Reed in Asia - Asian Diaries
Chiangmai - A romantic setting
When I woke up the next morning, On was still asleep, so I just did as I normally do in the Airport hotel, I gently slipped out of bed, went to the bathroom to relieve myself and then I found a kettle in the room, filled it with water and switched it on. The day before, I didn't really have time to look at the room properly, so now I started looking around and just like the hotel in Bangkok they had a radio too, so I switched it on and tuned it to a Thai music channel and turned the volume to a level that would not disturb On sleeping. I then found lots of leaflets about Chiangmai and started reading through them, a useful one that I found had a map of the major roads in Chiangmai, so I thought that I would keep that one, the kettle then started boiling so I made a cup of tea, sat down with it, I lit a cigarette and then continued looking through the leaflets. I sat there making plans for what we should do that day and I decided that I would like to see Doi Suthep and the hill tribe villages near there that I had seen in the leaflets. I decided to hire a car if I could, because now I had a basic map of the area and I like to drive myself anyway because then you can stop and look around anywhere that you want to at your own convenience. I found the telephone number for 'Budget rent a car' in one of the leaflets, so I thought that I would give them a call later.
On woke up then, she sat up in bed and smiled at me, I asked her if she wanted a coffee, she nodded her head and I made her one. She then came to sit with me at the coffee table and I told her about my idea of going to Doi Suthep today, she totally agreed because she wanted to go and see the Wat (Buddhist temple) there, so I then went to the phone and dialled Budget rent a car and asked if they had a car available, they told me that they did have one and asked me where I was staying, so I gave them the name of the hotel and they said that they would pick me up here in one hour, so I then told On that we had a car for the day and that we would have to leave in an hour. We sat at the coffee table drinking our hot drinks and smoking and we talked about the night before and how good it was, we then started talking about Doi Suthep and I told her that I would like to drive around some of the villages up there too. After we had finished our drinks, we both showered together and then got dressed ready to go out. We then went downstairs and I reckoned that we just had enough time to get some breakfast, so we went into the coffee shop and ordered. We had just finished our breakfast when I realised that our hour was up, so I signed the bill and then we went to reception. I spotted the guy from the car rent easily because he was wearing a T-shirt with the company name and logo on, so I went over to him and introduced myself and he led us to a car outside. He then drove us to their office and I filled in the forms and let them photocopy my passport and driving licence, I paid the deposit and they took me to the car, After I inspected the car for damage I was given the keys, we both got in the car and we were ready to go.
The Budget office was on the road to the airport, so I drove back towards the city and when just entering the city, I followed the signs and turned right towards Doi Suthep, the road going there was uphill and quite a winding road, but I prefer driving on roads like this rather than straight highways and I quite enjoyed myself driving up there, On was looking at the view of Chiangmai as we went higher and she seemed to be enjoying herself too. When we reached the temple at Doi Suthep, I had to find somewhere to park the car and there was a market area opposite the Wat just a bit lower than the road we were on and they had a parking area there, so I parked quite easily there. We passed a lot of stalls selling many kinds of wares and food as we walked to the Wat and then we were back at the road again, we crossed the road and they had many steps up to the Wat entrance or you could get on a small train/lift that operated at the side of the steps, there were many people waiting for the train, so we decided to walk up the steps. We were quite tired when we reached the top and we rested there for a while, the view of Chiangmai from there was excellent and we just stood holding each other and looking at it for a while.
When we entered the Wat area I was just going to ask On which way we should go and then I remembered that she had never been here before too, so we both just ambled around the grounds for a long time looking at the displays and statues that they had there. After a while, On went inside a temple building, she bought some incense sticks and gold leaf pieces as she entered, then she kneeled down and started to Wai a Buddha image there with these between her hands, she then lit the incense sticks and placed them in pots near the image and then she stuck the gold leaf pieces on the image itself. I just stayed outside near the door and watched all of her Buddhist routine with interest because I had never seen it before. When she had finished, she came to me and she seemed to be quite happy with herself, she then said that she would like a cool drink and we found a food and drink stall on the temple grounds where we sat down and each had a cool drink and a cigarette. Afterwards we took a slow walk back down the steps and went through the market on the way back to the car, I spotted some locally made Thai round neck, short sleeved shirts that I liked and I said to On that I would like to buy some, so we started looking through all of the wares on the stall. I ended up buying six shirts and a couple of blouses for On that she liked. We then went back to the car and I drove back up to the road and turned left away from Chiangmai, the road was still going uphill a little and there were trees on each side of the road, then after about a couple of kilometres, I spotted somewhere that we could park just off the side of the road, there were a couple of other cars already parked there and I was interested to see what the attraction was, so I parked there and we got out. There were a couple of dirt paths through the trees there and we just followed one of them, after about two hundred metres of walking we came to an area, where the trees ended and there was a wooden viewing platform built out were the hill just dropped away below. We went out onto this platform and the view was quite spectacular, we could see Chiangmai in the distance and now we could also see all of the other hills around the area too, it was a very peaceful and relaxing scene and I held On close to me whilst we took all of this in.
