Of Songthaews and Temples

This post is ridiculously long, rambling and raw, and so, dear reader, you are excused if you choose to jump down to the nice temple photos at the end of the post.

Another day, another songthaew.

Despite all the planning, some days just go awry when travelling in a foreign land, and more so when you’ve been too lazy to learn the language, other than good morning and thank you, two courtesies that are obligatory to learn in any country you might visit. I have never got my head around the Thai language: I promised myself to learn more this year. Maybe it’s the tropical heat dulling my brain or the insanely difficult Thai script, a syllabic alphabet based on the Brahmi script. Here’s a basic sample below, which looks like one of those children’s activities, ‘spot the difference’. But note, this is the easy part. You get to add extra squiggly marks to add vowel sounds to these letters and after that come the tones. I give up.

Getting back to my very bad day. Things started well. We hailed a songthaew – a Hilux van converted into a bus with two side seats in the back for passengers. Called rot si daeng or red car in Chiang Mai, we paid our 50 bhat each and headed over to my favourite market, the monster and largely untouristed Worawat. I love getting about in Songtheows. The semi open sides and open back door give you enough cheap thrills en route, welcome fresh breezes, as well as more views of the ancient walls and moat which enclose this ancient city. Songthaews travel slowly. The traffic in Chiang Mai is orderly and the drivers are polite, both on the road and to their customers. This is where a courteous thank you, Kob kun krub” or “Kob kun ka“( ขอขอบคุณ for those of you who read Thai) is all important, which is always reciprocated, often with a wai.

Philosophy found in Buddhist temples.

The day was progressing as planned. We spent a few hours meandering around that cavernous market until lunch called. Songthaews get busy at lunchtime and many drivers aren’t so keen to leave the market precinct when they can pick up a load of passengers at a time and not two insane tourists who want to go across town. After some time negotiating with the perennially polite drivers, we arrived at our favourite temple, Wat Suan Dok. Our main mission was to eat at the renowned slow food restaurant behind the temple, Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant. A sign earlier in the week promised a re-opening on August 4th and today was that auspicious day. With heightened anticipation and growing hunger, we made our way past all the lovely white wats to Pun Pun, to be greeted by this sign:

The next shot was taken by my camera inadvertently after reading the sign above. It conveys my feelings of frustration and disappointment perfectly.

My favourite Chiang Mai restaurant closed again? Oh well, there would be plenty more fine restaurants a red truck ride away. Re-entering the busy suburban Suthep road in search of another Songthaew, the sun and heat now unbearable, we noticed something very odd. The street was full of policemen and army personnel who were clearing the road of bikes, traffic and old non-Thai speaking pedestrians. We were shooed off the pavements. Something momentous was about to happen. From the long explanation given to us in Thai by one of those heavily uniformed young men, we caught one word in English- King! The king is revered in Thailand, though this new young king hasn’t yet earned the status of his father. We walked some more and waited for the royal cavalcade. Some of the banked up traffic was let through, and then the roads were closed and cleared again. Was the king in the nearby hospital? Would he appear in a black tinted car, making the wait a total waste of time? Did we just imagine we heard them say King? Our hunger and impatience increasing, we decided to walk four kilometres to our next dining option.

I’m a songthaew cowboy. Mr T rides again.

After a late afternoon sleep and a dose of Netflix, we decided on a pizza dinner, something I need to eat from time to time. We called up a little tuk- tuk and headed into the unlit back lanes of the Moon Muang district. The pizza place was packed. After a wait of 10 minutes or so, the kind waitress found us a small, uncomfortable spot on top of some other would be diners, the loud techno music growing increasingly annoying. We were then informed that the wait for our pizza would be at least one hour. We left. After more walking, I lost my appetite. Some days just go like this.

Tuk Tuks, the other means of transport, useful when needing to find places in little lanes off lanes.

I include these photos of Wat Suan Dok as a reminder that life on the road really is an adventure and that I tend to dwell on food a little too much for my own good.

Wat Suan Dok, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Wat Suan Dok, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Wat Suan Dok

16 thoughts on “Of Songthaews and Temples”

  1. I just can’t imagine not finding a suitable eatery in Chiang Mai – starting to sound like Lygon Street. I hope that the night markets satiate your appetite and may you wake up to the Sabbath with more than the offerings of the Eucharist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chiang Mai has its fair share of bad restaurants like anywhere else. Bland, watered down, food deemed suitable for farangs. So we had to get fussy and concentrate on our faves, involving more songtheaw rides than usual. This story was edited- all the silly and rude bits have been removed just in case they lock me up.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Oh ! Francesca, what shame to learn that traditional fare has become so farangis! Let them be locked up for insinuating that “westerners” will slop in the trough in order to be falsely appeased by local fare. Soldier on to the next great gastronomic extravaganza, hopefully just a rice throw away.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Francesca, This is not a long post at all. Maybe a long and raw day? It brought a few memories. Some days ( especially in Asia) you just have to give up on and enjoy the comedy of errors … while they are happening. Wow the Thai script is amazing. Lots of ornate extra little bits as the Asian scripts go. I just read your last comment.So it was raw ? Now you’ve removed all the grouchy bits. Going back to read all the posts I’ve missed since you left home. Stay cool. Not sure if you are in Thailand as we speak check out this guy… https://budgieescapee.com/ traveling through Thailand now. Let him know I sent you. Despite all the problems you have had getting your favourite food, or any food some days, just know it is bloody freezing, I am mean really cold in Melbourne. Loise


  3. A grand post .. you are allowed to dwell on food, you are on holiday! And that restaurant was closed .. I hate that especially when you are so looking forward to it! Wonderful images Francesca .. I’m off for a walk now something to do with food and holidays! Lol

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A terrible day, indeed, Francesca! The disappointment of losing something you have anticipated with such pleasure is horrid – especially when it’s food. I can relate to that entirely!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, I’m fairly certain I couldn’t master writing or speaking Thai. You walked four kilometres – I’m impressed! Enjoyed this post and didn’t think it was rambling in the least.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A saga for the files. I do hope you have recovered. It isn’t pleasant being hot, hungry and foot sore. Love the ending with the beautiful and atmospheric photographs of Wat Suan Dok. Yes, this is what the adventure of travelling is all about!

    Liked by 1 person

Now over to you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.