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The engine beat on through the night and we arrived at the Chiang Mai station bright and early Saturday morning. As we jumped off and made our way to the exit, a man approached us to ask if we needed a map of the city. Thinking it would be a good idea, we accepted and he followed up with asking us where we were staying. It turned out he was an employee of the hostel we intended to stay at anyway, so he caught us a free ride to the place. Easy as that. A few minutes and we were at the SK House II. A little later on I will give their employees the credit they deserve, but for now let’s get to the action.

We only reserved one room for one night. It turned out they gave our room away so instead they gave us the honeymoon suite. Another night sharing a bed, but it was huge and had a view of the temple just across the street, so they had no quarrels with us. Once unpacked, we thought it would be smart to do our first load of laundry. Things were getting stinky.

We then walked around the old, walled city and saw a few of the larger temples. Just before entering the last temple, we spotted an elderly woman grasping the rail, trying to inch her way up the stairs to the temple doors. Derek gave her his arm and we walked in together. We kneeled before a monk and he asked us our names and where we were from, blessed a small string bracelet and tied it around each of our wrists. We walked out feeling blessed and found ourselves in a garden full of trees adorned with inspirational messages. On our way out we ran into two fellas that thought it would benefit us to check out a suit shop in the south of the city and pick up some custom suits. As fun as that might be, we opted against the idea. A short stroll and we were back at our hostel.

After dinner, we sat at the hostel bar and gave voices to the goofy fish swimming in the tank and made friends with the desk staff. They had a once-a-month jungle trek to a remote village lined up the next day and we jumped on the opportunity to check it out. That night, one of the employees, Song, has a brother who owns a house bar around the corner so we went on over there. Pitcher after pitcher of beer came and went and whiskey next. Just a few guys from the hostel and a few travelers hanging around. One of our new friends from Norway, now nicknamed Bamboo Benny, thought he could drink “the Americans” under the table. Come the next morning he would regret that attempt. When we decided we ought to get back to get some rest before the hike the next morning, we asked how much we owed and Song replied, “300 baht.” A night of great company and endless drinks for under $10 total. Not too shabby.

On our walk back, we stumbled upon what would become our “Wawa”. It was a tiny market that we went to at the end of every night on the way to our beds. Nothing beats huge bottles of fresh water for under 20 cents when you are traveling. This place was becoming our home. The best part of our trip to this point waited for us with the sun rise.

As Ever, J. Hart

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain