30 December 2002, Chiang Mai
Our last day in Chiang Mai was another late start, even later than the previous late start two days earlier. I woke up still feeling bloated, but we had things to take care of so we left the guesthouse at around 09:30. We had breakfast at Nice Sweet Place again, primarily because of its proximity to the guesthouse. As expected, the Thai Grandfathers’ Breakfast Club was in session at their usual table. Hyunjin had coffee and pastries, but I could only manage a cup of tea, and that only barely.
We next made our way to the Thai Airlines office, stopping along the way to buy some medicine for my stomach. It would have been an entirely unremarkable five minutes had it not been for the pharmacist’s amazing English ability. I say amazing because she could not speak English very well at all, yet with the little she knew she was able to make herself understood perfectly. We had no problems communicating at all, and I was very impressed. It takes a special knack for communication that goes beyond language ability to do something like that.
At the Thai Airlines office we checked on our flight home. We had been put on the waiting list in Seoul for our return flight, and Hyunjin has been especially worried about that, since she has to teach the day after we’re supposed to get back. Everything turned out to be fine, though, and we discovered that our seats were confirmed.
We returned to the guesthouse and decided to pay half a day’s rent (100 baht) so we could stay until evening. Our original plan had been to leave our bags there for 30 baht and then wander around until our 16:30 train, but my condition made that impossible. Instead, we rested for a while at the guesthouse before venturing out again to the Night Bazaar area, which is thankfully much tamer during the day.
Hyunjin was hungry, so we stopped at the J.J. Bakery (apparently the main branch from which the J.J. Cafes were spun off). Just like most other bakeries in Thailand, this one doubled as a restaurant, so Hyunjin ordered chicken with cashew nuts, a Chinese dish. I considered trying to eat a sandwich, but decided that even that was too much and settled for a croissant.
After eating we went across the street to look for a pair of pants for me, but we couldn’t find anything satisfactory. We ended up just going back to the guesthouse. We arrived at around 14:30 and rested for an hour before getting ready to leave. Hyunjin had dropped off our laundry at a place right across from the guesthouse, so she picked that up and we packed our bags. (We had some laundry done at the guesthouse earlier, but when we got our laundry back we noticed that two shirts were missing. The owner of the guesthouse searched high and low but could not find them, so he refunded us the 100 baht. I did not record originally record this in my journal, so I don’t know exactly when it happened, but it was most likely our first day in Chiang Mai. I only mention it now because it comes into play later.) We caught a sawngthaew on Moon Muang Rd. (the driver insisted on 50 baht for the two of us, but we were in no mood to quibble over 10 baht) and arrived at the train station at 16:00.
The owners of the Somwang Guest House sent us off with handshakes and words of farewell. Although the facilities may not have been the best I have seen, they were certainly not the worst either, and the owners were the friendliest I have met, hands down. The woman is very friendly and helpful, and the man carries out his duties with a sense of responsibility and earnestness that is quite rare. They have also just finished the newer rooms, which are a bit nicer than where we stayed (and also probably a bit more expensive).
Our train rolled slowly through the densely forested hills of Northern Thailand toward Ayuthaya. Our seats were second class, which are much better than third class because they 1) are softer, 2) don’t face each other and are thus roomier, and 3) recline. It still may not be the most comfortable way to travel (that would probably be a sleeper), but it’s a lot better than the trip up was.
We are scheduled to arrive in Ayuthaya at 04:46 tomorrow morning, where we hope to stay for a night at a guesthouse near the train station. Although things have ultimately worked out so far, it would be nice if everything went smoothly and according to plan for the last week of the trip. I’m getting a bit tired at this point, and although my stomach seems to be recovering, I am not even slightly hungry—despite having had only one croissant in the past 24 hours (closer to 28, actually). I’m just tired of having to deal with contingencies. I suppose that’s the disadvantage of traveling individually as opposed to a package tour. Ultimately, though, I think the advantages do outweigh the disadvantages.