On the Railway and Road to Pai

I made up my mind for the rest of the trip after visiting my father in Nong Khai and a friend in Phitsanulok. I’d like to go somewhere I’d never been to. Pai was the one. The decision was based on how to get there. I chose to catch a midnight train to get to Chiang Mai in the morning and then a mini van to Pai.

I booked the train ticket at Phitsanulok Train Station—the half way between Bangkok and Chiang Mai—by lunchtime. I was going to get the last train, which was around 1 am but the staff told me that if it was late, I had to wait. So the second last at midnight it is.

Welcoming Ladies of Phisanulok Train Station
Original posted on Instagram, Welcoming Ladies of Phitsanulok Train Station

I hung around with friends for the rest of the day. We started drinking in the evening until midnight. Fortunately, these days, you could check online if and how long the train would be late. Apparently, my train was expected to be an hour late. My friend drove me to the Station and we got some more beer for killing time. It was kind of mellow at the station. Then I realised that was the first time I had a real good drunk conversation with one of my best friend in years.

Waiting for 70-minute-late night train Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai
Original posted on Instagram, Waiting for 70-minute-late night train Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai

As the train arrived, I hopped on it. Unfortunately, I had to sit all the way to end of the line. It was not so comfortable but the luck was on my side. There was a power point on my seat. I looked around and didn’t think anyone had it. It must have been the only one in the carriage. What a luxury! Both laptop and mobile phone would be fully charged and I needed that.

Night train from Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai
Original posted on Instagram, Night train from Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai

Ohh I've got a power point on the night train!
Original posted on Instagram, Ohh I’ve got a power point on the night train!

The dawn on the train was actually spectacular, especially, for someone who had a soft spot for it like me.

Dawn on the train
Original posted on Instagram, Dawn on the train

Train friend
Original posted on Instagram, Train friend

At the Chiang Mai Train Station, I had breakfast and found my way to the bus terminal by a songthaew or Red Car. The lack of sleep and shower got to me there, where I had to wait for about two hours for a mini van service directly to Pai.

Looking in there
Original posted on Instagram, Looking in there

However, I was so excited to find out that I got the front seat. That was perfect to get the view of 700 curves on the way to Pai, not mention less chance to get motion sickness.

Shotgun, woo hoo! Mini van Chiang Mai to Pai
Original posted on Instagram, Shotgun, woo hoo! Mini van Chiang Mai to Pai

Gas station service
Original posted on Instagram, Gas station service

Music: trace 5 (fp) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Along the highway # 1095 to Pai. The video is sped up three time.

It took about more than three hours on the mini van but there was the half way break you could get some stretching. The Strawberry reminded me of an Aussie spirit of big thing.

Half-way stop with the big strawberry
Original posted on Instagram, Half-way stop with the big strawberry

When the van reached the destination, I managed to find the place I booked, have a shower, stroll the town, and be amazed by Chinese tourists. By the glance, Pai interested me already.

Lost in Pai
Original posted on Instagram, Lost in Pai

On the Road 2014: Phitsanulok

The next stop from Nong Khai was Phitsanulok to catch up with one my childhood friends, who moved there to run a small restaurant.

Other than that, what I’d like to do the most in the town was to visit Buddha Chinnarat. I was here when I was little and remembered the beauty of the Buddha image. I felt peace by just sitting in the temple. For the first time I realised how religious art could cleanse us. This could be a so-called pilgrimage for me.

However, decades go by, here I was again. It was disappointing that feeling was not there anymore. Not sure it was because of getting old or the constant announcement in the temple. Probably it was not the first reason since I was in another temple this year and had that effect in me.

The photos were original posted on Instagram.

Nana River
Nan River

Buddha Chinnarat
Buddha Chinnarat

Portrait of a Buddha
Portrait of a Buddha

Hidden Shrine
Hidden Shrine

On the Road: Facades of Si Chiang Mai


One thing I could not really afford to miss in Si Chiang Mai, where I spent the first night of the trip was to run along the Mekong River. It was a nice way to explore the town. I used to come here on school breaks but had no memory about this place.

The first thing that struck me was the façades of the houses by the river. They were like time stamps of architectures such as temples, wooden and concrete shophouses.

