Beautiful Chiang Mai

Jemma Here 🙂

Hua Hin…

We spent the rainy days in Hua Hin (there’s a rainstorm throughout Asia right now) in the pool at our hotel, doing lengths and hibernating in the huge mall that they have here, drinking coffee and wandering through shops.

Dog lovers, skip this paragraph – Without spending all my time writing negative things about Thailand, the most memorable thing about Hua Hin for me, unfortunately, was a local woman whacking a puppy with a stick and screaming at it on the beach every time it moved, and a man on holiday getting really angry at her and there being a big uproar on the beach between local people and holiday people, local people calling the holiday man crazy. One more whack and I’d have whipped it out of her hand and whacked her myself. She was old, I think that’s the only reason the holiday man didn’t do it himself. People were drawn in by this horrendous dog screaming type noise. It was disgusting. The most annoying thing is she’d obviously gone out with the intention of buying a dog because it was nothing like most Thai street dogs, it was a bred dog, a King Charles spaniel. You don’t just pick those up on street corners. So why has she gone out and bought one???

Being the closest beach resort to Bangkok it’s quickly becoming big competition in terms of a sex tourism destination with Pattaya. I’ll say no more…

Now we’re in Chiang Mai. So far so good. It’s great to be somewhere new within hundreds of miles of beach, in a city surrounded by jungle. Getting here was all arranged. After however long it was that we stayed in Hua Hin (I think 3/4 days) we booked an air-con minibus to Don Muang airport in Bangkok with a reputable company that an expat had recommended to us, he goes into Bangkok on them regularly. The ticket was 180 baht each, or 200 to go a little further on to the actual airport, all within 3 hours I think, so we booked that. The minibus was great. I had an absolute steaming hangover though, the usual “lets get 1 beer on the way home” from the food places turned into hours of drinking, laughing and mingling with local women in a little expat bar. At around 2am we crawled into bed, our stuff was all over our room and I thought at 8.30 there’s a taxi coming to take us to the minibus station and we’ve not even packed – that’s going to hurt! So the morning was a bit horrid but all our own fault. However we sobared up and picked up coffee and a bbq banana each when the minibus driver stopped for fuel along the way. The first stop is Victoria Square or something in the middle of Bangkok, where the 180 baht ticket takes you. So we then went on to pass the airport on the wrong side of the road, and we thought he must be dropping the few locals left on the bus somewhere else and then taking us to the airport on the way back, when we were on the right side of the road. This was not the case, he opened the door, let the locals out and motioned with his hand for us to get out. We weren’t getting out for shit after what we’ve been through this trip in Thailand. We showed his our ticket to Don Muang airport and he waved at his sheet of drop off locations (all in Thai) and I presume Don Muang hadn’t been written on. We called the number on our ticket, and sat in his minibus for 10 minute while he was screaming on my phone (good investment, a Thai simcard) to the minibus depot in Hua Hin, angry that he wasn’t taking us to Don Muang. He made one last attempt to get us into a taxi (probably his mate) shouting “taxi! taxi!” which didn’t work, so this guy didn’t speak a word on English but I presume he was also swearing. He was raging. I wasn’t, this time I wasn’t on a big bus where they could throw your bag out at the side of the road and you had to get off the buss and then they’d speed off, leaving you. Eventually he slammed the door and drove off in a rage and dropped us off at the airport. Thailand eh?!

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Chiang Mai…

After arriving in Chiang Mai we joined a massive queue for fixed price taxi’s but the main road was in view, so we walked, hopped in a pick-up truck and got dropped in the old town near the Climbing shop and scouted for a hotel. We stayed 1 night in the old town, within the square in the middle of the city.

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It’s quite cool in there, small streets are jam packed and there’s a moat around the whole thing with “gates” that you drive in and out of to access it. We paid 500 baht for an air-con room but it was bad. There’s a festival going on the last few days and everywhere was full that we checked apart from this place. It wasn’t clean at all, it was like not a surface had been wiped for years. And the bed sheets were multi-coloured, always a sign that they might be lazy in changing them in my mind. If they’re white you can immediately tell, and that’s the way it should be, and usually is! There was a balcony door, when you opened it there was a brick wall about half a meter away. Ha ha. Not even enough to let much light in 😉 I know we over paid for this standard but it was late, getting dark and it was clear we weren’t going to find much better that night.

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Taz buys me a rose :-)

The festival itself was worth seeing, they had floats going down the street, everyone was in traditional costume and all dolled up like Thai royalty, it was cool. There was also loads of good Thai food to be eaten. That night we went online and booked a new hotel called the Airport Residence and this is much nicer, at 590 a night, just outside the old town gates. So we’ve pre-paid the rest of our nights, rented another motorbike and this is our base for sightseeing and climbing trips. It’s quieter here when you want to sleep, and I believe, more secure.

