Posted by: rob | August 14, 2007

Headed north

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We’ve spent the last few days zigzagging up to Chiang Mai in the northern mountains of Thailand. From Surin in the northeastern province of Isaan we caught a five hour train southwest to Ayutthaya. The Thai trains are as good as any we’ve had in Vietnam or China, with reclining seats much like in a plane and air conditioning. Unlike China and Vietnam however, people don’t bring huge buckets of cargo or larders of food (though the tickets do once again say not to bring any ‘malodorous fruit’). Although Ayutthaya is just 80km north of Bangkok we don’t intend to reach there for another ten or twelve days.

Ayutthaya is famously the ancient capital of Thailand. The palaces and temples that made it great have long since been reduced to rubble or usually stacks of red brick, though there are a few buildings still standing. After witnessing the splendour of Angkor in Cambodia, it was difficult to rouse much emotion at these sights but there was enough to interest us for a day or two. From Ayutthaya we moved north to Chiang Mai. As Thailand is so heavily touristed all the trains were sold out at least a day ahead so we had to settle for travel by bus. The ‘VIP’ bus ($23pp) took nine hours to reach Chiang Mai and we chose the day bus (10am-7pm) rather than the night bus (9pm-6am). It was the longest bus trip of our journey but it flew by in genuine comfort. Everything in Thailand is a riot of colour and the buses are no exception. Many of them are covered in primary colour depictions of super heroes or cartoon characters, as you can see below.

Now we’re in Chiang Mai with very little planned for the next week or two. Immediate impressions of the town are that it is relaxing but also mega touristic, something that could be said of Thailand as a whole.

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