Arrival in Chiangmai - usual trouble with immigration arrival forms. Address in country...what to write?
2004 - Ban Apa village...?
think CEI immigration eventually accepted MAG's Ban Huay Khom address
2005 - K's House Hostel, Kyoto
incredulous KIX immigration demanded full Japanese address + tel. no. + fax no.
2005 - Baan Bua Guesthouse, Chiangrai
no problem even though we planned to stay there for only one night out of 10, & went to Ban Apa again!
2006 - Ban Tammila Guesthouse, Chiang Khong
Chiang Khong? *raised eyebrows* พรุ่งนี้จะไปประเทศลาว phrung4 nii2 ca1 pai1 pra3 thet4 lao1 - explanation accepted with big fat smile!
According to friendly airport policemen, the public bus tends to stop only outside the domestic arrival hall - if it stops at all. True enough, missed two #6 buses that zoomed off even with locals literally yelling & chasing after them. There was a faded metal sign that could pass off as a bus stop, but it had an equally faded map for a route that had long ceased to exist. Chiangmai's public bus service has been an on-off affair, & recently revived for the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek 2006 exhibition.
Meanwhile several songthaew drivers came up to us, including one who wanted 80 baht to go to the Arcade bus station...
driver: YOU DON'T WANT TO TAKE?
cat: no thank you
driver leaning out of window: why you don't want to take? YOU SHAME IS IT? YOU ARE SHAME! YOU ARE SHAME TO TAKE! YOU SHAME TO TELL ME? EIGHTY BAHT I BRING YOU GO! WHY YOU SHAME? *repeats tirade a few times*
stunned cat: รอรถเมลดีกว่า์ ror1 rot4 meh1 dii1 kwaa3
driver: *guns engine & drives off in a huff*
If he keeps yelling at prospective passengers like this, he'll just keep making empty return trips from the airport into the city ;)
& then came the #11 bus (route map) that stopped to let someone alight. 15 baht flat fare for a pleasant half hour tour of the old city in air con comfort, stopping only to drop a monk off at a temple. According to the bus ticket, you can transfer between bus & elephant:
The GreenBusThailand company logo clarifies the link between buses & elephants, the ancient mode of inter-city transport:
The cat has always bought tickets from conductors on board buses, even at bus stations. So it headed straight for the Chiangrai-bound government buses, only to be directed to the ticket office queue. Had never departed from a major city before, so this was its first encounter with computerised bus ticketing system, assigned seating, baggage service complete with number tags, & properly timed departures in Thailand...!
The 11:30AM ordinary bus takes 4 full hours to reach Chiangrai, & so the cat lunched at one of the noodle-shop-that-is-always-found-at-any-bus-station, the first of many many noodle soup/feu/pho/khaaw soi meals to come. An ang moh backpacker was buried in a novel at the next table, & we helped each other watch our belongings while taking turns to use the noodle shop's loo =)
He ended up on the same bus to Chiangrai, which has 5 seats per row with a gap too narrow to be called an aisle. Plenty of struggling to get to his seat near the back. Lucky cat had been assigned a seat directly behind the driver =P
Bus wound past the greenery of Khun Chae National Park, before breaking the journey at Mae Kajan bus station on the outskirts of Mae Jedi, one of those places with beautiful old wooden houses, where English signs are still hard to come by. Continued past Wiang Pa Pao & Mae Suai, making several stops for people alight & board, which makes it far more interesting but slower than the air con buses. Many Lisu & Lahu were spotted along the way.
Soon the familiar Si Sai Mun & Prasop Suk junction signboards rolled into sight, & the bus pulled into Chiangrai bus station precisely at 15:30PM...