Getting The Thailand Rush!

9th Jun 2014
Photo of Getting The Thailand Rush! 1/6 by lucy m
Band Performance at Roots Rock Raggae
Photo of Getting The Thailand Rush! 2/6 by lucy m
Flamingos at the Chiang Mai Zoo
Photo of Getting The Thailand Rush! 3/6 by lucy m
Koh Chang
Photo of Getting The Thailand Rush! 4/6 by lucy m
Chiang Mai Night Market
Photo of Getting The Thailand Rush! 5/6 by lucy m
North Thai Cuisine in Pai
Photo of Getting The Thailand Rush! 6/6 by lucy m
Three Kings Memorial in Chiang Mai

I forgot how friendly Indonesians are. Swaths of Indonesians move there for work from more remote islands, and despite the huge influx of foreigners to Bali, there is still bafflement with the outside world. Indonesia is still quite culturally cut off from the rest of the world, which helps preserve custom, and I think friendliness. Although Indonesians seem bored of overcrowding from tourism, their affability is catching and I began from Ngurah Rai airport, smiling and saying hello to as many as possible.

Thailand, with its' multitude of land borders and attraction as a major tourist destination, means more people pass through (making it harder to get off the beaten track). But this also makes Thailand an accepting place for cultural difference. I recognise most Thais are also welcoming, friendly and warm with a wicked sense of humour. I meander with a lost look on my face and a map and I am offered help. I ask a questions and jokes come back.

You do, in places, get a small sense of 'God, not another one!' I'm determined not to be another one. I would like to get off that ‘beaten track’. I want to learn the language and alphabet more than anywhere. I want to learn the correct way to Wai and good Thai manners. I am as ever, fascinated by this golden country, its' countless temples, idyllic islands and enthralling history.

I made my way to this blessed island and discovered mountains of various personalities. The quiet, heady, dark and exciting. Marvellous, crazy, unexpected and mild- much like the foods on my list, and the clean Buddhist life at odds with corrupt squalor. Thailand: a moving vestibule of yin and yang. Seriously, this place is magnetic and it's not just the parties. For those of you who don't know about Elephant Island, it's the second biggest in Thailand, has served as a station in wars during the twentieth century and has only become a traveller outpost in the last twenty years.

Photo of Koh Chang Trat Thailand by lucy m

Chiang Mai has no sky-scrapers. In fact the biggest structures are the Wats (temples). The old town is still surrounded by a moat and a fully functioning protective terracotta brick city wall complete with 'gates'. Remnants of an outer wall are dotted about the river where fountains intermittently spray up mist and trees line the water and it is easy to imagine what this place may have looked like back when the wall was complete. After a whole day's travel with minivan, ferry, minivan again, drop off at BKK, shuttle bus tour around the airport (I enjoy the scenic route) shuttle bus to the correct airport, flight and finally a taxi, I made it to Chiang Mai to meet the glorious gorgeous couple, Katia and Jon for our fourth liaison in three years, across the world. And all in time to see children kick the crap out of each other at Muay Thai.

Photo of Chiang Mai Thailand by lucy m

No I wasn't referring to Backpackers. Chiang Mai Zoo is a hillside town for African, Asian and Australian animals. I was delighted at how well looked after they seem, despite some small enclosures for reptiles and one maddened-looking Asian black bear so clearly bored of his enclosure. And compared to Tiger Kingdom, where big cats are drugged for a tourist's opportunity at getting close to a top predator for a fucked up cuddle. The pandas being the star attraction were in their own area to draw in more money . As you can guess, the breeding programme wasn't going well and neither panda, showed a hint of interest in anything but sleeping in their bamboo decorated enclosures. Still it was a treat for me to see one in (huge) flesh and I was impressed at the modernity of how to keep such large and dangerous animals in humane but safe areas by using the well known trench system instead of caging up in serious amounts of chicken wire (ahem, London zoo).

Photo of Chiang Mai Zoo Huai Kaeo Road Chiang Mai Thailand by lucy m

At night markets we ate as much stick food, spicy soups, fat noodles and fruit shakes as our plastic bag tasseled arms could carry, to the point of becoming a fat noodle. They are clearly a popular attraction for the amount of Fereng and Chinese tourists amiably dawdling up the street and we easily lost each other on many occasions.I felt as though I was at a festival what with the threat of rain, street performers, sparkling lights and the mysterious stalls; and food hawkers with their questionable delights and the relaxed yet packed environment of ease at which people drink in the street. At the Ratchadamnoen road Sunday market it was much the same, only they played the national anthem and EVERYONE stood still and I noticed the air was clear from the lack of cigarette smoking allowed here.

Photo of The Night Market ถนน ช้างคลาน Chiang Mai Thailand by lucy m

On our night out at Roots Rock Reggae, we were utterly joyous to discover a Thai Ska band, their trumpets and trombones calling back memories of nights in Brixton and at Glastonbury watching The Specials. I came to the conclusion that you could spend a whole year in Festival Land (Chiang Mai) and still not absorb everything on offer. Jon said it reminded him of Melbourne, for myself it felt more like Perth due to it's situation on a river, the very relaxed atmosphere and the arty scene and hidden gems every where you go. It was like when someone hands you a cake box as a surprise and you peer in the white cardboard to find a carefully sculpted delicious treat waiting for you.

Photo of Roots Rock Reggae Bar & Shop Patong Phuket Thailand by lucy m

After the switchbacks in death van I arrived slightly nauseous, to Pai; town of hippies, waterfalls and mountain surroundings. I still felt like I was at a festival, with jewellery stalls and street food vendors setting up for the evening, while the temperature dropped from a blistering 35 degrees to a forgiving 25-28.I found my bed for the next two days at famous hippy commune Spicy Pai Backpackers. The coming wet season's dramatic clouds prevented clear sunsets, and yet the mists, rolling formations and huge streaks of fork lightning hitting trees only a few kilometres away, brought about an incredible electric atmosphere that wouldn't have been amiss in 'The Never Ending Story'.

Photo of Pai Na Kho Ruea Chiang Mai Thailand by lucy m

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