I imagine it's hard to find yourself feeling chilled out whilst in Bangkok. After a very lovely, but fairly manic stay in the 'City of Angels,' it was definitely time for a little break from the chaos.
I'd heard several horror stories about the Bangkok - Chiang Mai sleeper trains, so it was a wary little traveller that turned up to the train station with her bag (two hours early, due to an unabating fear of being late.) Book in hand, I sat myself on the floor to await my uncertain fate, tummy rumbling slightly as I'd skipped dinner to ensure my punctuality.
My stomach needn't have worried too much, a few chapters into my book, I looked up to find a giant, beaming Thai smile, literally right in in my face.
"You want food?" the smiling man asked, before proceeding to dump a huge box of food next to me. He grabbed an armful of things from his box, put them into my hands and then ran off before I could even think about thanking him. I was left sat on the floor of the train station, feeling a little self conscious at the sheer amount of baked goods that people must have thought were all mine.
After twenty minutes of babysitting the bread and cakes, the smiley man re-emerged, and told me that we had to hand the food out. Before I knew what was happening, I found myself swarmed by locals, all wanting some freebies, and I had no choice but to help hand things out. Lots of people were taking photos of me, and I found myself wondering (as I often do,) what on earth was going on. It was a matter of minutes before everything had been handed out, and as quickly as the madness started, it was over, and time to board my train.
Smiley man helped me onto the train with my things. I waved him goodbye, and was just getting settled when there was a bit of a commotion. Train just about to depart, smiley man had returned again, leapt onto the train and of course, headed straight for me. Every other passenger was staring as he made his way over to my seat with bags and bags of food. As embarrassing as it was, I was actually extremely thankful for the seemingly random act of kindness - I didn't have to buy food or water for the whole 14 hour journey (or for a couple of days afterwards!)
The train journey itself was pretty uneventful. I don't know if I just got really lucky, but I actually really enjoyed it! The seats fold out to make cute little beds and you get a curtain to pull across, so it feels like you're in your own secret little den, and you can sit inside your den, stuffing your face with free food. (If you're lucky enough to meet a smiley man before you board the train, that is.)
I instantly fell for Chiang Mai. The air was noticeably cleaner, the hostels almost half the price, and most important of all, there were spatterings of street art dotted around the city. After the madness of Bangkok, it was good to lie low for a few days, and chill out. (Though the two German girls in my hostel kept putting the heater on at night, instead of the aircon, so 'chilled' probably isn't the best overall word choice, as I spent every single night sweating my entire face off.)
A few days of relaxing always seems really appealing to me, but the novelty usually wears off pretty quickly and I find myself feeling restless. Chiang Mai was no exception to my low boredom threshold, and I ended up booking a cooking class to keep myself occupied.
I wouldn't say that my cooking skills are the best, (though after living on such a budget in Australia, I've gotten really good at making pasta with tuna.) I'd convinced myself that the whole day was going to be a disaster, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to make everything. (I was even more surprised at just how much sugar the Thais use in their cooking - no wonder my face has erupted in spots since I got here!)
I managed to finish the cooking class with just one chilli-to-eye related incident, (0/10 - would not recommend) and ate so much food I legitimately thought I was going to pop. I already can't really remember how to cook most of the things we were taught, but I had a much better time than I thought I would. I also had a little laugh at the idea of English cooking classes becoming a 'thing' back home - the image of hundreds of Thai students learning how to cook a fry up or toad in the hole is a pretty spectacular one. (At least it is in my head, anyway.)
The excitement of the cooking class must have been a bit too much for me, as I voluntarily spent the next couple of days being productive and not doing much else. There's so much to do in Chiang Mai, yet all I really managed to acheive was to part blind myself with a fruit. Go figure.
P.s. I've just found out that a chilli is a fruit too.