We arrived to the train station two hours before we were supposed to depart for Chiang Mai. We found our car and took our seats. The train was still being set up by an overweight man with no shirt on. He was very nice but also seemed confused as to why we were there so early. The beds all had wire compartments next to them where you could throw your bags. We stored our backpacks there and brought our small bags down with us to our seats.
We were the only ones on the train for about an hour. We were joined by a canadian traveler soon after and then by a thai Mom and daughter. The seats are converted into beds after dinner time and the train provides a pillow, sheets, a blanket, and a curtain. There are two seats on the bottom which turn into one bed and another bed up top which can either be pulled down (making a bunk bed style car) or pushed up into the wall. By the time the train began to fill up the attendant put his shirt on… I know you were all hanging on the edge of your seats wondering.
Noam, Avi, and I continued debating but at a certain point I fell asleep. I was going on zero hours of sleep from the night before and was therefore exhausted. The train has one restaurant car and the waiter walks through the various cars taking orders for dinner. We ordered a couple dishes to share and continued playing the card game called “president.” At one point another passenger got onto the train and was sleeping below one of our beds. We ended up having to move but they waited until our food came to kick us out entirely.
The food was “expensive” compared to the other prices we were used to seeing in town. It also was not the most appetizing meal we had eaten thus far. We sort of expected this to be the case but being that we were on the train for a total of 16 hours we obviously had to eat. Right after we ate we all retreated to our respective beds. After a bit of writing, I fell right asleep and slept until about seven in the morning. When I woke up I was one of the first awake so I read a little and spent a little time journaling. Around eight Noam woke up and I joined him on his bunk bed. We sat and talked for a little and then I climbed down because I wanted to see more of the train.
I walked through the first class and other second class cars until I reached the restaurant car. It was nice to see the other passengers travelling through. All the other travelers I saw were very friendly. Once I got to the restaurant car I turned around and walked back through the other cars to get back to my car. The views from the train were really beautiful and I spent a little time in between cars, standing at one of the doors, just looking out.
When I got back to my car they had began to turn the beds back into seats and to serve breakfast to the passengers. Given our experience with dinner we declined breakfast and Noam and I shared one of my cliff bars. At this point it was almost nine and Avi was still asleep. Noam and I decided to wake him – naturally, I rubbed his face to wake him and Noam grabbed his toe. We hopped off the train shortly thereafter and headed to our hotel in Chiang Mai.
We decided to splurge in Chiang Mai and get a hotel. This way we had our own room, a private bathroom, and air conditioning. This set us back a whole $12/person per night. I think we would all be comfortable staying at any hostel but we are just sort of weighing our options in terms of lodging when we get to any city.
Check in was not until one and we arrived around eleven so we went to a local cafe to eat in our spare time. The cafe was very cute and the food was cheap and delicious. We ordered a bowl of fruit with yogurt and it came with dragon fruit, bananas, watermelon, and honeydew. The fruit here is extremely fresh and has this sweet and tangy taste that is sort of hard to explain. I may go back for another bowl tomorrow. We then checked in and showered and relaxed until some of the heat burned off.
In the afternoon we began exploring the city. We are staying walking distance from all the cute shops, cafes, restaurants, and wats (temples).
Chiang Mai is absolutely beautiful. A lot of people told me I would love it, and if any of you are reading this, you were right. The streets are lined with food carts selling fresh coconut and mango sticky rice. There are monks strolling around in their traditional dress willing to stop and discuss Buddha’s philosophies with you if you are willing to listen. Tourists stop you in the streets and smile and recommend places to eat and things to see. The city is much calmer than Bangkok and just feels more authentic. It is still lined with tourists but I like these tourists more.
Tomorrow we are going on an adventure tour through one of the local national parks. We will be there all day, riding elephants and (hopefully) swimming in the waterfalls.