Jose and I went to Thailand for a much needed vacation. Earthquakes and working through weekends wear a brother down, you know? So off we flew to the land of smiles. And smiling we were. People are friendly – every three steps you walk, a tuk-tuk driving will ask you if you want a ride. People smile at you when you walk by. Food is delicious – if you stop shoveling tasty food in your mouth for a moment to breathe, you realize that your tongue is on fire and your lips feel like they have melted. The scenery was interesting. It was hot and rainy and tropical and lovely. Best part? There was no work hanging over us, and we were together.
We explored Bangkok for a day, which was fun and exhausting. In Japan, the weather is still mild and lovely, but in Thailand its that sticky hot that makes you want to sit in the shade and not let anything touch you. We went to Mass in the morning at the cathedral in Bangkok, then wandered about looking at things. Most of our sightseeing involved very ornate, gold-covered and shiny Buddah statues and Buddhist temples. Like Japan, Thailand is a Buddhist country, but unlike Japan the overwhelming decorative motive is gold! Mirrors! Colors! People in prayer and tourists flock here, and in these structures lie Thailand’s architectural treasures.
By early evening, we were so tired we decided to wait out the last few hours in the train station, where we were catching our train to Chiang Mai. This proved to be rather interesting. At the train station, there is a special section of chairs reserved for orange-robed Buddhist monks. Please were camped out waiting and sleeping in a big open space on the floor. You have to pay to use the none-too-clean and toilet-paper-lacking restroom – about 6 cents. At 6 p.m., everyone in the station stood and faced an enormous portrait of their beloved monarch and remained still as the national anthem played. Finally, in the early evening we hopped aboard our sleeper train, and set off to Chaing Mai.
My first overnight train ride was lovely. We met Sam, a pleasant fellow traveler from London who was something of a veteran of train-riding, having traveled about India in that manner a la Darjeeling Limited (a movie I adore). The seat/bed was surprisingly comfortable, and it was relaxing to let the Thai countryside just flash by your window after a day of exploring.