ChiangMai Festival

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Chinese Visas…

We went to the Chinese embassy, just a 10 minute walk from the hotel and got our Visas, Taz did a mad sprint to get passport pictures printed (I did tell him before we came here that he needed one!) and after a couple of trips to the desk they accepted the application and we pick them up Monday. It’s funny because we had to get the 3  working day service on Friday that enables us to collect the passports and visas Tuesday and cost 40 quid each, the 20 quid service which is what we wanted because it was only 20 quid and we could collect Wednesday morning before we fly, they said we could only pick up Thursday, which is 5 days. But what can you say?! Try and work that one out. Anyway, sorted now…

Climbing…

Yesterday we drove the 20 mile trip to the Crazy Horse Buttress. It’s easy to find, 1 road of of Chiang Mai and then a short dirt road. There were quite a few people there, most had come on the pick-up trucks arranged by a climbing school that leave Chiang Mai at 8.30 and return from the crag at 5. For flexibility we wanted to go ourselves, and I didn’t want to get up at 8 either 😉 We arrived around 10.30 or 11am and immediately you can tell that this place has been well looked after. There’s a sign system directing you to all the crags, I think there’s 12 all with a short walk of each other. The locals have constructed steps with wood and stones around the whole place and it’s the most safely bolted place I’ve ever seen. It’s fantastic. There’s toilets too. With most climbs in the 6a-6c range we were like kids in a candy shop and got started on the Crazy Horse Area wall and did a 6a and a 6a+ climb each to start. Taz also did a 6c route, on a different wall that I can’t remember the name of, but it’s to the right of the archway. He put his head cam on for this and it’s a cool video. He was in the sun though (mistake!). A pic of him on this route is here…

Taz on the 6b+

We headed round to the “Junkyard” wall after this. There’s 4 routes on this wall, a 6b traversing line on the left, a 6a with stalaktites, a 6c crack and a 6b+ with a hard crux at the top. I managed the 6a onsight, the top was pumpy though and I was like “I’ve cocked up” right at the top where I was leaning right out thinking, here goes my first decent outdoor fall but I managed to back track a little and pull myself together. Phew! It’s amazing how different the moves are outside, there’s stuff that just can’t be practiced or simulated inside. I like it! I’d decided that this was my last climb of the day, although I could have done more it was getting late in the day and the mozzies sprang out from nowhere.

Taz climbing a 6b+ on the wall to the right of Chiang Mai Area

Taz did the 6c climb after a couple of attempts. I may try this one next time. Crazy to say it but I’ve never really climbed a crack before! He was really chuffed with that one. Then, as we were packing up an American man gave up on the 6b traverse and Taz went up to finish the route and retrieve his gear, beofre he missed his pick-up truck back to the City! Ironically as he got down 2 American girls on the 6b+ were panicking that neither of them could reach the top of the route and I went up to get their gear on that one! Now it was nearly dark, and we’d all picked up a few bites despite burning mozzie coils and re-applying more and more repellent. Back on the bike in the dark was an experience, but around 18 of the 20 miles are on pretty much deserted roads, it’s only the 2 mile city drive that’s sketchy. Sometimes I just shut my eyes and hope for the best – I’m not driving at this point!

Back in the city Taz had a half hour foot massage for 100 baht and I opted for a half hour back massage. I forget that they don’t spend much time rubbing aching muscles, they kneel on you, squash your muscles and every second of it is absolute agony but you know they’re doing you a world of good. No matter what massage you opt for they seem to spend a brief amount of time of your other parts too. The woman attacked by calfes and thighs and today they’re in pain. And they got Taz’s neck after they’d powered over his feet and legs and I could see him wincing in pain. Now I feel like someone has been hammering my back in my sleep, but it’s a strange feeling, the back ache has gone but I literally feel battered. You know it’s done you the world of good… Half an hour on my back was plenty, I can’t imagine enduring the pain any longer!!

I would like to add that travel is exhausting. There’s all sorts of clashes occurring and not because we don’t understand Thai people because most of them are great. It’s the one’s that expect you to say nothing when they’re taking the absolute piss out of you that let this country down.

I do love Thailand. I wouldn’t change this trip for the world. How else would we get to eat amazing authentic Thai food, have priceless experiences with genuinely great locals and climb at the Crazy Horse Buttress and then lay down and be beaten up voluntarily by a sharp elbowed Thai woman?! After all, it is the “rich” outsiders, flooding this country that has made those minority pain in the ass Thai’s bitter in the first place. So you’ve just got to get over it each time they try/succeed to do you over, and enjoy yourself 🙂

I’m so excited about China on Wednesday. I’m the one that does all the arranging and the research but this time all I researched is climbing. So I know nothing about costs, little about transport and nowt about accommodation either really. I don’t even know what currency we need or what the exchange rate is… So we’re going in blind and it makes me really giddy 😉

2 thoughts on “Beautiful Chiang Mai

  1. I’d bet there’s a hell of a lot more dog abuse in China, keep us posted as to the imminent horrors of that… Another great post, two questions for you both, when you’re in the pick-up, were you hitchiking? If so how to the olbiging drivers treat you in comparison to the business owners? Also, I have no idea what a BBQ banana is, but it sounds damned tasty.

  2. Sounds like you are having an amazing time 🙂 Do you have a lonely planet for China yet? Forgot to warn you, there are still lots of scams in China. Ignore the women that approach you at the bus stations – just go straight to the ticket booth. There is also a tea house scam (someone tried it on us but we had already read about it) so if someone approaches you and tries to invite you say no! Also, pretty much nobody speaks English there and all signs are in Chinese so it may be good to have a phrase book you can show to someone. Yangshuo is absolutely stunning though and you will have an amazing time – check out Monkey Janes in the evening for some beer pong! xxxx

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