You Can't Win Friends with Salad

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
Trip End Jun 11, 2011

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Where I stayed

Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai,
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

After a brief reprieve from the heat in the hotel coffee shop, it was time to change and head for a taxi to the train station for an overnight train to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Chiang Mai is over 700 years old and used to be the capital of Thailand back in the day.  We told the hotel that we were ready for them to call us a taxi and they let us know that two Brits (Dale and Carla) were not only in the same situation as us having just stayed at their hotel and going to Chiang Mai on the same train as us, they were the other two in our berth.  Guess the hotel just bought the 4 tickets for us together. 

We arrived at the train station an hour early (the hotels always tell you to leave well before the scheduled departure) and were able to board right away.  I believe we were the first people to get on the train as the stewardesses were still getting ready.  This train was our nicest yet and Amy was going on and on about how great this train was (glad we saved money by not getting first class).  Being the only people on the train, this meant that the one stewardess could hound us to buy some food.  She started off trying to sell us orange juice, then Pringles, then a tray of fruits and veggies.  She finally got us when she brought over the beer.  A large (24 oz) bottle of Chang beer was going for 160 Baht (we later found that you could buy it at your local 7-11 for only 44 Baht).  We decided to just have one since Dale and Carla were just starting their journey and we had a long train ride in front of us.  The stewardess brought over a bucket of 8 for us (with ice), pulled out two, and left the rest of the bucket there.  Those beers went down smoothly and we still had 15 minutes before we were scheduled to depart so I decided to use my negotiation skills that I have learned in school (and being in Asia).  The stewardess was tough though.  She knew we had no other alternative as the train was now pulling away.  I finally talked her down to 120 Baht per beer if we bought all 6. 

As we are talking to Dale and Carla for longer, they tell us that have decided to leave their jobs behind and move to Australia.  They have never been away from Europe before (besides a small trip to Cuba and another to Canada), so this was quite a change.  Before they get to Australia though, they wanted to do some traveling in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore (a similar route to us for the rest of the time in Asia).  Those 6 beers are gone pretty quickly, so I get the stewardess back over.  I try to sweet talk her by finding out her name (which she says is Salad, or at least that is what I hear her say at this point).  I finally talk Salad down to 100 Baht per beer for another bucket of 6 (she is only doubling her money now).  We continue to drink and chat, even past the lights out at 10.  At one point Salad gets bored with the other customers on the train and sits down with us and opens a fruit and veggie tray.  She starts to go to town and offers us some of the fruits.  I think this is her being nice since she hosed us on the beers, but after she eats a few pieces, she asks for 50 baht for the rest of the tray.  Geez, she is a good saleswoman (I am paying her to eat).  We got to try a few new pieces of fruit, which we still are not sure what they are and finish our beers before going to bed.

The train was scheduled to arrive around 8:45 the next morning, but we finally got to Chiang Mai at 10.  I was a little slow from what the locals call a "changover" but we were able to make it to a songthaew to head to our hotel.  Dale and Carla didn't have a hotel booked yet, but surprisingly enough they were targeting the same hotel we had reserved.  We must use the same website as this is the second hotel we are both staying in.  We arrive at the MD House and get our rooms (right across the hall from Dale and Carla).  Feeling a bit gross from the train ride, we got showered up and Amy and I left Dale and Carla behind to grab some lunch.  Before that we stopped at the tour desk in order to book tours for the next 2 days.  The guy at the tour desk recommended a restaurant down the street for good thai food.   The place was a hole in the wall, but had very good tom yum soup and panang curried duck.  Following lunch we decided to walk around the Old Quarter of Chiang Mai and see some of the Wat’s.  Chiang Mai, although much smaller than Bangkok, has almost as many Wat’s.  It feels like there is one on every street corner (like a starbucks in new york city).  By this time I was feeling exhausted, hot, and dehydrated (thanks Chang Beer).  We get back to the hotel where I took a long nap and Amy heads down to the pool to read. 

I get woken up at 7pm and Amy wants to go to the night market to see what goods are available.  Once we get there though we hear our stomachs rumbling (since we have not eaten in 6 hours).  We find this restaurant, Ping Ping’s Thai Food, with a bunch of fish tanks and a whole fish on every table.  The place is packed with tourists and locals alike, so we grab a table and sit down.  All of the fish items on the menu say Market Price, which is a little concerning since I didn’t bring a lot of money and left the money belt (with the credit cards) at the hotel for the first time on the trip.  We try to find out prices, but have difficulty communicating and decide to just go with it (how much could it be, we are in Thailand).  We ordered 2 giant prawns, a whole sea bass grilled in banana leaves, a plate of steamed veggies, and fried rice (along with a couple of fantas and wine).  The food was one of the best meals of the trip and the bill came to be the most expensive as well (around $35).  A similar meal in the states would have been at least $200.  Luckily I just had enough money so we didn’t have to wash any dishes (or worse, the bathrooms or something).  We had a little bit of money left over so we decided to drop it at the night market before heading off to bed for the night.
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