Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bangkok II

Our bus from Kanchanaburi deposited us somewhere on the edges of Bangkok, leaving us to pay some lucky taxi driver 250 baht to get back to the hostel. To his credit, it did end up being a long drive, so maybe it was worth it. At least he was pretty nice and laughed a lot while trying to teach us some Thai. We went back to the same hostel we had been at before so everyone was all "Hey! Welcome back!" For dinner in the evening we went to our favorite street restaurant. After a few minutes three hostel-mates show up and join us. One was Femke, who would end up becoming one of our good friends, but on this particular occasion we hadn't quite gotten to know each other yet. After a few more minutes four more hostel-mates show up. So we ended up dragging two of the fold-up tables together and shoving all nine of us in for dinner. It was a bit crazy with so many people, but fun. Some of the others decided to go out for even more fun after dinner, but Chuck and I wished them a good time and headed back to the hostel. Later that night I woke up an hour into my sleep with the blasted tooth pains. I tried the swish-and-floss technique that had worked the first time I got the pain and it worked, but ten minutes after I laid back down it flared up again with a vengeance. It seemed that the natural increase in pressure to my tooth when I laid down made it hurt like a crazy mo-fo. I tried sleeping sitting up against the wall, but that didn't work so I went out into the common area. Although it was 2:00 AM there were still five or six people partying and playing pool. I got out my laptop and resigned myself to staying awake all night. I had a really bad flare-up at one point that, once again, made me consider that I might have to go to the hospital if it didn't die away within the next 10 minutes. It did though, and once everyone else had gone to bed I rested my head against the wall and tried to sleep again. For some reason I can sleep sitting up well enough on buses or planes, but not in a decently comfortable chair at the hostel. So annoying.

