August 17th, 2006

Day 24: Bangkok to Chiang Mai by bus

Today was very relaxing for a travel day. We left our hostel in Bangkok around ten am to head for the Northern Bus Terminal. When we got to the terminal, we noticed that there was a man wanting to go to Ankgor Wat that needed help, so we decided to show him where to go and what to ask for before we got our tickets.

The bus terminal is very interesting. There are many different bus companies and each charges a bit different fare to go to certain locations. At the first counter we went to to get our tickets, we got quoted a price of 518 baht. From what we read in the Lonely Planet, this was too high, so we kept searching. A couple windows later we found a fare of 403 baht and took that one.

When we were walking up to the 403 baht counter, a man in a uniform beckoned us to another counter saying “Same Same.” We have often seen tourists here wearing t-shirts that say “Same Same” on the front and “But Different” on the back. I didn’t get this joke until now. “Same Same” is often said when a person on the street is trying to sell you a fake watch or handbag, or in our case, a more expensive ticket. The kicker is that there is always a difference in quality, price, etc.

We had a small breakfast at the terminal and got our our bus with ten minutes to spare. The scenery was nice on our ten-hour bus ride to Chiang Mai. We even saw a very beautiful and large rainbow that showed up after a light spattering of rain disappearing behind some nearby mountains.

I spent most of the trip reading “Ransom for a God,” the mystery caper book that Mateo lent me for the trip. I can’t say that it was a good book, but it was a fun read. It is based all in Thailand, and that made it a bit more interesting to get through. I finished the book on the bus right before sundown and relaxed the rest of the way to Chiang Mai.

We got to the Chiang Mai bus terminal around nine pm and got a Tuk Tuk to our hostel for a third the price it costs us to travel the 1200 km to get to there from Bangkok. Traveling in the city is much more expensive, it would seem, than travelling cross-country.

Our hostel is quite nice, and is the first one we have stayed at that is registered with Hosteling International. Most of the guesthouses we have been to are not in the HI orginization. Our room is awesome, but it is one of the more expensive places we have stayed, at over US$6.00 a night.

Once we got settled in we went out for a bite to eat. There was an outdoor bar with a live band, so we decided to check it out. It was a very interesting place. It was designed so that when you ordered a drink, like a beer, it would be placed on a tray next to your table, then a cute young girl in a very tight and very short dress, usually with the name of a brand of beer or whiskey on it, would come and make sure your glass is always full and that you are always smiling. Mateo and I did not get this type of service, though. The bar was very much designed for groups of people, men and women, just getting off of work from their white collar jobs. It was pretty interesting to see the Thai equivalent of a hostess bar, though.

Our trek starts on Saturday, so tomorrow we will muck around Chiang Mai and see what we can see.

Until then, take care.

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