Monday, November 29, 2010

The Big Tour Part 1: pre-departure

Obviously, we've been back in Chiang Mai for several days. But why haven't I written about our exciting big tour? Well, we've been up to our nipples in indexing, which is also the reason why our big tour was only about half as long as I wanted it to be.

What is this mysterious substance "indexing" you ask? Indexing is an activity, not a liquid, as I implied in that nipple-filled analogy in the previous paragraph. Indexing is coming up with a list of subjects in the book we're editing, and then finding all of the pages each of the subjects is referred to on.

As you might imagine, poring in minute detail over a book we ourselves wrote and consequently have already read every part of at least a dozen times in the last few months is extremely stimulating and enjoyable work; I think I've found my new life's calling: writing non-fiction books on not-particularly-interesting topics and then reducing the immense wisdom they contain to an alphabetized list and a series of numbers.

But who's complaining? It's a job I can do in Chiang Mai in November, therefore it is by definition a good job.

The tour; but before you can understand the tour, you must understand the condition in which we left on the tour, and for that you must be told about the day and night before we left for the tour.

The date was November 22nd, 2010; those were heady days. A little rebellion called the Tea Party was washing across the United States in a wave of confused hysteria; the Calgary Flames had just lost a historic game to the Detroit Red Wings and were about to lose a historic game to the New York Rangers.

And in Chiang Mai it was the second-last day of Loi Krathong, their crazy flying-lantern-and-fireworks festival. The festival is described as happening "on the second-last full moon of the year", but that's nonsense. It might end around then, but the festival fever builds for weeks as Thais set off more and more fireworks, light more and more lanterns and get drunker and drunker.

For weeks, the city outside of the hotel room where we worked (Erin earnestly, I intermittently) had sounded like a war-zone. We had toured the lantern displays and unsuccessfully tried to set off a couple of flying lantern-balloon thingies, but we hadn't had much to do with the festivities so far. But on the second-last night of the festival, we decided to fully take part. And we did, in a big way.

First of all, Erin made a couple of floating candle-raft thingies with the nice lady who runs our guesthouse. The idea is to send the raft down the river along with all of your troubles. The raft is made out of a chunk of banana tree covered in banana leaves and flowers.

Then we went down to the river with a few Americans we met and released our little floating candle raft thingies into their natural habitat, the Mae Nam Ping river.

And we set off a few flying lantern-balloon things as well.

The below photo can only give you the tiniest idea of just how magical and truly dangerous the festival is. There are thousands of people setting off these lanterns all the time. They twinkle in the sky like moving clouds of stars. And sometimes things go wrong.

Almost all of the lantern-balloon thingies take off successfully and burn themselves out before fluttering gently to the ground, where they become litter in the treetops and farmers' fields. However, with a large number of tourists who don't know what they're doing taking part, and a large number of crooked locals selling inferior or defective lantern-balloon thingies to the tourists, you're bound to get a few faulty launches, which sometimes result in a lantern-balloon thingy gently falling flaming-ring foremost into an extremely crowded street.

Then you add in a crosswind that catches the lantern-balloon thingies of locals and tourists alike and pushes some of them into nearby treetops where they begin small conflagrations, and causes others of them to partially collapse and start descending flaming-ring first into the very crowded street. Fortunately, even in the dry season, the foliage in the area is very damp. All of the treetop fires we saw were very minor. People's heads are less damp than the foliage, but they come down pretty slowly and they're easy to catch by the non-flaming rim, so we didn't see anyone get hit by a falling flaming lantern-balloon thingy. I imagine it did happen to someone, though.

We launched our lantern-balloon thingies (successfully, all) and got the hell out of there before any flaming rings descended on our heads while we weren't looking. Our yankee friends all bowed out and Erin and I went to a bar very near our hotel, where the locals and tourists, staff and patrons, were all going a little crazy. Firecrackers were being thrown around willy-nilly and people were getting very drunk. Actually, at first most of the firecracker-throwing was being done by Erin and me because everyone else at the bar had worked out most of their firecracker enthusiasm in the big firecracker fight that had broken out a day or two before, but they soon recovered their enthusiasm.

The staff of the bar, all of whom were Thai and most of whom were very drunk, decided that they would close the bar and we would all, staff and patrons together, walk back down to the river and launch floating candle-raft thingies and drink much more beer. So we each took a beer to go and drank it while slowly progressing down the street and throwing firecrackers everywhere we thought needed a firecracker. Then we stopped to get more beer, and I think more firecrackers as well, and resumed our progress to the river.