After staying up all night I was ready to go to the dentist as soon as I thought they might be open in the morning (which was the 31st - New Years Eve). I woke Chuck at 8:00 AM telling him I was going to the dentist. He, of course (and thankfully), insisted on coming with me. We had seen a dentist office just around the corner so headed there. Their sign said they weren't open until 9:00 AM. Blah. So we showered, went to the optometrist to get the nose pads on my glasses replaced since they had fallen off, and got some good pain killers from the pharmacy. Chuck decided that he likes the foreign pharmacies where the pharmacist helps you find what will work best for your condition. Back in Europe Chuck had been annoyed with them, but as time has gone by we've realized that it's actually pretty convenient and helpful sometimes. For example - I told the pharmacist that I needed pain killers and he reached in one direction. As I continued with "for a tooth ache," he switched directions and reached for a different medication saying that I would need something stronger for a tooth ache. I might have gotten something less effective if he hadn't been around to help me! By this time it was after 9:00 and we headed back to the dentist. Strangely, they still weren't open. So we rang the bell and someone was kind enough to come out and see what we needed. Turns out the dentist would be closed until January 4th for the New Years celebrations! I couldn't wait until then! She recommended I go to the hospital if it was that bad. So it looked like I was going to the hospital despite all my attempts to avoid it! At the hospital we were directed to their dental department (luckily they had a dedicated dental department) where they were able to fit me in for an "emergency checkup." Some of you might be wondering about the quality of hospitals and healthcare in Thailand. I can't tell you much about that in general, but I can tell you about my own experience. The hospital we went to was called Bumrungrad International Hospital. It was very modern with large, shiny silver pillars, walls of glass, and even valet parking. It looked like a 5-star hotel met a hospital and had a baby. As for service, I personally thought it was good quality. The doctor asked a series of questions while poking and prodding around in my mouth, trying to figure out which tooth was the problem. In the end she took the blunt end of her metal tooth-pick instrument and tapped on the three teeth in question, leaving me no doubt about which one was the problem. My back right molar. It definitely rang with that strange, overwhelming pain that is unique to tooth aches. Next was the x-ray. I was surprised that they did their x-rays differently than how I've experienced them in the States. I don't know what ya'lls x-ray experiences have been, but in the States I've always had to bite down on this strange contraption they've jammed into my mouth, hooked to a little plastic circle used for aiming the x-ray in the right spot. All I know is that those things always hurt like hell inside my mouth. The edges I'm biting onto always jab deeply into the tender tissue that covers the inside of my mouth and it hurts. At the dentist in Thailand they replaced that torture device with a simple 1.5 inch square of plastic (although I'm sure there's something metal in there too to block the x-rays from going through the whole of your mouth and making a muddled x-ray). How was it kept in place? My finger. They positioned the square just so against my tooth and then had me stick my finger on it to hold it in place while they took the x-ray. Ingenious! So simple, and more importantly, not painful! It was funny going through the process though, because it was so foreign. Most of the nurses spoke in broken English or had thick accents, so half the time I was at a loss as to what they were asking me to do. I tried my best to read body language and pick out key words, but sometimes I just stared or nodded at them dumbly. But good news: the dentist figured out my problem! An old filling had developed a little hole. Bad news: I would need a root canal. Worse news: they had no openings available for the next 8 days. This actually scared me. The thought that I might be unable to sleep for the next 8 days and end up in an ER with sleep deprivation or something was really unpleasant. She did prescribe me some antibiotics and pain killers though. The pain killer was called Idarac (I think it has a different name in the US, but it still wasn't something I had heard of) and it did less for the pain than the ibuprofen we had bought at the pharmacy. But at least I was scheduled to be fixed, even if it was over a week away. Being New Years Eve, I had a sleepless night ahead of me anyways. Because we were planning on going out that night we kept it simple during the day by staying in. That night we joined our hostel for the New Years pub crawl, which was really the same as the regular pub crawl. Dave led everyone to the same places and went to the same strip shows. Since Chuck and I had already seen it we hung out at the pool bar on the corner, listening to the live music that was being played. Midnight was anticlimactic. All us farangs were gathered at the end of the road having our own, personal New Years countdown. At midnight we all cheered and hugged and kissed cheeks, etc. Meanwhile, the clubs around us randomly popped balloons and that was about it. Business continued as usual. Soooo not exciting. Looking back we wish we had gone to Center Point where they had a stage set up and did a countdown. Ah well. After midnight, we all piled in taxis and went to Spicy club, just like last time. We didn't get ushered out and across the street this time which was a bit of a bummer. I liked the smaller bar much better and I just couldn't get into the dancing mood in the huge room that was Spicy club. We (as in all the hundreds of people at the club) did get a good show when some white girl jumped up on one of the ledges and danced real dirty-like for 30 minutes. She had a real talent for bending over and showing off her thong-covered bits to the crowd, making everyone cheer. She wasn't the only one dancing on the ledges of the club - we noticed two people from the hostel up there at one point (strangers until that night), making out in a drunken stupor as they attempted dance. We later saw them in the bathrooms (they weren't together in the bathroom, they were just taking a pee-break), right next to where we were sitting. The guy came in a timely manner and proceeded to wait for the girl. And wait. And wait. I felt bad for him, so eventually I went in and checked on her. The ladies bathroom attendant saw me looking a bit lost as I stared at the stalls and knew just who I was after. She pointed me to the correct door with an apologetic but unmistakable look of "please get her out of here." I knocked, and then decided to just go in. Luckily, she wasn't in the midst of taking a dump or anything and was just sitting on the floor hugging the toilet. I wondered what I had gotten myself into as I dragged her to her feet and lumbered us out of the bathroom, nearly falling over a fair few times. She was amazingly drunk. Her make-out partner also had a look of "what have I gotten myself into" as I led her to him. He asked us in whispers to please help him, and being the cold, heartless person that I am I said "No way man! You're on your own." Maybe that's harsh, but I wasn't about to make myself responsible for a girl who is old enough to take responsibility for herself. I did, however, keep my eyes on her while the guy went off to try and find reinforcements. She was wobbling continuously in her stool and nearly fell off a few times. Then she headed back to the bathroom where she sat for a good 15 minutes until I felt badly enough for the bathroom attendant to go and fetch her back out. Eventually, Dave came back with the poor-guy-who-had-been-making-out-with-her-and-thus-felt-responsible-for-her and they limped her out and into a taxi back to the hostel. I think the guy went back with her, which I sort of had to respect because he was nice enough not to just ditch her as unwanted baggage. He probably didn't get what he was hoping to get, but who knows - maybe they hit it off again later in a less drunk state. Sometime after the excitement of all the drunk people died down Chuck and I got bored and left, going to bed after our nightly rituals (tooth brushing and pajamas). Happy New Years!

