Tonight, at 7pm, we head to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, so we pack, shower and checkout at the last minute. The hostel charges us 11p to store our bags all day.
We walk round the corner onto Pra Athit past ‘fresh orange’ lady who never failed to shout at us whenever we passed her in the last week. Past Jaywalk cafe, the beef noodle bar, the pork on rice street stall, the coffee stand, seamstress number 1 working away on her old singer sewing machine that is familiar to us as pub tables. Past the Malay curry house, the barbers, the wonton noodle shop, the quaint coffee shop, the mobile papaya salad lady and her constant queue of customers. Past 7/11, KC Guesthouse and seamstress number 2 who is always chatting to the duck blood soup stall holder on the other side of the pavement. Finally, 200 metres later, we arrive at our breakfast destination, the chicken on rice stall. On the way we have avoided pot holes, open drains, steep curbs and uneven concrete despite being distracted by endless interesting diversions, more than my memory has listed above. This city is so vibrant, with so much going on which is why it enthuses me and I love it so much.
Al has boiled chicken on rice and I have fried. We perch on small plastic stools and on the metal table are bowls of chopped chilli and ginger and an urn of sauce. It tastes of soy, ginger, chilli, garlic, fish sauce and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I apply it liberally over my chicken and munch away. I’m not quite sure how a dish as simple as chicken on rice can taste so good but it does.
We have a coffee at the quaint shop and watch mobile papaya lady carefully make up her dish in a huge mortar. She carefully tastes it, adjusting the flavour to her customers requirements which is maybe why she has so many.
We wander about, giving up on shopping as we normally do and focusing on food which we always do. We end up in a cafe where falafel and hummus is ordered with coconut shakes. Tamarind and coconut for me and chai Indian spices and coconut for Al. The shakes are very good.
We decide to eat before the overnight bus but somewhere familiar where no unwanted after affects have occured so I have a pork noodle soup and Al has mataback.
We go to the travel office at 7pm and wait for the normal minivan to pick us up. Times have changed though and around 7.30 the Pied Piper of tourists turns up and he gives us a sticker each and we follow him on foot as he gathers more and more people from various accommodations. There are dozens following him by the time we arrive at a coach park, where in the darkness, we can see dozens of people already waiting. We stand around for about an hour watching bats swooping around nearby trees. At 8.30pm two full coaches take people south and at 9pm its our turn. Its a semi-organized bun fight as we try to board three coaches. We manage to get assigned the last two seats on the posh looking double decker and are amazed to find they are fairly near the front.
We leave, the lights go out and I read till 11pm. At 1am we stop for food but we only share a drink and we head north into the night.