Things get a little hazy from there. I lost Erin for a time, and spent awhile walking with a middle-aged American gay man who had a bad limp and couldn't easily keep up with the party. We found everyone, we drank another beer on the river bank, and then I thought I lost Erin again but she'd only gone to find somewhere to pee. Then five of us were in a tuk-tuk and the driver asked for too much money and one of the bar patrons paid it anyway, and a waitress who was with us got mad at him for paying. I'm not sure where we were going, though. I remember more firecrackers and probably another beer...

Then it was past 3 AM and we went to bed.

What does this have to do with the big tour, you ask? Well, this is why I slept until 1 PM the next day, why we didn't start our first day's riding until 3 PM, and why we rode so slowly that day.

So how was the tour, you ask? Wait until tomorrow. My typers are tired. I'll find a way to drag myself from my indexing to write the rest of this story.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mae Kuang Dam Loop

Erin and I did a fun one-day ride yesterday:

We left Chiang Mai following our little rural river road that lets us avoid the highway, and then went up into the hills, where we found a very attractive and reasonably-priced (free) waterfall:

Then we proceeded to the lake, where we were going to get a boat to the other side. We should have known this wasn't exactly a high traffic route with regularly scheduled ferry service. The jungle was eating the road and nobody seemed to care.

At the lake, there was no boat and no sign of any boat, but we waited there like morons. Fortunately, we met a very nice Austrian man on a motorcycle, who helped us pass the time.

Finally, we were finished waiting, and we went back up the extremely steep road we'd just come down and stopped in the village 3 km down the road to get some noodle soup. Using our pathetically limited Thai, we tried to ask the nice lady who made soup for us how one could get a boat to the other side of the lake. This was quite challenging for us, because we didn't know the word for boat, and we hadn't brought our Thai dictionary with us.

A word of advice: if you're ever taking a bicycle trip in rural Thailand that absolutely requires you to catch a boat, unless you want to go 75km back the way you came, learn the Thai word for boat.

The word for bicycle in Thai is jak-ga-yaan. The tones for the three syllables are low, low and mid, respectively. We learned this somewhat difficult word almost immediately on arriving in Thailand.

The word for boat, according to my dictionary is rua. Mid-tone, nice and flat. That's one of the easiest words I've ever learned in Thai, but yesterday, we didn't know it. We did know how to say, "we want to go to Doi Saket", which was the name of the town on the other side of the lake, and we were able to combine this linguistic snippet with smiling ignorance and, after going through three intermediaries, we got someone to telephone the ferry man on the far side of the lake and tell him to come and get us.

So we went back down the hill to the lakeshore and waited for the boat.

Here's Snakeslayer taking his first-ever boat ride; I think he liked it:

And then we road home. Rice harvest is approaching here, and the countryside is beautiful.

And the lantern festival is underway in Chiang Mai.

Which has meant there's been so many fireworks set off that it sounds like there's a war going on every night. The festival is fun, and Erin and I intend to enjoy it tonight, but there's only so many explosions my nerves can handle.

Last night I was at a bar where a few of the patrons at the instigation of one of the Thai employees, decided that it would be hilarious if they started sneaking lit firecrackers under people's tables, or placing them between their feet while they weren't looking. Okay, it was hilarious, but there's only so much hilarity a guy can take.

Either tomorrow or the next day Erin and I are going to set off on our longest tour yet, going north through Pai to Mae Hong Son. We'll see how far we get. We've got some work we have to do in the next week or two that's will be incredibly urgent once we're able to start, but we have no idea when we're going to be able to start.

Ahh... the peaceful, contemplative life of a writer. Fucking deadlines.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Tallest Mountain in Thailand

I'm warning you: I'm kind of pissed (in the British sense, not the American one).

Our two-day tour got extended to a three day tour. We returned at about 1:30 this afternoon and went out for lunch and a beer. Erin went for a massage and I stayed and had a second beer. I intended to spend the whole afternoon there drinking beer and reading my book, but after two beers I had to leave. I was too drunk.

One of the marvellous things about long-distance cycling is that it quickens your metabolism to the point where you can become a one-beer drunk.

We were nearly at the end of our planned ride for the first day and at the end of some of the most gruelling hill-climbing I've ever done, when we nearly turned back. The hill was ridiculously steep and we had run completely out of water; it'd been hours since we last saw somewhere we could buy some. We'd covered virtually no distance since the last time we stopped and ate, but we'd gained at least 1000 meters in altitude. Our odometers indicated that we should have been at our destination, but there was nothing to be seen. Every corner we rounded showed us nothing but another steep ascent.