The 1st of the year was nice, but boring. We sat around all day being lazy! Yay! Over the next few days we indulged in everyday things like restaurants, shopping malls, arcades, and movies. We saw Avatar in 3D which was good. Thai movie theaters have an interesting pre-movie feature: the National Anthem. Sometime before or after the previews the words "Please stand for the National Anthem" flash across the screen. Everyone in the theater stands and the National Anthem of Thailand is played along with clips of the King and the royal family doing different things, as well as clips of people showing their undying adoration for him. The people in the theater weren't standing at attention or anything so severe as that, but they stood straight and tall and payed attention to the screen for the most part. It was really quite strange and interesting. I guess the Pledge of Allegiance that many Elementary Schools recite might be comparable. Really interesting. And Avatar was pretty good. I went into the movie having heard all the hype but feeling very unconvinced. I thought that it can't be so good as to be setting new precedents and standards for the movie industry, like they're claiming. And it wasn't, but it was still really enjoyable. The 3D effects were pretty incredible. The glasses were the most hi-tech 3D glasses I've ever used, and I think they made a serious difference in the experience. Usually 3D movies are really cheezy with bad 3D. This was very good 3D with very good graphics, which were beautiful and the environments and creatures they created caught my imagination. Why am I writing a review of the movie here?? Sorry, moving on!

We went to that sushi restaurant - Sukishi - again. Along with sushi they do Korean BBQ which we did for the first time. It's like the melting pot with a little grill. They bring out your chosen selection of raw meats and then you slap them onto the grill where they quickly cook for your gleeful consumption. It's so much fun! For me at least. I'm sure someone out there would be annoyed at having to cook their own food, but I say they're just spoil sports. Why is this style of eating not in the US?? Maybe we're all too lazy to cook our own food... Hah.

We went to Wat Hualamphong on the 5th where we met an incredibly vocal and friendly cat. The temple was nice too. We hung out with Femke more and more. I started to realize that her and I have a lot in common and understand each other pretty well. It was so nice to really connect with another person for once! And having someone to hang out with in places other than the hostel was nice. We all found a place with delicious margaritas and went to get tipsy one night - it was a lot of fun.

On the 6th it rained all afternoon causing the streets to flood a few inches. Traffic slowed to even more of a crawl than usual. It was also my Dad's birthday, so Happy Birthday to Dad! My tooth pain was manageable as well. I would take an ibuprofen and an Idarac at bed time and it kept me pain free. Looked like I would be able to wait it out until the 8th when my root canal was scheduled.

On the 7th we decided to do something touristy again. We wanted to go to the Forensic Museum located inside a local hospital, but once we arrived it turned out to be closed for renovations. We had taken the river taxi, walked to the pier (where we got pork from the awesome pork vendor), crossed the big river, and asked five different people at the hospital where the museum was. Then it turns out to be closed. Gah! After much annoyed discussion we decided to go to the famous Wat Pho, home to the giant laying Buddha. And huge he was. I mean, he was like... as long as a school cafeteria. I know that's not descriptive at all, but I'm so bad with lengths. I'm sure Wikipedia could fill you in if you're truly interested. And he was bright gold. And the soles of his feet were beautifully inlaid with mother of pearl. Along one side of the Buddha was a line of metal pots about the size of those plastic pumpkin buckets that are manufactured en masse at Halloween. People were lined up and moving methodically down the row dropping a penny in each pot. The clink-clink-clink of the pennies meeting their bronze brethren filled the whole temple. It sounded like it was raining coins. It was a nice sound. We explored the rest of the complex with all its statues, smaller temples, and chedis. The architectural style was a little different from the other temples we had seen. I've never been to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but the look of Wat Pho reminded me of it. That night I ate a bad chicken skewer and woke up in the middle of the night to barf. Other than that - good day! Note that this is the only time I've gotten sick in Thailand. All that unsterility that is associated with the street carts is a bunch of BS if you ask me.

