with some tiny fishcake/omelette type things, which I’ll do my best to describe as I’ve no idea what they were called. There were four fillings – crab, shrimp, oyster and squid contained in a little parcel of chilli and herbs and bound by a quail’s egg into a little parcel that resembled a tiny fishcake, only more eggy. Whatever they were they were delicious both with or without the sweet chilli dip we were given to eat them with. Our princely feast came to a pauper’s sum of £2:30.
We walked back toward the hostel but we were waylaid by various temples that demanded our attention on the way back. There are too many temples in each city to describe the finery, but each one is a work of art in itself. People who’ve travelled before warned us of the dangers of “temple fatigue” by the end of our trip, but we’ve seen a dozen already and each and every one has the capacity to blow your mind. By the time we were on the home stretch we’d done quite a bit of walking, and it didn’t take much persuasion from a tiny old Thai lady for us to accept a massage (not that kind, grow up). We sat on the pavement for an hour and a half watching the world go by as two ladies massaged our feet, shoulders, back and heads. At times it was firm to the point of almost being painful, but they knew what they were doing and by the time we were both done it felt like we were floating on air. They chatted away to each other in Thai like a dawn chorus of sparrows for the duration of our treatment, occasionally stopping to nod at us and provide us with a warm smile.
I feel like I’ve harped on about the first half of the day too much and now it’s a bit late in our day for me to talk about the second half in as much depth. It was not as eventful but we have booked ourselves trips to an “Elephant Retirement Park” tomorrow, where we will help walk, wash and heal old elephants that have been used up and spat out by some of the crueller attractions in the Thai tourism industry. We’ll be back in time for tea but the following day we are going into the countryside on a tour to visit some waterfalls, ride a bamboo raft and spend the night with some of the local hilltribes. You might not hear from us for a couple of days, so until then have a goodun, whatever your venture.
Again, apologies for the poor pictures. I can only upload pics off my phone, so they’re not always the best!
Tommy and Hollie x