Day 45: Songkran in Chiang Mai

I am in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, and somehow I’m still not dead even though in Bangkok I ate at a rat-infested streetfood place at the train station.

I’m flying solo again. Callie and Hartley left Cat Ba to be swindled in Laos (but also to have many funz). My dear son Keegan left for a 40-hour bus journey to Ho Chi Minh City. Tom and I left for a couple of days in BRILLIANT Hanoi before my flight back to Bangkok and his trip north to Sapa.

I’d planned to stay in BKK for a few days before coming north to Chiang Mai – I was going to chill, upload photos, catch up on life admin and studying. I went to the train station on Tuesday afternoon to pre-book my ticket and discovered that all the trains were full because of Songkran, except for one leaving that night. Booked it. Done. An emergency 14-hour journey in a 4-berth sleeper coach. Utter joy (YOU KNOW HOW I LOVE TRAIN TRAVEL OUT HERE!). The beds were comfortably firm. I woke a few times in the night only to be rocked back to sleep by the movement of the train, the clacking of the tracks. In the morning I had breakfast of glutinous rice soup – like rice pudding only different, salty, peppery, and with “pork” balls floating around, and watched the sun rise over mountains.

Right now I’m staying in a dorm room with 5 others for 100 baht (£2.50) a night, no towels, no hot water, no in-room wifi, no toilet paper, no air-con. It’s everything you need. The hostel has a huge covered balcony area on the second floor with bamboo mats, benches, cushions. I’m there right now, at almost 11am, trying to memorise English verb tenses and thinking about getting some breakfast, and about heading out into the streets to cool down. It’s too hot for life here. People are melting in the streets, leaving nothing behind but fanny packs and globules of person-melt. Like candle wax or glutinous rice soup. Bit gross. People who haven’t melted yet are in the process: features sliding down their faces, dripping off their chins. Everything is sticky. Luckily it’s Songkran, Thai New Year, and the city is engaged in a gigantic water fight that takes over the daylight hours. Everyone has water guns or buckets – often both – and nobody is shy about using them. Families are on the streets outside their houses or shops with water butts and hoses, soaking anyone that comes within range; they travel around the city in trucks sloshing water over everyone they drive past; tourists form gangs outside their favourite bars and wage war  in the sun with the music up loud and the beer flowing. It’s all friendly. Everyone’s grinning, thrilled to bits to have a stranger run up behind them and dump buckets of ice water over their heads. It’s nearing 40 degrees so it’s exactly what you want to cool down. The whole thing’ s crazy-fun, frantic, phallic and an excuse to make masses of goodbad puns and act like a kid for extended periods of time.

At nights people gather on the balcony to dry off and drink, chat, chill. Sometimes people play guitar, uke, sing. And they’re not all the shit, pretentious types either. Makes me want to buy a uke and learn how to play it – if there’s one thing that travelling has taught me it’s that I don’t have enough life skills to bring to the table. You go for food en mass. My favourite places are these ace little street food areas by the main road, a collection of stalls run by different people and each serving different dishes, plastic chairs and tables all set up, mystery water ready to drink if you dare. It’s where the Thais go to eat, and though sometimes you get food different to what you thought you’d ordered, and the hygiene standards are lax as fuck, it’s the best kind of experience. And the food is DELICIOUS and cheap. Last night I had crispy noodle soup – really thick, glutinous broth with huge slices of pork and the crispy noodles that exist in all your best food-related dreams. It cost 30 baht, less than a pound.

I’m bloody loving it out here. Different places and cultures and FOODS and people all the bloody time. The more you travel the more you discover that you want to do. I HAVE to go to Myanmar. I have to see Laos, especially the underground city. I’d love to go back to Vietnam and check out the off-the-beaten-track places and the stuff I missed first time around. I want to go to the Cambodian island that Hartley and Callie worked on because it looks like paradise, and I guess I could cope with seeing some pristine Thai islands as well. And that’s just the places right next door. China is a must now – it sounds like a fucking hard slog but hard is GOOD, right? It pushes your boundaries, tests you. Also Japan, South Korea, Nepal. Indonesia. I want to see (my old school chum) Penny in Malaysia. But I want to go to stranger places, too; places not everybody would go to: what’s in Turkmenistan? Can you go through Central Asia then the middle East and down through the African continent overland? Without facing death, rape or torture? That’d be pretty fuckin’ ace, right?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about travelling and studying and not as much tourism as you’d hope in Chiang Mai. Gotta prioritise, though. Can’t fuck up this course. I did go to a Wat having a celebration, and played out during Songkran, and had some damn good nights out with some good human beings. Tonight we’ll go see some Muy Thai fights and I’ll do a cookery course in the next few days, and me and a girl in my dorm are going to trek it up to a hill temple just outside of town even though I haven’t exercised in a month and a half and I’ll probably die. I met someone who went out with a girl who played roller derby and was thrilled to be able to chat derby for a while to someone who already had an interest. I mostly want to meet another roller girl and see if I can set up a team, or at the very least get some kind of roller skating back in my life. I can’t cope with all this non-skating that’s going on. Never thought I’d miss being forced to do more push-ups than my body can take, but apparently I do. Maybe I’ll take up Muy Thai instead and learn how to become aggressive – grrrrrrrrr! – and add that to my roller derby repertoire when I eventually find some people to play with/for.

I’m rambling. Excuse me. Blame the OBNOXIOUS heat, and the fact that I’m procrastinating. OK. Back to it. A couple of hours of study and then back out into Songkranland for the final day of the celebration. Get in.

When I started writing this post I had a point but then I forgot it.