The 8th was my long awaited root canal. We arrived at the hospital-dentist 10 minutes early, and to my surprise was called in five minutes before the scheduled appointment. She didn't waste any time. Immediately after applying a topical anesthetic to my gums, she took her big novocaine needle and numbed me up. Then she went straight into the drilling of my tooth, no waiting necessary. I kept being afraid that I wasn't numb enough yet, but to my surprise the numbing-stuff works faster than I thought it did. So once again, to compare this to my US dental experiences, in the US there is a a lot more wait time involved. In the lobby, you wait. After the topical novocaine, you wait. After the shot, you wait while the doctor leaves, probably to attend to another patient. Meanwhile the whole side of your face goes numb, jaw to chin to nose. My Thai novocaine-shot only made my tooth area go numb - the side of my face was hardly affected. My chin and nose didn't feel any of it. And you know what? I still didn't feel any pain! Imagine that. The doctor left the room for only 10 minutes as an antiseptic ointment was soaking into my gaping, hollowed tooth. Otherwise she was with me for the full 1.5 hours. She drilled and scraped and poked and I had to wear a strange metal contraption around my tooth that was attached to a rubber screen that was stretched across my whole mouth. I drooled all over the place and was constantly told to move my head up and left. I tried hard to be a good patient, but my head apparently just wouldn't stay in the right place. After the procedure I was informed that I would need to come back four more times, over the course of a month to complete the procedure. Wait, what? My past experience has taught me that root canals are a one time deal. Once again, this must be a difference between my Thai doctor and the doctors I've had in the US. After some discussion she decided she could finish it in two weeks, with just three more visits. Since we wanted to stay in Bangkok for a bit this seemed like a good excuse. Besides, I was paying 14,000 baht ($420 US) for the procedure so I would be remiss not to use all my allotted visits - you know, get my moneys worth. The idea of having that big needle jabbed into my gums three more times wasn't nice though. After the root canal I decided some comfort food was in order: McDonald's. Don't judge. Then we went to MBK with Femke (our Hollander friend) and Tim (one of the Texan friends we hung out with in Kanchanaburi) to walk around and just hang out. Later in the evening Femke and I went to get a massage while Chuck and Tim went out to Khao San Road. When we met up with them again they had a pretty interesting story to tell. Apparently they were walking down a mostly deserted side road when they spotted some money blowing across the ground ahead of them. Of course, they basically dove at it and were flabbergasted to find that they were all 1,000 baht bills. Ten of them. That would be $300. Chuck took a moment to look around and see if anyone looked as if they were frantically searching for lost money, but the few people that were even on the road were calm and unawares. They each kept what they had picked up: 2,000 for Chuck and 8,000 for Tim. When it came to this part of the story I have to admit, I became internally upset. Leaving all issues of whether it was right to take it in the first place, I thought the polite and friendly thing to do would be to split it right down the middle. But... that apparently wasn't going to be an option. I just hoped that the 8,000 was well needed and would be going to pay for rent or some basic necessity when Tim got back home. He did e-mail Chuck later, filling him in a bit on his situation and apologizing, so that was cool. I guess it was well needed. Oh, and to celebrate we (Tim, Chuck, me, and a girl we had just met at the hostel) went to dinner at our favorite sushi/korean bbq restaurant. We split up after dinner and Chuck and I went to try and play DJ Max Technika, but the arcade had closed. So instead, we went to the bookstore where Chuck got himself a Thai language-learning workbook. He'd been getting pretty decent at some very basic Thai over the course of our trip, especially reading, so he wanted to try and learn even more. Besides, it's always nice to have something to do while on the train or bus.

