Content-type: text/html Ray Manning

Friday, December 14, 2018 8:02 PM


On Wednesday I sleep until almost 8 am since I've had so little, uninterrupted sleep in the last two days. I start the day with snacks for breakfast and then drop off some laundry. At the first train station I ask for change to use in the ticket vending machines and the attendant refuses to give me change. I'm a bit confused until he tells me that "It isn't Thai money". I look down and see that I've given him 100 Cambodian Rial and not 100 Thai Baht. I start laughing at my mistake and find 100 Thai Baht for change. But the man is not laughing and probably thinking that the foreigner was trying to pull a fast one on him. (100 Thai Baht is worth about $3 whereas 100 Cambodian Rial is worth about 3 cents.) I ride the trains to find a coffeeshop and plug in and do some web work. I've seen most of the touristy sites so I might as well make this a "digital nomad" type of holiday. The "Too Fast To Sleep" cafe is hard to find, but GPS and google maps get me there. I grab a strawberry slushie and start working. The WiFi is cantakerous and hampers me throughout the day. But I get work done and enjoy watching mostly university students (There's one other foreigner in the place when I arrive and none later.) come and go and study. Halfway through a group of three students, two mathematics majors and one biology major, come and share my table. It seems like all of the students here are diligently working away to get ahead. I stop in at "The Banana Leaf" restaurant which I've been to before but has changed location for dinner. And then ride two insanely crowded trains back to my hotel.

I get to a coffeeshop and a fab space to work on Thursday, Ease and FabCafe, both within walking distance of the Ari BTS station. I get a fair amount of work done and finally debug a website and now have a good solid platform to build off. On the way home I pick up the laundry and then go grab dinner. After dinner I'm walking around and texting with people. When I get back to the hotel I realize I've lost my hotel key - probably pulled it out of my pocket with my phone at some point. So I make the longwalk of shame to the front desk and get a new key for 300 Baht. So what's going on with this trip: getting cheated out of about $15 on a taxi ride and losing a key for about $8?

Friday is a transfer day out of Bangkok to Chiang Rai. I take the BTS skytrain to a specific stop and catch a taxi to the old airport. There we board the plain, taxi out near the runway, sit for a long time, find out there's a technical problem, and wait while the pilot reboots the flight control system. Now we're ready so we head for the runway and stop. We're not sure the problem is fixed. The decision is made to switch aircraft. So we wait for shuttle busses that I take us off this plane and directly to another plane. Now we're getting somewhere and get in the sky and make it to Chiang Rai about 4 hours late. A 90 minute flight turned into a 450 minute adventure. I catch the new Chaing Rai municipal bus from the airport and as I follow our progress on Google maps, I see that we are passing near my hotel (which I've never stayed at before). So I ask the driver if he'll stop here (in Thai) which he surprisingly does. From there I start walking and have to ask for directions once to get my bearing, but then I walk to the hotel. People are looking at me like, "Did this guy walk with his luggage all of the way from the airport?" since I'm off the beaten path this time. But I make it and grab some snacks for dinner - it will have to do.

I start Saturday with breakfast at the hotel and a walk to the bicycle store to rent a bicycle. On this trip I bring my own helmet, shoes, pedals, and a padded cycling liner (for the bottom) so that I can ride more comfortable. I take my walking shoes back to the hotel and start on my ride. It's great to be on a bicycle again after about 10 days off and its great to ride through the small Chiang Rai downtown area. I continue out a main highway and turn to ride past The White Temple (I've been in it before) and then over to begin the long 11 kilometer slow up to the top of the waterfalls. Today's climb wears me out mre than I remember but I make it and turn back for home. I'm worn out now but jeet keep pedaling away to get home. And each time I stop I see looks of "What is this foreigner doing?" but the looks turn to smile when I greet them in Thai and conduct the simple water/juice buying transaction in Thai. After a cooling shower I'm a vegetable for an hour or so watching Thai telelvision. You can tell how touristy the hotel you stay based on the number of non-Thai television channels (such as channels in English, Chinese, Hindi, or Arabic being the msot popular). This television has all Thai channels. And there are no non-Thai people for at least a kilometer. Later, when a taxi driver wants to charge me more than he should for a ride to the Night Bazaar, I start walking the 2 kilometers. I rn into the Saturday night market and understand maybe that's why the fare was a bit high - some detours and extra waiting compared to a straight shot. Nonetheless I have a nice Thai dinner and wander around the night bazaar. Later I grab an ice cream and walk back to the Saturday Night market - which I've never been to before. This is a huge event and just keeps going froever off the main road. But it's good to walk and see everything for sale. And later I walk back to the hotel.