After about twenty minutes at this spot alone, we headed back to the car and then I started driving in the same direction as before, we passed through a couple of small villages where I slowed down and looked at the buldings and layout and then continued driving, eventually the road made a very sharp right turn and then there was a large area there at the side of and slightly below the level of the road, that looked like a market area, so I drove the car in there and parked. We got out of the car and there were many stalls around, all of the people there were dressed in hill tribe clothes and the stalls were displaying locally produced hand made goods, we were both very interested in this and we started looking at the goods on all of the stalls, the people there were very pleased to see us, because there were very few other visitors / customers around then. After a slow walk around all of the stalls we came to a food stall, On said that she was hungry and I was feeling peckish too, so we sat down at one of the tables there and On started talking to the stall holder, On then asked me if I wanted anything special to eat and I just said that whatever she ordered I would eat, so On ordered some food for us. When the bowls of food arrived, there was one that I could recognise and it was a Tom Yam, there were some other Thai salads and something that looked like and tasted like curry, it was all very good and I really enjoyed it, we were given water with ice to drink and it was now getting late in the afternoon and I asked On if they had any beer there and they did have, so I had my first beer of the day in some unknown place on Doi Suthep somewhere! I enjoy seeing new places and I was really enjoying this trip out today, there were no tourists here and it was just a pleasant location for me. On and I then started talking about what we had seen on the stalls and we decided to buy many of the small hand made goods here, so when we had finished our meal and I had finished my beer, I paid some ridiculously small amount of money for what we had eaten and then we went back to the stalls. We bought beads, necklaces, bracelets, a painting on silk and I bought another local shirt that I liked there, everything was very inexpensive for me, We then went back to the car and I set off back to Chiangmai.
Just as were were entering Chiangmai, I spotted a place that looked interesting for me and turned right off the road into a car park there. On then asked me why I had stopped and I told her that I wanted a beer and this looked like a good place. When we went inside the building, it was just like a British pub inside and they even had a dartboard in there, I got a pint of draft beer for me and even On had a Thai whisky and soda today. It had been a very good day for me, I had seen many new and wonderful things, I had bought some new clothes, I had enjoyed the drive and I had the company of someone that I now had very strong feelings for. After we had finished our drinks, I paid the bill and I drove to our hotel, it was easy for me because I had been watching when the guy from Budget had picked us up and I had noted some landmarks around, I parked in the hotel carpark and we went into the hotel and up to the room. We both had a shower and a change of clothes, I put on one of my new shirts and On started laughing at me, I couldn't understand why, I looked in the mirror and it looked very good to me, so I asked her what she was laughing at. She then told me that this style of shirt was normally only worn by Thai farm workers or people that didn't have a lot of money, but I told her that I liked it and I felt comfortable in it and that was all that mattered to me. She still tried to get me to change my shirt, but I was stubborn about it and insisted on wearing it, I liked it! We then went down to the lounge and listened to the band in there for a while, I asked On if there was somewhere that she would like to go to that night, but she said that she didn't really know Chiangmai, so she had no ideas. I then said that I would go and get the leaflets from the room and maybe we could get an idea from something in them, so I went up to the room and came back with the leaflets. When I sat down, On told me that she had spoken to one of the waitresses there and she had been told that a tour of the city by night on a pedal trishaw was nice, this sounded good to me and I asked her how we could arrange this, she then told me that we just get one on the street outside the hotel.
After a couple of drinks each, On was still drinking Thai whisky, I signed the bill and we left the hotel. We quickly found one of these trishaws and after a bit of negotiating by On, I was told that we had this trishaw for as long as we wanted it that night and when she told me how much it would cost us, I was very surprised at how cheap it was, but she did add that we had to feed the driver too, but even then it was still very inexpensive for me. So we got into the trishaw and we just started touring the many areas in Chiangmai, this was great and very relaxing just sitting there holding On's hand and looking at the city, but for me there was one thing missing, I needed some beer . I told On that I wanted some beer and she spoke to the trishaw driver and we stopped at a shop, I quickly got out bought three large bottles of beer and one can and then got back in the trishaw, I gave the can of beer to the driver which če˙wos happy with and I just sat back and opened a bottle with my handy pocket knife and started to relax even more, On just looked at me, shook her head, lifted up the side of my shirt and started laughing at me, the beer and the shirt must go well together! We drove around for the next hour or so and the driver kept pointing out different places for us, then he said something to On and she asked me if I was feeling hungry, I said that I was and she said that the driver had suggested a good place not very far away. We stopped at an out-of-the-way little cafe in one of the backstreets and we all went to sit at a table there, driver and all. The driver then spoke to On again in Thai and she asked me if I would like to try something different to eat and I just said "Yes, why not?" When the food came I had a plate of something that On told me was called 'Kau Soi' and it was the most delicious dish that I had tasted in Chiangmai, I liked it so much, that unusual for me, I ordered a second plate. We sat there for quite a long time, it was very quiet and secluded in the backstreet and I just had a couple of beers after the meal and relaxed. I don't know what time it was when we left there, but when we got back on the main roads again, there was very little traffic and everywhere seemed very quiet, I just held On close to me and was thinking what a wonderful day we had had that day, sitting in the trishaw being quietly pedalled around at night with this lovely girl sitting next to me in this unknown city to us, was just so enjoyable and was a very romantic setting. We then approached the hotel and I realised that our tour was over, the poor guy must be really tired now having pedalled us around for hours, we got out at the hotel entrance and I paid the trishaw driver and gave him a little extra tip, he thanked me and then he pedalled away. In the hotel, we went straight up to the room, I put some music on as usual, I decided to have a nightcap of a whisky and soda, I made one for On too and then we lay on the bed, the night is not over yet .
'And so it goes On!'
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