The 9th was boring, although we did meet a Polish-Canadian named Ali. We invited her along with us on our plans for the 10th, which was an awesome day. So, on the 10th the three of us hopped on the MRT (subway) and got off at the Queen Sirikit Convention Center. There was a steady flow of people heading from the station to the building, so we followed them, as we were sure they would lead us to our ultimate destination: the Thailand Game Show! Yay! It was fairly crowded inside, and noisy to boot. We headed into a display room where they had a few old gaming systems and games on display: a Famicom, old school Gameboys, N64, a Ranma 1/2 game and Zelda were my favorites. Then we got to try out some of the newer, but relatively unknown games that have come out. There was one where you had to fit the parts of an animals skeleton into the silhouette of his body, like a puzzle. Another had you draw shapes and lines that translated into motion. You had to be clever with what and how you drew things in order to complete the level. Another was a racing game, but instead of a controller with buttons, there was a touch sensitive box. In order to make your character run you had to tap your fingers on the box, mimicking the pat-pat of running feet. That one looked hard to me. Next we experienced my favorite aspect of the whole game show: cosplay. If you don't know what this is, I'll inform you. It's dressing up as characters from stories. Typically the term "cosplay" is used in conjunction with people dressing up as anime and video game characters. There was a Cosplay Contest planned for later in the day, but some people were already there and dressed up or geiting ready. One well accepted aspect of the "cosplay scene" is photographs. It's well accepted that people will want to take pictures, so they frequently have a few poses ready, in the style of their character, and are more than happy to whip one out for your photographing pleasure. Some people had huge, fancy looking cameras and would take massive numbers of pictures of a character from every conceivable angle. I was too nervous to initiate a photo request, so I just waited until they were already in a pose for one of these “professionals” and then jump in to take my picture. Somewhere amidst the noise and crowds our new friend decided she would take off (which I could understand - it was pretty busy). Chuck and I decided to pay to go into the main expo part and see what they had on display. I can't even tell you what games there were. Everything was in Thai and everyone was Thai. I think we only saw three other white people there over the course of the day. We felt so immersed. The crowds doubled inside the expo area leaving us to push and shove ourselves through some spots. We waited in line to watch the trailer for a Thai game that is based on Thai history and met a nice guy. He was curious about where we were from and wondered what we were doing there. We exchanged e-mails and went our separate ways. After a while we needed a break though, so we headed down to the food court area. They have a fun way of working their food courts. You don't pay your money to the food-maker - you go to a coupon stand and get a credit card specific to that food court, loaded with however much money you want. You give that to the food maker and they swipe it quickly, handing it back. If there's money left over you go back to the coupon stand and exchange it for the remainder. Kinda cool. After lunch we just hung around the cosplayers and took pictures. Some of their costumes are incredible. Two guys came dressed as transformers and they were just... amazing. They were almost Hollywood-worthy costumes. One guy had a huge dragon costume, but he couldn't walk around while in it - just flap the wings and move the head. Another person came as Packman. He was entertaining to watch because all the other characters had fun being eaten by him, or pretend to fight him off. We headed back into the expo area when I though the cosplay contest would be starting, only to find ourselves watching a very weird Dragon Ball Z concert. Dragon Ball Z is a long-running, extremely popular anime. So popular, apparently, that they have concerts dedicated to it where a middle-aged Japanese man in a tight, black motorcyclist outfit jumps exuberantly around the stage while the crowds cheer him on in excitement. It was really strange and cool at the same time. Needless to say, there was no cosplay contest right then. Turned out we would have to wait another few hours if we wanted to see it and since we were tired and had plenty of pictures of all the costumes already, we decided to leave. It was a very cool experience. Oh, we even saw the guy who had told us about the game show in the first place. I mentioned him back when we were in Bangkok for the first time. He had talked to us and helped us when we were first learning to play DJ Max Technika at the arcade. Small world, eh? Well, it's not surprising really, but still nice that he came to talk to us and say hi.

On the 11th we entertained ideas of staying for a month in Bangkok. We headed to the very end of the Skytrain line and beyond to look at a place. That was way too far so we did some deeper research and found a bunch of really good places not too far from the Siam and MBK area (which is basically the center of Bangkok). Then we decided we'd better check out Chiang Mai before settling down in one spot for a month. So many changes of mind in one day!

From the 12th of January and onward, what we did is just a mishmash in my head. We did a lot of nothing sprinkled with a few actual things. We had one or two really good philosophical and political conversations with hostel-mates that kept us awake until 5:00 AM. We did a decent amount of drinking on the hostel's front "porch." We met a really cool Russian guy who has the same political ideas as Chuck (which is pretty uncommon in and of itself - add in that he's Russian (although has lived in America a long time) and that we're all in Thailand and it's crazy-bizarre).

I went to the zoo one day, all by my lonesome. Chuck was in an anti-zoo mood, so I got to go by myself. The zoo was decent and I think I was even hit on by a cute Kenyan guy who was performing in the acrobatics show. I was a bit appalled at the elephants who were tethered to five foot chains, pacing back and forth, one step in each direction. They were just there for people to pay to feed, so I hoped their normal pen was much more spacious. All the animals were pretty active that day and I stood and watched the monkeys (I know "monkeys" is pretty broad, but I can't remember which kind they were) for about 10 minutes. There was also a pretty good nocturnal display with fairly active animals. And there was a temporary albino animals display with an albino crow, turtle, salamander, and a few others. Not so bad!