I wake up late on Sunday, grab breakfast, and start riding. I'm tired, so I have a kinda slow ride and don't push the pace. But I ride for 2.5 hours before getting back to the hotel to relax. After relaxing I walk down to the city center and have Thai food for dinner and then check out the two stages at the Night Bazaar. When I've had my fill, I walk on back to the hotel. At night I have difficulty getting to sleep since my nose is running and I'm coughing.

I get up late again on Monday, have breakfast, and get on the bicycle. Today I ride out towards the single track bridge that I once rode to. But I don't exactly find it. Nonetheless its a good ride and when I stop for water or fluids the people are surprised that a farang (i.e., foreigner) can speak any Thai. And again, pn today's ride I'm tired for the last 10 kilometers and just tell myself to keep the pedals turning over. A cool shower helps but I wonder why I'm running out of steam on the rides: slight illness, heat, underfed. I decide the latter and walk to the city center and have pizza and Pepsi for dinner. I hope it replenshes the glycogen and I'm already salivating for a Thai curry for tomorrow.

I feel better on Tuesday morning. After breakfast I work on a couple of tasks and then get out for slower bicycle ride. I want to keep the exercise going and see more sights, but not overdo it and regress regarding the nose/throat illness. After the ride and relaxing for a bit, I pack up my things and head for a coffeehouse. The first one I get to is already closed for the day, so I start walking and find a coffeehouse right on the corner with the famous Chiang Rai clock tower on it. I settle in and work on a reformatting tool for a website and am almost finished when Person WW_Th stops in (at my invitation). So I buy Person WW_Th a coffee (to go with my pineapple smoothie) and we talk for a long time. Person WW_Th has just broken up with his boyfriend of two years and needs some cheering up. In the middle of the conversation as I'm looking at the clock tower, an inspiration comes into my head and I interrupt our conversation to write down the solution to my reformatting hiccup. I explain in general terms about getting your mind off a problem and the solution will come to you randomly and he understands. Eventually I head back to the hotel but not before a random and fun conversation with a mother and her 6 year old daughter in Thai and English and some dinner. When I walk around Chiang Rai with a backpack for my laptop and I can speak some Thai, the locals think that I live here. That might be a future possibility. I get back to the hotel and implement the solution I thought of earlier and am ready to for the full reformatting effort.

I sleep late on Wednesday but get out for a good bicycle ride. I stop for water once and talk Thai with the people in the countryside and stop a second time to take pictures of a very large house being built. The new owner is there and we speak a bit in Thai as I take pictures of the cement framework and "look through" pictures of windows and doorways. I relax for a short bit at the hotel and then head to the Destiny Cafe which sends all of their profits to the Aftercare and Treatment Center of Chiang Rai and Destiny Rescue to help and support victims of human trafficking. This cafe closes early, so I pack up my laptop again and find another cafe. The Baan Chivit Mai cafe sends their profits to The Baan Chivit Mai Foundation who helps to prevent hilltribe children from being exploited and trafficked. I start working away and meet Paul from Korea. And we spend a lot of time talking until his friend from Korea joins us for a strawberry smoothie. And when they leave I continue working away. And then I'm contacted by Oh from the Destiny Cafe and we have an online chat. When I start walking home I wander near the Night Bazaar and get stopped by four Thai tourism students. They want to interview me in English and record it so that they can practice. So I go along with them and help them with a five minute interview. They are happy! I walk about two minutes and get stopped by more tourism students. And I tell them that I just got interviewed by four other students. So they go off to find other interviewees. There isn't much happening tonight so I walk on home and get down for sleep near 10 pm.

