I want to ride my bicycle

The devil is in the details. Lots of funny little things go on in Chiang Mai none of which really make a story in themselves but if I tell you a few things at once you might get a feeling of what it’s like to spend some time here..

First off the town is split into two parts.. not old and new but day and night. Daytime Chiang Mai sees lots of Thai people shooting around town on mopeds, often carrying anything up to three other passengers, planks of wood or poultry on the pillion. If they’re not on a moped they’re manning food-carts and stalls at the roadside or sitting in front of fans in their shops trying to keep cool. Night-time Chiang Mai brings mainly bars.

Drinking over here is a funny afair.. pretty much any bar you go into will be waited.. just wander in take a seat and some seriously fit Thai girl will come over and bring you drinks. Often there’ll be a free pool table and you can jump on that and play your mates or more than likely you’ll be challenged (and soundly beaten) by one of the girls that works there. No money involved or anything it’s just for the craic and someone to play. That’s one of the biggest things.. getting over the fear that’s been instilled in you by a million guidebooks that everyone is out to fuck you over. Once you relax a bit you can see things more clearly.

So.. the bikes. Chiang Mai transforms once you have one.. you can shoot off to the pub.. the cinema or the gym at a moments notice and in fact yesterday we all went off to the zoo. My bike is an old-style affair with big looping handlebars that come loose everyday, mudguards, a bell and a basket. The others have similar machines but the advantage of an extra seat on the back which is frequently seen being put to good use at 6AM as they pedal home full of booze with some Thai girl perched on the back of it.

The bikes have had various mechanical failures. My handlebars cranks and pedals all come loose every day, Dereks stem snapped and he lost his deposit, then last night a motorbike ran over two of them whilst they were parked on the street.. Johns is a complete write-off and Derek now has more repairs to make.. including a new back wheel.

I generally eat breakfast at “Darlas Restaurant” AKA “sourpuss” since it’s run by a sour-faced old Thai woman. Never cracks a smile but the food is alright and it’s close to the internet. At some point I’ll call up and see if anyones awake at Jaow Moo where the lads live and we’ll talk about what we’re gonna do that day. It’s usually about 2PM at this point. We might drink a few bottles of water, have an ice cream.. someone will go for noodle soup.. come back to find others have gone on the internet.. we make a decision such as “The Zoo” and then it’s 4.30PM and the monsooning starts.. so it’s more water another ice cream and then off to “The Number 1 Bar” for a cup of hot tea and some pool.

Then we go next door for the best feed in Chiang Mai AKA “Big Mommas” 25bhat gets you a really big plate of tasty grub and a bottle of water. Seriously I have no idea what this place is actually called but it’s where the long termers and headcases go to eat so you can be guarenteed entertainment.

There’s an alcoholic from Birmingham that married (and then shortly divorced) a Thai lady here. He’s easily 60 and easily confused. The other night he wandered into big mommas insisting that the previous nights football had been “a 2-1 draw”.. a few days earlier he’d been in with a bruise on his head where his ex-wife had paid him a visit along with her ancient mother who smashed a bottle over his head.

by now it must be 7PM so I’ll go back to the guesthouse for a swim and to read a book. I’ll get a shower and go back round to meet up with the lads about 9/10PM. Often the people that run their hostel will be sat out the front with a guitar and there will be a sing-song.

The little shop up the road has a table outside so you can go in, buy a large bottle of Chang for 70P then sit outside and drink it. Someone will turn up their hi-fi and there will be music. Either Jack fucking Johnson or occasionally the great Johnny Cash. We spend the next few hours bar-hopping on the bicycles, navigating our way past hookers and ladyboys that appear from the shadows of the pavement before ending up in a club called “Spicy” AKA “Squisheys”.

Spicy is a Chiang Mai institution. It varies from night to night but is basically a large room with a DJ playing horrible remixed hip-hop and euro pop.

The DJs use only CD’s so they can digitally correct the pitch when mixing together two songs they’ve had to alter the tempo on to mix smoothly. This results in the entire set getting faster and faster as the night progresses culminating at about 4AM with every song being twice as fast as it should be. Just drink the chang and let it wash over you since there are some funny sights to be seen.

If you’re a white man in this place you will have to fight-off women. There are a few reasons for this… some of them want paying, some of them just really like white guys.. they say westerners treat women better than the Thai guys, others say the white guys have bigger choppers.. whatever the reason you will be attacked from every angle but if you don’t want it, then all you got to say is no. The worst thing you’ll see in here is some minging old guy dancing like your grandad with some young Thai bird.. that’s about the only thing thats really out of order. The poor old fool full of Chang with some young bird from a village with no other options.

One thing that came as quite a shock when I first went for a wee in this place was the masseurs in the bathrooms..

Picture the scene.. you’re cock-in-hand doing a wee into a urinal and a bloke grabs you by the shoulders and starts massaging your shoulders and pummelling your back. This should be a fairly personal situation but no, they just approach and grab hold of you.

The first time that happened to me, as soon as this guy grabbed me I shrugged him off.. not having a clue what he was attempting.. in no uncertain terms he was sent away. Once it became clear however I did accept a couple of massages until one time just as I was zipping up… cr-CR-CRAACK! My neck had been broken.. oh no it was alright because I’d turned it round to protest but cr-CR-CRRAACK! Again the otherside.. it definately must be snapped now.. no no it’s still there, head on shoulders..

I’d never done a long enough wee beforehand to get to the neck cracking stage of the massage and I won’t be doing it again.. it can’t be good for you..

Anyhow after that theres a bit more booze to be drunk and then it’s home on the bike.

Not every night is like that, I mean we don’t always all go to squisheys, and recently we’ve been watching a lot of football.. also the Chang has started to be replaced with a “Sam Sung Set” which is a bottle of local whisky, a coke and a red-bull in a small tin bucket full of ice for 250 bhat.. it tends to last longer than a load of beer and leaves you with less of a hangover.. so there is some variation.

The living is very easy up here.. so much yet so little happens you can see why it’s adventure enough just existing.

I have started to make plans though.. my visa runs out on the tenth so at some point I need to go on a trip to another country.. after that I want to go on a trek through the jungle. I keep meaning to work out where and when but I’m just so busy…