Chiang Mai, Thailand
There was a mini-plan buried within the gross rumblings of our travels. The mini-plan catered for the slimmest, razor-thin chance of some actual paid work coming Nickiy’s way. Actual paid work is difficult whilst moving on two wheels, so we arranged for a pit-stop in the heart of northern Thailand. Chiang Mai city is a popular digital nomad spot and is dripping with foreigners, many of whom are young north Americans students. International subjects seem to include the, very popular, “Analysis and study of young Thai ladies.” Chiang Mai has a Starbucks drive-thru, a Boots The Chemist and actual supermarkets. It also has an Indian Consulate.
I don’t need to tell you about the Indian Consulate, because you already know what the answer was to our visa request. This was another extremely frustrating day but at least Stein echoed our disappointment by filling the consulate compound with a cloud of white smoke on departure. I figured this was the equivalent of taking a dump on their front lawn, so saved me the bother.
From Kanchanaburi we had done some fast hops north through the centre of Thailand then popped over some hills into the very hot Chiang Mai. All was not lost however as Nickiy’s office (apartment) also had a swimming pool. All for meeeeee! Nickiy knuckled down for some work and in between times we wandered around the old city temples and the newer posh supermarkets. Alas we were not able to capture such excitement photographically.
After a bit of a bike tune up and check-over, we decided to take a day trip into the village of Samoeng. This 100km loop involves some beautiful views from the snaking tarmac, as well as the botanical gardens and some tiered waterfalls. We paid the foreigner price to enter these waterfalls (racism does have a value: 5 times the xenophobe price) and then followed the path up river. Disliking backtracking, we chose the less used path up stream planning the more popular path back down to the bike. This was a rookie error. About half way up the falls (about 1km along the path) we passed a pleasant swimming hole and a man in a hut overlooking some merry bathers. We carried on uphill and quickly the path became more challenging. But it did not end, nor was it marked as closed. It just became fainter and harder to follow. The raised walkway and steep wooden steps had collapsed in many places so we pulled ourselves up tree roots and bamboo poles. We were of course wearing the correct footwear; thongs and sandals. Sweating and grunting we came to a ridge amongst clumps of bamboo and the track petered out. It was at about this time that I was glad that all my extra foreign investment had been injected into maintenance of the path, not to mention clear signage.
We knew where the river was and the jungle was pretty thin, but the steep hill banks made for some interesting fast-slow-fast slithering as we made our own path downhill. Careful not to fall down the ravine valleys, we eventually got to wet our feet, and, with a lot of care on the mossy rocks, cross the river to the other (only) path. From there we carried on until we’d reached the 10th level of nirvana/waterfall. It was impressive, but then we had to walk all the way back down again!
The verdict and the camera also got back to us. Using the Olympus in torch mode had fried the main board somehow. I didn’t really believe them when they told me, but they did send the damaged board back with the camera and it really had blistered around the battery terminals. What shite! So we got the camera back and it wouldn’t focus in twilight at all. I tried to get a few shots of some annual pilgrimage chaos as monks with radios with huge telescopic 80’s aerials worked with police to guide traffic and walkers on their way up to the hilltop temple. Nothing doing. No photos. Then I noticed that Olympus had randomly used different screws to put the camera back together and cracked the case. So now I had a camera that didn’t take pictures half the time and would probably leak when used underwater. I sent it back and hoped they could get it back before we left Chiang Mai. The first repair had taken a month (Q: How many Thai public holidays are there each week? A: What is a week?). The second repair had about 7 days to get done and back to me and, you guessed it, I sent it the day before a Friday public holiday!
After our two and a half weeks of working, swimming, walking, drinking and eating, we began our slow trip south towards the border with our rebuilt camera! This would be the last leg of our 60 days in Thailand.