Thursday sees me walking to the city center and renting a motorbike. It turns out a motorbike rental is the same as a bicycle rental. But this is a one day rental to go visit the Good Shepherd Youth Center. The center is 40 kilometers from the hotel, so it would have been a long day to ride the bicycle out there and back. The motorbike is the last one available for rent and it is pink with teenager's stickers on it. I nickname it "The Pink Proton" for the day. I find the youth Center and speak with two different nuns about the program. And I tell them that I'm visiting specifically because the Fair Trade Long Beach organization sells their handmade products. We have a nice discussion and I'm invited to wait around for lunch in an hour, but I don't want to burden the team with my presence. So I give the head nun some money and my contact information and go on my way. I stop in at the Chiang Rai mall and wander around a bit until I get bored and go back to the hotel. Later in the afternoon Person Oh_Th contacts me. I met Person Oh_Th at the Destiny Cafe and I had given her my contact information. We meet up and have a nice dinner and conversation about our lives and how I know how to speak Thai and how she knows how to speak English. Afterwards we have a laugh when I show her The Pink Proton as I get on it to return it. And then I walk back home with messages already waiting for me from Person Oh_Th.

I sleep well on Thursday night and wake up early on Friday morning. I need to ride and transfer hotels before the thunderstorm comes in. So I ride for 2.5 hours in a simple out and back route to Mae Chan. After a shower I walk my luggage over to the new hotel 1 kilometer away and walk back to the old hotel. I relax for a bit and then I checkout and ride the bicycle and backpack to the new hotel. The new hotel is in a location closer to the city center but the room is smaller and older. Near 2:30 pm I walk over to the Baan Chivit Mai coffeehouse and try to make breakthroughs on two remaining problems. (These are the last two items on my to-do list for this trip.) I crank along on the dashboard plotting routine and get it working after a few hours of work. This one had bugged me for a while and now its done! It took a lot of digging on the Internet and getting all of the element indices right. Later I take a walk around the city and then call it a night.

I sleep late on Saturday and get on the bicycle for a ride out past the WHite Temple and to the base of the waterfall road. I don't feel like making the 11 kilometer climb today, so I turn back for home. I ride around some unexplored areas before returning to the hotel for about 50 kilometers. After a shower I go have pizza and then go to the Baan Chivit Mai coffeehouse and take a shot at my remaining problem with the fostercare self-assessment application. And I solve both the disappearing modal and the hidden elements very quickly. It always help me solve problems if I can take a break from them and get back to it a bit later. This isn't always a possibility in a fast-paced environment, but it certainly works for me. Later I relax at the hotel and then go walk around another Saturday Night Market. Funny, I never attended in three or four previous visits to Chiang Rai because I wasn't here on a Saturday. Now it's two Saturdays in a row. I walk around for a couple of hours, and almost as expected, I run into Person WW_Th out of the thousands of people here. We have a brief conversation and continue on our ways.

I sleep late on Sunday morning and barely get in a two hour ride. I'm tired. I get cleaned up and go to the Baan Civit Mai coffeehouse again and work on a new project related to Python and quantitatve finance (just for fun). And later I have a simple THai dinner and walk around a bit.

Monday is a transfer day. I head dwn to the bus station on the bicycle and get a ticket to Chiang Mai for today. And then I return the rented bicycle. I walk back to the hotel and get cleaned up and wander with my luggage to the bus station. While waiting for my bus I see a guy walking with a Long Beach t-shirt. So I ask him if he lives in Long Beach, but he says No. And then after I tell him that I live in Long Beach he says, "It's just a big coincidence." The bus ride is bad because there is construction along the way and the 3 hour ride becomes a 4 hour ride. But I check in to my hotel and start walking towards the night market. I text Person Ta_T, who has recently broken up with his girlfriend and has been having a difficult time, and we get together for dinner. He seems to be doing better than his last facebook posts. So we walk around a bit and then Person Ta_T comes and stays with me at the hotel since I have two beds.

