Today was by far the easiest to date. Tomorrow will be even easier since it’s a rest day for the rally. Two nights in Chiang Mai. Much needed.
I thought I was staying at the Shangri La, but someone has pulled rank and claimed my room. I’m not sorry. Ultra five star is not my style. Instead I’m a short ways down the road in the Empress Hotel. It’s 3 to 4 star-ish, and much more to my liking. In fact the room – although quite large – feels downright cozy.
I was supposed to go to a formal dinner tonight at the Shang, but when it came to getting ready and putting on the only half-decent clothes I brought with me, I realized I just couldn’t be bothered. I’ve been to far too many of those in Malaysia. Ten courses of stuff that’s gone cold and is barely edible, while trying to think of yet more boring anecdotes to “amuse” the farang next to you. Pass.
So I’ve just finished a nice meal in the Coffee Shop, accompanied by a beer or two, and will relax for the rest of the evening, and maybe much of tomorrow. The mini bar has a small bottle of Black Label at a very reasonable price, so I may relax more than I’d planned. Eh! Stop with the “tsk tsk” already. I’ve earned it. And it should last the rest of the trip. Almost 🙂
I manned a Passage Control today, from about 11:30 to 13:00, approximately 100kms out of Phrae, in the middle of some really pleasant countryside. It’s a shame though that’s it’s so hazy. A friend who lives round here tells me it’s the fault of the farmers who burn their fields at this time of the year in order to prepare for the next crop. He says December is the clearest month, so with an offer of accommodation at his place, that has been pencilled-in to my travel calendar.
The mountains really are spectacular, and I’m starting to get used to the cooler weather. It was 23 degrees at my PC today, but with bright sunshine I only needed one shirt. And that shirt was bright orange to appease the one co-driver who claims he can never find me. Just yesterday, as he was whining yet again, I said to him “Truck not bright enough for you izzit?” Muppet.
I still find the mountains bizarre though. I mentioned yesterday how they just seem to be dropped onto the landscape. It makes driving strange. You can be barrelling along on a four-lane expressway, and suddenly this is reduced to a two lane uber-twisty section that needs second and third gears. A half hour later, having crossed the mountain it’s back to 130kph on the four lane stuff.
There were a couple of chuckles-du-jour: one when a herd of about thirty cattle headed towards me at my PC. They had big horns and looked downright nasty, so I abandoned my post temporarily and jumped back into Bert, hoping the red bodywork wouldn’t spook them. It didn’t. But the crew of the next rally car to arrive had witnessed my apparent cowardice and were in hysterics. The driver though, with a strong southern American drawl, and who, I assume knows about such things, said “Smart move. They coulda killed ya.”
Then later, not far from Chiang Mai, and travelling far too quickly to take a photograph, I spotted a sign to something called the “Phuping Palace.” I think that’s what I’ll name my bathroom when I get home. “I’m just off to the Phuping Palace. Back in fifteen…”