We went to see a free Muay Thai show (it's every Wednesday evening at MBK, if you're in the area) which was pretty cool. I enjoyed the fight between the muscled, tan French guy and the slightly hunch-backed, pale, scrawny Australian. I thought for sure that the Aussie was going down, but in the end he won. I think that fight came down to skill points. I guess the judges thought he earned himself more skill points (I just made that term up by the way - I have no idea how Muay Thai is scored or judged). The fight before them that was between to Thai guys came down to endurance. For the last round, the fighters bumped fists and walked around the ring - well, the loser staggered. He was so worn out by the final round that they both just agreed the other guy was the winner, no need to fight it out. There was also a fight between two women. Well, if I heard the announcer correctly it was more like a woman and a girl. One was 28 and the other supposedly 14. And she could have been 14 - she looked quite young. But she knew what she was doing and ended up the winner. I loved her face and the way she held herself. She was so calm and collected with an air of bad-assness that contradicted with her round face and squinting, happy eyes. I loved the rituals that the fighters went through before their match. Everyone had their own, but they frequently consisted of making some sort of prayer or acknowledgment in all four directions of the ring. The 28 year old woman did this by kneeling with a bowed head and then stretching in each direction from the center of the mat. The Australian guy touched his fist to all four corners of the ring making some sort of prayer for a few moments at each. Some took five minutes, others less than one. It was cool. We ate at a new restaurant that night. It was a cook-it-yourself place, like the Melting Pot or Sukishi (the Korean BBQ place), but with soup instead. A sukiyaki buffet. Man it was awesome! One wall was lined with little plastic boxes filled with slices of beef, pork, and chicken, mushrooms, noodles, seaweed, carrots, fish, wontons, eggs, cabbage, bok choy, etc. You take what you want (no limit - the only limit is a time limit of one hour) and drop it all in a little soup pot built into the table in front of your seat. Everyone has their own little pot and the ingredients simmer and make a tasty, tasty broth. It was great. Why do we not have this in the states?? I also got to try a century egg while there. There are many names for this type of egg, so it's best to just describe it. It's an egg that is wrapped in a special mixture of clay and then buried in the earth for... I dunno how long. Long enough that the white bit turns a deep translucent brown and the center turns a rich green-black. Something about the acidity of the clay keeps the egg from straight-up going bad, and instead creates this frightening looking delicacy. It's not nearly as bad as I expected though. It just tasted like an egg to be honest. I guess it was a bit more sulphury than usual, but it was just an egg. I did not, however, eat the whole thing. It's appearance is enough to turn the stomach.

Another day we went to a local hospital that was home to a forensic medical museum with one of our new friends, Evelyn. The museum was hauntingly impressive. The first room had a bunch of deformed babies in formaldehyde. One had a flat skull, another had developed with his intestines outside his body, another with his legs fused together like a mermaid, and another two were conjoined at the torso. Continuing on we saw some skeletal remains from victims who had perished in the Indonesian Tsunami, as well as from people who had been murdered, died in various other accidents, or died from cancer or something similar. I was amazed by how many lives must have been lost to fill the museum. They even had three full, upright, decaying bodies displayed behind glass, with metal pans underneath to collect the fluids and fats that were slowly seeping out of them. One had an english tag that stated he had been a murderer, sentenced to death. And there his body would apparently rot away, in the name of science. For all the few people who happened to stumble upon the hidden museum to see. It's strange how gruesome stuff is so fascinating. Fascinating and disturbing. There were rooms filled with multiple specimens of the trachea and tongue of someone who had choked, the lungs of a cancer patient, hearts of people with congenital defects, organs that had been shot through with a bullet, a hand that had been ripped apart in a car accident, more babies and fetuses that had died, a little person (that's the PC term now, right?) that had died and been split in half and preserved in formaldehyde to be studied. One of these small museums was right next to the school of medicine and we could see cloth shrouded bodies in the rooms beyond if we peeked through the doorway at just the right angle. It was quite an interesting day!

The 23rd was the day we left Bangkok for Chiang Mai. We had said our goodbyes to a few people from the hostel the night before, as well as to a Thai friend we had met a few weeks earlier. We passed her by whenever we went anywhere and had sat and had conversations in broke English and Thai quite a few times. She (being a bit melodramatic) was very sad to see us go and would make disapproving faces whenever the subject of our leaving was brought up. When it was leaving time, we caught a taxi with a girl from the hostel, but with traffic being as bad as it is in Bangkok we had to get out and walk the last 100 meters or risk missing the train. We opted for the AC sleeper car which turned out to be pretty decent and comfortable. We were awake for only a few hours of the train ride because it was an overnight trip. Sleeping is the best way to travel. Having an actual bed-like surface to sleep on is even better. By the time we woke up, we'd be just about in Chiang Mai!

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