I start Tuesday by renting a bicycle and getting my pedals put on it. I start off headed for Lamphun. I make it there but with some difficulty. And on the way back home everything hurts - my neck, my arrms, my entire organism. Now why is this? At one point when I stop at a 7-11 for cold water I stand in the air conditioning store and see stars - what one might see before they faint. I don't faint, but I do go sit down for a bit before getting back on the bicycle and crawling home. It was a 60 kiloemetr ride and the day wasn't that hot, so why the difficulty? When I get home I clean off and rest for a bit before going to the coin laundry just around the corner from the hotel to clean clothes. Later I have dinner with Person Ta_T and more good discussions. Tonight he has to go home because he has to wake up for work near 5 am. I work on some CSULA report editing and then go to sleep.

I have trouble sleeping on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. Am I going to be in a pattern of great sleep one day and troubled sleep the next? Nonetheless I ride the mountain bicycle out to the lake and around the lake. Today's ride is a bit uninspired on my part because I'm still down on energy. But its a good ride. After noon I finally go have some western food including salty french fries. And for the rest of the afternoon I finish the CSULA report editing and stand outside for a while as there is finally some rain. Though not the thunderstorms that they have been predicting for the last 10 days or so. Later Person Ta_T has a headache and so we will not hang out tonight. I start walking towards Tapae gate when I hear my name called. It is Prayong who I met many years ago. I stop and talk with him and catch up and, at quitting time for his work, his boyfriend stops by. His boyfriend is an electrical engineer so we talk about many different things. Soon Prayong and Grant, his boyfriend, are leaving for dinner and I continue on for a good walk before going back to the hotel for sleep.

I sleep very well on Wednesday night and wake up to light rain. I keep delaying the morning bicycle ride. Finally the rain gets to a light enough level that I start looking for a rain poncho to ride in. The housekeeper for my floor, Thatsanee, finds me a poncho and won't let me pay her for it. So I go back to my room and bring her a Los Angeles, California t-shirt (of the many that I brought to give to friends). I get out riding and it is very messy, but continues to dry as I ride. I get in about 45 kilometers and then return the bicycle to the rental shop - apologizing to the owner for all of the mud and road grime on the bicycle. I grab some snacks at 7-11 and have a shower and relax in the room for a bit. Person Ta_T comes over to my hotel and we walk over to have dinner near 6:30 pm. We have part of a table and soon some other Thai people have taken another part the table - not a problem. And then two more Thai people join the other group including Person B_T (who I will meet soon). I keep smiling at Person B_T and he keeps smiling back. When two more people join their party the table is completely full and they overhear me speaking Thai and want to join in on the action. So I finally get to formally meet Person B_T. I take out a business card and figure out how to give him my contact information without causing a stir. Our small conversation continues on until one person in their party says to me, "He wants your number". So I pull out my business card and give it to Person B_T and apologize that I am leaving tomorrow. But I hope to be back in Thailand next year for the MotoGP race - in Person B_T's hometown. Person Ta_T and I take leave and Person Ta_T crashes in my room since he was awake untill 4am last night doing homework. And then he gets up ane leaves for work before 5 am.

Friday is a transfer day and it goes fairly smoothly. I'm stunned, a bit, when I'm ordering some food in Bangkok's airport on the way to Phnom Penh and a young kid of 12 or so says to me in English, "Your Thai is very good". I didn't expect this but I guess after a couple of weeks I'm getting better. And I just complinet his English because it was flawless. Unfortunately he and his Mother have to leave before we can have more conversation. I think he wanted to practice his English and that was his way of getting started.