I stayed in bed until 8:30 am, then got up to catch breakfast before the buffet closes. Next up was the swimming pool on the roof, where I am right now, enjoying the hot sun and the cool water. The pool isn't that special really, but the sun is amazingly high in the sky and temperature, even this early, is amazing. Things couldn't be much better. Just order a cocktail and relax, for the first day since long. I don't like wasting all days on a beach chair but just ones in a while it pleases me a lot. The couples have arrived soon after me so I've got some company too. I don't know where Luxembourger girls are gone, probably shopping. But the shopping budget is spend as far as I'm concerned. Better to stay away from the markets today :)
At about 2 pm we decide to quit the burning sun and to have some dinner.
We leave at 5 pm for the train to Bangkok
, so we don't have that much time left when we, after washing up, finally arrive in the city center around 3 pm, and we're not really hungry either. So what does one do when wanting a fast snack? One goes to McDonald's (or at least that's what we did)! I just asked for a burger and some fries, but was stunned when receiving my order. It was half as cheap as in Belgium (like most things in Thailand, so that wasn't the mayor surprise) and the portion was at least twice as big! I simply couldn't eat it all! But you won't here me complain :) Actually I made really good friends with the friendly - sawasdee kaa - Ronald McDonnald outside the restaurant.
The night train is said to be one of the most fancy ones in Thailand. I don't know if it's true, but it was in any case better than what I expected. I'm used to Western-European public transport so it is definitely different taking a train in Thailand. But it wasn't bad at all. We've gotten a diner box of which I have heard terrible stories, but which is actually fine. I found a hard-boilled egg, some cookies, a banana, a mandarin, rice and chicken and juice. It is simple but just perfect anyway. The places are comfortable too and the personnel is friendly. What more can you possibly expect?
Soon I notice the couples walking around outside, on the other side of the train, handing their cookies to two young children. I wonder what they're doing so I walk to the door and pop my head out.
That's when I notice the woman who is sorting all kinds of trash, on a stroke of dirt aside the station. It turns out to be her job I suppose, as she seems to be waring a uniform like T-shirt. But it's a dirty job, whether she gets payed for it or not. The two children are no doubt hers, playing next to the railway. Carine and Gerda have been giving their candy away to them and try to make a bit of a body language conversation. For a moment I really don't know what to do. How do you handle these things? Am I the only one doubting about that? I don't want to be a petty tourist, haughty handing out my food to "the poor people". That's just disgusting. But on the other hand the mother came over to chat and doesn't seems to be annoyed by our behavior, her children love the food and I can as well just give them my rice and chicken, as I'm not planning on eating it anyway.
Either I hand it over, either it ends up in a trash bin this woman might get to sort out. That last thought clinches it. I get my dinner box and distribute the food. It feels like a good decision. The woman comes closer and tries to talk, but she hardly speaks English. After a while I understand she wants to invite us to her house. She points to a little dump some further on, I wouldn't have called a house. But apparently it is, and she is very proud of it. I wish I could be so proud of what I have, even if it's a little. It is a naive thought but I can't help thinking it. What more do you need to be happy than your family around you, a little place of your own and the sunset over Chiang Mai? I'm not gifted with such optimism really... We don't have time for any invitation though, as the train will be leaving soon. That's when a man comes up carrying another child. I suppose it's the husband bringing another son, to wash it.
That's when the train leaves, so we get back inside quickly and leave Northern Thailand behind, heading back to Bangkok. I'll miss the North but on the other hand, it feels really good going back to Bangkok. For a moment I regret not being able to stay there for some more days. I would honestly love to.
Joshua Kadison - Jessie