Friday, 10 September 2010

Chiang Mai

Sunday 29 August: The first time I arrived Chiang Mai I was riding on the back of an elephant, but that's another story.
I would love to trek in the hill-tribe mountains to the north, the same mountains that shelter Chiang Mai from the worst of the monsoon, but in these hills, during the rainy season, there are black clouds and even blacker leeches, thin enough to slime their way through a boot-lace hole or over a sock and feast-fat on your blood - another time perhaps.
Chiang Mai is an ancient fortified city, but only the moat and small sections of wall remain. It takes me all morning to stroll around in a clockwise direction. I walked the three miles around anticlockwise many years ago - I don't remember fountains. What do remain intact are the temples or wats for which Chiang Mai is famous. Top of my list of seven (there are more than a thousand!) is Wat Pra Singh, the most popular - then Wat Phan Tao, which I do remember for it's solid teak construction - I also recall Wat Chedi Luang's giant ruined chedi. I'm staying at Malik Guesthouse in a roomy en-suite with a teak floor, doors and furniture. There's a rooftop garden with tea and toast-making facilities, and free internet, all for 170 bhat a night (£3.50).
Monday 30: Four more wats today and one is quite a trek. Wat Chiang Man, the city's oldest is nearby - Wat Chiang Yuen, with it's white chedi is just outside the old city walls - Wat Suan Dok, further out, has a stunning bell-shaped chedi wrapped in gold leaf - Wat U Mong is a forest wat in the countryside, a long walk from town, is very different - green, spread out and peaceful.
I end my day, and my stay in Chiang Mai, with a dinner of tender venison fillet, at The Writers Club which (not surprisingly) gets good reviews, but no apostrophes. This is the first time I've eaten meat that hasn't been shredded or chopped and served mixed in a sauce since November 2009, nine months ago, in Iran. It tastes good, very good. It's also here, in the club, that I scribble these notes. The opening line is, of course, fictional.
Photos of Chiang Mai.
Tuesday 31: The storms have cleared further south, it's time to go. Out of time, I take a tuk-tuk (66th mode of transport) to the station for the 8:45am Special Express Diesel Railcar and a six-hour journey south to Phitsanulok.

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