After Edinburgh, I took a train south to York for two nights. It’s a very pretty medieval town, but I felt one full day there was sufficient. I took yet another great free city walking tour, and this one was really free–my host explained that she and the other guides don’t accept tips. They volunteer their time because they just really love York and are happy to share it while we spend money elsewhere in town.
Aside from the walking tour, I didn’t do much in York. I wandered around the Shambles a bit (their main touristy commercial thoroughfare) and went to the same wine bar by the river two nights in a row. I kept thinking of the Theodoric of York sketches from the 70s era of Saturday Night Live. I don’t think they have medieval barbers anymore.
I’ve been in Westport for a week now. I’ve delved into the local pub scene and discovered great local beers aside from Guinness which I still do not like (I’m sorry, Ireland!), as well as the joys of Irish music on a Wednesday night. The bus strike is still in effect, making regional travel more expensive and challenging. Yesterday, my roommate Nathalie and I rented a car to go out to Achill Island. Nathalie is German and used to driving a manual car, although not on the opposite side of the road. She did a fine job maneuvering around windy country roads. I did an adequate job of not panicking too visibly in the passenger seat.
Achill was stunning and cold.
Sheep on a stroll.
Nathalie with the official greeters of Achill Sound.
I wound up treating my stay here as an informal vow of silence. I had one actual conversation with the cool Australian owner of a coffee shop called Overstand which could easily fit in back home in San Francisco. The rest of my interactions were by necessity and brief, either while checking into the guesthouse or ordering food. I had no energy to meet new people and perhaps it was for the best; when I arrived in Chiang Mai, I was still recovering from a massive bed bug bite attack from the guesthouse in Siem Reap and my arms and legs looked scary. I don’t want to be dramatic, but for a brief period, my right elbow closely resembled the Lady in the Radiator from Eraserhead.
No one needed to shake a hand attached to that.
At home, I was used to spending a couple of nights a week in my bedroom, reading, watching movies, or delving into a YouTube black hole. I ate takeout in bed. Even the more sociable introverts need solo time to recharge and I’m an ultra-introvert. When you’re staying in dorms and meeting interesting people from all over the place, it’s hard to remember that it’s okay to want to be left alone sometimes. I straight up Greta Garbo’d myself in Chiang Mai. The couple of extra bucks I spent on my own room here were more than worth it. Having my own bathroom was particularly great when I got sick for the first time on this trip. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say I’m glad I packed Imodium.
I’m currently in the midst of a ridiculously long layover in Singapore. Changi Airport is not the worst place for one. It’s the fanciest mall I’ve ever been to. There are free activities! It smells good!
I arrive in Bali tomorrow evening and will start out in a dorm in Sanur. I’m ready to engage with humans again. If anyone asks how Chiang Mai was, I’ll tell them it was nice. Did I talk to a monk, visit the night bazaar, or get a massage? Nope. I watched a lot of Frasier, caught up on The Dissolve, and clipped my toenails. Chiang Mai rocked.
I haven’t had the best time since I left Cambodia and my dear friends behind. My first night in Bangkok was fun thanks to good company. Wat Pho was beautiful. Other than that, the Khao San Road area irked me deeply and I didn’t have the desire or energy to explore outer realms of the city. I prefer the smaller towns, anyway. I left a day earlier than planned and hopped on a night bus to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.
It’s a lovely city which runs at a slower pace than Bangkok. I get the idea that it’s probably a better place to live than visit but I was determined to make the most of my time here. A guesthouse I kept hearing about was fully booked so I stayed at a little family-owned place called Same Same (of course) for my first night and would check into the other one the next day. Same Same was so inexpensive that I decided to treat myself to a single room for the first time on this trip. Nothing fancy but I have my own little bathroom and the ability to have a good old-fashioned underwear dance party. The WiFi here is incredible.
I went to the other guesthouse the next day. It seemed nice, but not drastically better than Same Same. After checking in, I asked the travel desk if there was a place I could go see elephants without riding them (they are often abused at those camps). Turns out there was a group leaving in 20 minutes. I would have preferred to research it first but since I was told there was no group going the next day, I decided to take a chance.
My heart hurts too much to really get into it but just because I chose not to ride an elephant didn’t mean it wasn’t an option for everyone else. It’s possible that there are places out there where the elephants are happy and riding them is well-regulated. This was not that place. The elephants were sad and so was I. Lump that in with receiving bad news from home and the fact that I was recovering from some very uncomfortable bug bites, and yesterday was pretty miserable. I went back to the hostel in the evening to do some research on my laptop but the WiFi was practically non-existent. I drank two large Chang beers on a mostly empty stomach, tried to dance my troubles away, and woke up with my first hangover of the trip.
It’s rough being sad and tired away from home. But five things helped to begin to turn my mood around.