Sunday, 4 February 2018


11th - 16th Jan 2018

Trip up the Ping.
I took a short boat trip up the river Ping which runs through the centre of the city. There were only  three of us on the smallish 'long-tailed' boat, myself, a rather charming Chinese student and the boat driver. The Chinese guy was an IT student living in Seoul and spoke good English. We only went for an hour upstream to a riverside farm which grew all sorts of weird herbs and vegetables and we were given a conducted tour.

This 'farm' had an extensive restaurant and bar, and I believe tourists stayed here. The restaurant (left) had tables made from small canoes and could cater for large parties.

The menu looked quite interesting; especially item #93, the 'deep fried chicken knobbly knees'. 
I had eaten earlier and so resisted the temptation. There were indeed several chickens knocking about the place but they didn't appear to have knobbly knees....which is presumably why they were not on the menu.

Left: There was an interesting gents loo. The urinals and sinks are made out of carved tree trunks. Quite original, but I can't think very hygienic. 

Right: Another boat tethered alongside was kitted out for a cruise with dining. 
We were told that the river contained many large black and yellow coloured water snakes (in fact I saw one on the river Taing when we were on those rafts), but they are not venomous, apparently, and eat fish or perhaps slow witted knobbly kneed  chickens. 

On the way back, about 15 mins out from the farm, we had a total engine failure. After a bit of tinkering the driver gave up and dropped anchor. Fortunately he had a mobile phone and summoned rescue. We were passed by another boat (left) whose passengers gave us a cheerful, if unsympathetic, wave.

A rescue boat duly arrived and towed us back to the farm where we tetherd the broken one and then set off back to the city. My Chinese companion was getting a bit worried as he had a flight to catch back to Seoul in a couple of hours.

There are long stretches of tiered seating along the banks in the city, as there were on the river Wang in Lam Phang. I asked why and was told it was for spectators when they had frequent (rowing) boat races. And by the way, nobody here believes in  wearing life-jackets.

OK, not a particularly exciting voyage, but a pleasant way to spend an afternoon and thankfully the river Ping didn't pong after all.

After several blogs I can't think of anything else of general interest to record from Chiang Mai; a pleasant enough place as it is. Apropos of nothing, I asked myself 'why do the majority of younger western tourists here (as in Phuket and maybe other warm locations), who mostly wear those knee length 'cargo pants', have tattoos down their lower legs?' Am I missing out on something? Talking of which, I saw a young man in a bar here (of unknown language/nationality) with 'VOLE' and 'HATE'  tattooed on left and right knuckles respectively. There can be few more irritating experiences in life than being inscribed by a dyslexic tattoo artist. 
Finally, the poor old dog which went missing from the Guesthouse on New Years Eve never showed up again.

I returned to Bangkok by sleeper train; a 13 hour overnight journey. It was quite comfortable with a fold down bed made up for you by a steward with, unusually for this part of the world, a surprisingly soft mattress. I slept very well. Although there were two bunks I fortunately had the cabin to myself. Fortunate, that is, for any possible 'sharer' who would have got no sleep at all due to my 'alleged' mega-decibel snoring which has been likened to a maddened starving pig at feeding time.  The restaurant car was no great shakes and, as with all rail/bus services, did not serve alcohol. Also as with the rail/bus services that I have used here, it was all relatively cheap and on time.

I had three, or was it four, days (a bit hazy here) to spend in Bangkok and was mostly, and generously, entertained by a French ex-colleague and his family who live there. His wife had to go with their children to a house they own on the south-east coast which allowed her husband 'off the leash' for a couple of days. So I have nothing much to report, or willing to report, on a fairly debauched few 'soirées'.

One place I did visit, only because the description in my Lonely Planet tickled my curiosity, was the Siriraj Hospital Museum. This is situated amongst a vast hospital complex (some of the best hospitals in the world are in Bangkok) on the western side of the river Chao Phraya. I walked there from Silom and it took me nearly 2 hours including a ferry trip across the river. I had underestimated the distance, but it took me past the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew which I would have visited had it not been for the scrum of tourists and packs of ghastly unofficial 'guides' hassling you for a 'special tour' and undoubtedly trying to rip you off.

The Siriraj Hospital Museum boasts several 'departments' dedicated to anatomy, pathology, forensic science and entomology. It is, for the most part, fairly gruesome. Lots of dead bodies and, preserved in formaldehyde, babies and children with extraordinary birth defects. The forensic science part was particularly entertaining with graphic photos and stories of a variety of horrendous deaths, including murder victims, occasionally mummified and displayed in glass cases, murder weapons and the like. One particular exhibit of curious interest was the murder of a victim by a dildo!
The entomology display was no less worrying. I hadn't realised that there are so many horrendous and disfiguring diseases caused by tropical worms and insects. I won't bore you with painful descriptions of the exhibits but, suffice to say, I will now be jolly careful where I go for a swim.
Photography was strictly forbidden, for good reason perhaps, so I only managed to get a quick snap in the anatomy section.

Although Bangkok has a serious traffic congestion problem, one of the city's impressive features is its intra-city rail transport system. It is fairly new, and therefore state of the art, and consists of a skytrain (BTS) and an underground (MRT) which are still in the process of expanding. It puts our London Underground to shame (what doesn't). It is cheap, quiet, no unnecessary announcements, reliable and generally very passenger friendly. If you are a 'Senior Rabbit', ie half-price, (see right) a single ride to most places will not cost you more than 40p, often less.

On one MRT (Underground) trip the inside of the carriages were strewn, full length on every hang-strap, with an advert to go and see Liam Gallagher perform at some stadium in the city. The cost of the lowest 'standard' ticket was £100 (equivalent). I hadn't realised that Bangkok was so desperately short of musical entertainment. I can think of numerous things I would rather do with £100, indeed I would probably pay something not to have to listen to Mr Gallagher.

Right: A final excerpt from a menu in my hotel. Somewhat politically incorrect perhaps.

Well, that's it for now. Flight back to UK via Bahrain with GulfAir was uneventful and comfortable enough with most obliging cabin crew (much better than the flight to Havana with Iberia). Of course, it was so nice to be welcomed back to London Heathrow in the cold and damp and not a recognisably British person in attendance. I much enjoyed my 'Chrexit'. Where next? I'm thinking.

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