The 14 hour train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was nice--air conditioning, a porter made up our beds, curtains to sleep in privacy and big windows. Unfortunately, we didn't sleep very well. Yumi was awakened several times throughout the night by a loud British boy who was high on coke and kept coming in and out of the carriage.
Chiang Mai is a big city, but much smaller than Bangkok and immediately we felt more relaxed. Because we have to wait for our visas, we have had time to explore it and get to know it a bit better.
One evening, Yumi went to a temple to take part in a monk chat and meditation session. 80% of Thais are Buddhist and temples and monks are like our equivalent of Starbucks. You see many young monks. Usually these are boys from poorer families who cannot afford to send their sons to school. Monks have to keep their hair short and cannot wear jewelry or watches. I asked how they know what time it is and one of the monks pulled out his mobile! They are allowed to watch television and use the computer. Informed monks. The meditation session was good, but difficult. We lasted about 20 minutes, 10 minutes standing and 10 minutes sitting with a break in the middle. People's legs fell asleep and our backs were sore. As the monk said, we need to practice more.
Food is very cheap here. 1 British pound will feed both of us. We eat at local stalls so it is mostly a noodle soup diet, but we love it! Our favourite treat is a fruit shake. Pineapple, mango, papaya, banana...all local fruits...blended in front of your eyes and so delicious. Guess which fruit is super expensive here? Apples! They have to import them from China. No worries for us because there are so many wonderful exotic fruits to try here that we don't miss them.
A funny difference in toiletries...in the UK we buy tinted moisturizers. Here all the moisturizers include a whitening agent. We always want what we don't have.