I was told that the town used to be very busy because it was right opposite to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. People used to get across the vast river by ferry. But that slowly died out when the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge opened in the 90’s.

That could be one of the reasons why you could variety of house styles along the strip.

Drinking with My Old Man

My old man

As the first destination of my travel this year, I went to Si Chiang Mai District in Nong Khai Province with my brother to spend sometime with our long lost father. We haven’t seen him for two decades or so. We lost contact a long time ago. I remember the last time we met. We were drinking together at an aunt’s. That was way before I decided to move to Australia.

All those years, I wondered where he was and even considered to seek for him as an ultimate life mission. But he found us first, with the help of a life insurance salesperson. It could be a good idea to pay him a visit. But this reunion might not be as easy as catching up with old friends over some drinks.

He was working overseas most of the time when I was a little kid. At eight, my parents were devoiced. Unlike my two brothers—six and seven years older than me—I didn’t really get to know him as much. There were fragments of memories of him but I could not put those pieces together and make sense of it. Surely, there was a father figure that has been missing in my life. It was a sense of a longing for something I have never had. This visit might help answer something in my head.

We met him and he took us to a restaurant by the Mekong River. We ended up with another one next to the motel he booked the rooms for us. My brother didn’t drink (he doesn’t at all), my father had some moderately (in my standard), and I binged (as usual).

As the night turned out, it was filled with the conversations that didn’t necessarily answer my quests. However, it became a revelation to me.

Metaphorically, there’s some ingredient missing in a traditional food when you live in another continent. You’d like to make it. By all means, you have to work around it without that ingredient. It may tastes different but you develop it into another thing that makes it you. And I’d like to think that my dish is now quite amazing without that ingredient.

I have been thinking too much of what if he would be around when I was growing up. Would be I like others with perfect family, whatever it is?

I thought I needed that component to resemble that traditional dish. But in reality, our minds have coped with it all along. I have already worked on my life with what I have and don’t. I have my own spice in my life to go on now. This event made me realise that my food is already yummy without it.

Now, that missing ingredient is back in my life. Honestly, I don’t know how to incorporate it with my life recipe I have been working on. That’s something I might have to work on it.

On the Road 2014: Nong Khai and Udon Thani

I’m having three weeks off work and about a week traveling in Thailand. Most of them I haven’t been for a very long time.

From Bangkok, I flew to Udon Thani Airport to meet my brother, which came on another flight from Don Muang Airport. We drove a rent car to Nong Khai to visit our father and stay the night in motel rooms he booked for us.

Good Night, Nong Khai
Original posted on Instagram, Good Night, Nong Khai

In morning, I got a chance to run and explore the small district by the Mekong River called Si Chiang Mai.

Morning Jog by the Mekong River
Original posted on Instagram, Morning Jog by the Mekong River

The End of Siam
Original posted on Instagram, the End of Siam

While we were driving to see the father’s land, the weather was so nice with light rain. It made the rice paddy scenery so serene.

Rice Paddy and Farmers in Action
Original posted on Instagram, Rice Paddy and Farmers in Action

After we spend sometime with father, we drove back to Udon Thani. My brother dropped me off at a shopping mall where I hope to find a spot to wind down by myself and to get my way to the next stop, Phitsanulok.

Luckily, there was a bus station at the mall but it was in the evening. So have hours to kill. Hanging out in the shopping mall was not an ideal for me. It was pretty much the same as any mall in Bangkok.

I'm stuck in Udon Thani for hours and walking in a shopping mall isn't part of the plan
Original posted on Instagram, I’m stuck in Udon Thani for hours and walking in a shopping mall isn’t part of the plan

There was a local street market which was much more interesting, especially, a Ferris wheel ride that hasn’t changed at all.

Local Market Is More Appealing
Original posted on Instagram, Local Market Is More Appealing

Original posted on Instagram, Ferris View

Then I spent half of the night on a coach. It arrived Phitsanulok around 1.30 am. My friend, a childhood friend, picked me up and took me a small hotel I could stay for a couple of nights.

Night Ride from Udon Thani to Phitsanulok
Original posted on Instagram, Night Ride from Udon Thani to Phitsanulok

My first two nights were remarkable already.