So at some point soon we will not be in Bangkok, we will have been in Bangkok, and we felt slightly bad about not wandering around Thailand as much as we might. There are a lot of other places to see around here, and somehow we only rarely think about going other places in Thailand. So this time we decided to go to the north of Thailand. We’ve been to Chiang Mai twice before, but both trips were underwhelming, and we felt like we were maybe missing out. So we went back. This was in February, actually. At the time I had great plans about how I was going to write up our various adventures, but then I forgot to do that, and now I am trying to reconstruct what happened there from notes jotted down outside the herbal bath place in Lampang and the photos that were on my phone. But probably this will not be particularly accurate, so don’t go making any big life decisions based on what is in here.
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Harriet wanted to take the train up (she was still upset that our last trip to India hadn’t included overnight trains), so we took the overnight train from Bangkok. (Kim was in Singapore, so she flew up.) We have taken the trains in Thailand precisely once before, on a weekend trip to Ayuthaya which was not, perhaps, the most pleasant journey in the world. But Thailand just got some new trains from China and they were supposed to be deluxe and exciting. So we bought two tickets and went to Hua Lamphong, Bangkok’s old railway station. Here is a mechanical fortune-telling man in Hua Lamphong:
You give this old man ten baht and he gives you a printed fortune. The fortune was in Thai and I managed to lose it before we could translate it which was probably not the most helpful thing that could have happened.
Our train was, of course, late; we briefly panicked that there had been some mix-up and we’d gotten a train without beds, but after an hour we did get a new train with beds eventually. The train and its beds were extremely pleasing to Harriet – we got a top and bottom bunk, and Harriet was excited about sleeping on the top bunk and went to bed at seven. One has rarely seen anyone so excited about trains:
But the problem with these trains very soon became apparent: there are extremely bright fluorescent lights in the corridor right next to the upper bunks. Harriet assured me that we should switch because she couldn’t sleep with such a bright light. I assented. This was a terrible mistake. The trains are so new and modern that the lights never go out. So we arrived in Chiang Mai the next morning, Harriet well-rested, me less so.
Harriet and I had a day to ourselves in Chiang Mai so we predictably went to the zoo. The Chiang Mai zoo is maybe the best in Thailand, or at least the best in Thailand that is not at an airport (more about that later). Mostly there are a lot of animals to feed. In rough order:
¶ An emu (or maybe a rhea? Someone check this):
¶ A sea lion:
¶ An elephant:
¶ Some kind of hornbill:
¶ A crocodile:
¶ And obviously a lot of fish:
Also there are plaster animals to sit on:
The Bangkok zoo is maybe superior in its selection of plaster animals, but I think that’s the only way in which it’s better. There’s a very nice aquarium which I didn’t take any pictures of. Maybe my phone’s battery died? You will have to imagine how wonderful it was.
After we went to the zoo Kim showed up and probably we went to a hotel and had dinner. Who knows! I didn’t take any pictures of that and I forget what happened. Evidently the next morning we went out to the Maiiam contemporary art museum:
That afternoon, however, we went to Chiang Mai’s most exciting museum, the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders:
It is quite a Museum!? – possibly this is the best Museum!? in all of Thailand and certainly it is one of the world’s great Museum!?s. It was started by a Thai mosquito scientist and his wife and it is full of wonders. Many of the wonders are mosquitos or mosquito-related, but they are not constrained to this. The mosquito scientist took up painting to get his message across:
There are a lot of these painting which illustrate moral and ecological precepts in nightmarish fashion. There is an admirable collecting impulse on view:
Mostly the labels are perfect:
The mosquitoes of Thailand have a president even if the country does not:
I think about these scenes sometimes:
And giant mosquitoes outside:
It is a profound disappointment that this museum does not have a catalogue for sale – it would be fantastic. This museum is basically the reason you should go to Chiang Mai: most of the rest of the city is hippy nonsense, but this museum is great.
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Let me see, what else was there in Chiang Mai. The wat next to our hotel was devoted to puppies:
Maybe it was actually a museum of puppy figurines, I don’t know. The wat also had a museum of old stuff, and that’s also worth visiting:
It is the kind of museum where the only reason that you know you’re not actually visiting someone’s attic by mistake is that there are labels on things. Some day there will be no more fans and people will wonder what they were and they will go to this museum and they will find out. It’s good to be prepared for such a time.
We did some other things in Chiang Mai and I can’t remember what they were any more and they probably weren’t that interesting or I would have taken pictures of them. We ate some delicious food, I guess, though there are plenty of pictures of food in Chiang Mai already. After we went to Chiang Mai we went to Lampang and then Sukhothai and some day I will get around to writing about them. Maybe tomorrow!