Orrite. Been a while. I’ve been busy having my brother come to visit getting farted on at regular intervals by a 17-year old child who is APPARENTLY related to me in some way (as if: I don’t have siblings, I have minions) and watching horses have curved metal rods nailed to their feet.

The Authors have been all excitable since my last post, all doing things and then blogging about them like it’s going out of fashion.

1. Jonathan Stroud Went To New Orleans, Fails To Sound Enthused. It’s an easy mistake to make: you’ve come back from some important Writery gig, you’ve schmoozed and want to let you new schmoozees know how much you appreciated everything they put together. The only problem? YOU’RE FUCKING TIRED! You just want to get your slippers on, take a long dump and then sit on the sofa in your pants watching adverts for the new Hermionie Granger movie. Crying, probably, because it’s the last one and you know that the rest of your life will be meaningless thereafter. Anything you write now is going to sound forced, dull, lacking your usual sparkle and finesse. Not bad you understand, it will simply fail to convey any point of interest whatsoever.  I’ve never read any of this guy’s work or seen any interviews with him or in any way researched enough to make an informed opinion (if you’ve come on the look out for informed opinions then boy are you in the wrong place!) but he sounds like a bit of a bran-flakes-for-breakfast kind of chap: inoffensive, well-meaning, nice and yet somehow unsatisfying… My advice: sleep first, Stroud; write second.

2. Derek Landy Finishes Another Novel, Has Some Emotions About It. That’s right kids, Valkyrie’s next adventure is all finished. And Derek’s having a mid-series crisis about it. It must be tough for him, poor lamb: all those successful published YA novels under his belt and STILL they keep coming. Luckily (for him), we like Derek so we won’t mock further. We like how he created Valkyrie, kick-ass female protagonist that she is (though admittedly in thrall to her male mentor). She even – shocker! – totally has frequent conversations with other (named) female characters which – another shocker! – frequently aren’t about some guy (although aforementioned male mentor does show up with irritating regularity). There are problems, of course. Derek Landy neglected to call his successful series of YA urban fantasy books after the (female) protagonist and instead – mistakenly, I believe – called them after the (male) mentor. There are other things but hey, go read them, find out for yourselves; can’t expect ME to do all the legwork.

3. Nail Gaiman Did Some Reasonably Cool Stuff, UNreasonably Expects People To Care. Ugh. Damn you Neil Gaiman, I’ve had it with all your Being Impressive. Try to stop the constant boasting and write another award-winning novel, why don’t you?

4. Lucy Christopher Still Alive, Still Not My Stalker. The main point of interest here is that YA author Lucy Christopher still hasn’t expressed a desire to become my internet stalker. I don’t get it. She’s good though – she writes words in CAPITALS sometimes, and it’s almost like she’s a real human who gets EXCITED about real life things such as signing a copy of her book for Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief. THE ACTUAL AUTHOR OF THE ACTUAL BOOK THIEF! Sorry for the repetition but I didn’t think you were impressed enough the first time around. What? You haven’t read The Book Thief? FOOL! It is all lovely and unusual and you should get a copy from your local library immediately.

One thing The Authors are teaching me is that Being An Author is chock full of Going To All The Places and Speaking To All The People. They’re off all over, ALL the damn time! Who pays for their travel? Where do they stay? Do they compensate for their carbon emissions? Do they buy lunch or take their own sandwiches? I’m a fan of the packed lunch myself  (I always like to know where my next bit of food is coming from). Anyway, all this speaking and networking would be something of a challenge for old Sasperella. Talking? To humans? No thanks love – avoiding all face-to-face human contact is why they invented the internet isn’t it? That and procrastination.

When I started this I had a point I wanted to make, but I’ve forgotten it. Attention span of a goldfish = requirement for failing at being a novelist.

Camp Nanowrimo

OK, so I stopped at 16, 000 words last year and have hardly looked at it since. So what. Still counts as a win in my books.

I had popped back  to say that this blog will be restarting in November when I will purposely be taking myself out of Real Life (including turning down any roller derby bouts I might have coming up – you cannot know the level of sacrifice that requires) to try, once again, to write a shit novel in a month.

HOWEVER, in light of recent events (i.e. the bombshell that is Camp Nano) you may find me up and blogging [read: procrastinating] a little earlier than that. Let’s see how we go.

In the meantime I’ll be posting a whole load of vapid shit over on my Blogger blog, which has been up and running for about 5 minutes. Or since March. Whatever. Anyway, come along and post comments so I can pretend I’m popular and important.

FANX.

Procrastination #1

I’ve been working overtime to procrastinate my way through the week and, now, the weekend. I woke up the morning after my last post and did a cool 800 words before work — I think it freaked me out.

I *had* written a post all about Why I’m Doing NaNoWriMo and What I Hope To Get Out Of NaNoWriMo and also about poetry. That didn’t really need to be in italics. Anyway, reading it over I decided it was dull so to to save us all a lot of boredom I have edited and and summarized in bullet points:

♥  I WANT TO KILL OFF MY INNER EDITOR [which may be difficult seeing as I couldn’t even leave a simplez blog entry alone]
♥ The plan is to go for QUANTITY and pay no attention to the quality when trying to reach the 50,000 word target. Let it be shit. REVEL in its shitness.
♥ I have been reading Charles Bukowski’s The Last Night of the Earth Poems, like.
♥ I today bought two books as throwbacks to the MA – Myths of the Norsemen and English and Scottish Ballads.

Though I’m really not sure about planning this project I accept that I’m going to need some sense of direction for when it all kicks off – I’ll try and work on that tonight. I’ve got a Word Sprint planned with some other Yorkshire NaNo-ers on the 1st so I need to make sure I’m prepared…