We were both bonking -- which means we were hitting that hypoglycaemic wall where you've run out of blood sugar to feed your muscles, and you feel as weak as a kitten and as prone to vomiting as a newborn. Erin ate her ninth little banana of the day, which I gave her, because I couldn't imagine being able to swallow it without water. It was our last banana. I was ready to turn around and go back to the "resort" we'd seen advertised back at the bottom of the mountain.

Erin pointed out that our odometers might easily be out a kilometre, that the town we were riding to might be just around the corner and argued that we should press on; I, suppressing every natural desire I had to divorce her on the spot, agreed on an intellectual level and then forced flesh to accept the mastery of my intellect. After another kilometre, which probably took us more than 10 minutes to climb, we saw an insignificant little advertisement at the side of the road. It promised us that there was an internet place in 200 meters. We weren't interested in the internet, but where there's internet, there's water and food. I felt like we were running down the side of a sand dune into an oasis. Naturally, the ad lied, but after about another kilometre, there we were, in Khun Klang, a town on the side of the tallest mountain in Thailand.

We had some noodle soup and talked about our situation. Khun Klang looked like a bit of a shithole and we didn't really relish the idea of spending the rest of the afternoon there. It was chilly, because it was at something like 1400 metres, and there wasn't a lot to do. There's a road that goes right to the summit of Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand, but it was way too steep to ride up, and there didn't seem to be much point to going up there anyway; the mountaintop is permanently surrounded by clouds, so there's no view. Thai people go during the cold season so they can experience such novelties as frost, but we didn't give a shit about seeing frost.

We talked about going back down the mountain to a more comfortable altitude. Then the third bowl of noodle soup of the day raised our blood sugar levels and our spirits and the idea was advanced (I'm not sure by who, but Erin blames me) that we go on; we could climb another 300 meters and then descend the other side of the mountain to Mae Chaem. It'd mean adding a day to the tour and turning it into a loop, where we'd go south through Hot and then back up the valley to Chiang Mai.

So we did it.

I can't expect any of you to understand why, though some of you will. The reward is all in our heads, in the enormous doses of endorphins and other chemicals our bodies give us when we're mean to them; in the unexpected vistas and the expected ones; in the amazed looks and smiles and thumbs-up we got from local passengers of vehicles who saw us at the summit of the pass; in the well-earned appetite at every meal; in the small interactions we have with the locals when we stop for water or food or directions; and in the immediate and profound head-buzz you get off of a single beer after spending a day on the bike.

And that was just a three-day tour!

We did a little over 300 km and a fuck-ton more altitude than my ride mapping website will give us credit for. I felt like quitting several times, but there was no way we could quit; what would we have done? Thrown up our arms on the side of the road and waited for our parents to come get us? Besides, Erin was there, not wanting to quit at all. Then, when Erin did want to quit, I felt fine and wanted to carry on, so she kept going.

One of the many songs I invented, to be sung as loudly and raspily as an out-of-breath person can sing it, was:

Forty-eight, Thirty-eight, Twenty-eight
Where is my triple?
Na-na naa naaaaa

If you're confused, I was singing about gears. Those hills are steep. I don't have the right gearing. Erin's gearing is a good 15% better than mine, and she doesn't have the right gearing for these hills either.

Each night Erin ate everything in the world while I choked down as much food as I could make myself swallow, and we went to bed, afraid of what our legs would be screaming at us the next morning. Each morning I had a huge breakfast while Erin ate a reasonable one and watched, and we got on the bike feeling surprisingly good. After a dozen kilometres, though, we found that our legs had very little in the way of reserves after that huge climb on the first day.

But we made it back. And now I'm enjoying my solipsistic triumph by trying to explain it to others. To hell with this: beer is a hugely more rewarding use of my time than writing to the likes of you.

Writing about a good bike ride is like telling someone about a really great orgasm you had. "Oh, is that so? Well, good for you!"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

And we're off!

Late yesterday afternoon, Erin and I made a snap decision to take off on an overnight trip. We're going halfway up the side of Doi Inthanon, Thailand's tallest mountain, where we hope to find a homestay, and maybe a ride the rest of the way to the top of the peak.

I'll post the story when we get back. The route we'll follow will look something like this:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Unhappy Day

I'm unhappy today.

It's only 7:30 AM. I guess things could turn around, but they're not going too well so far.

First, I did some pooping last night, and some more pooping this morning. Erin and I went out and had our first supper of western food since arriving here. We've been eating nothing but Thai and a little Indian, even for breakfast, and we've been loving it. Last night, though, we heard pizza's siren call, and my digestive system crashed upon the treacherous rocks. It seems that my guts liked the banquet of cheese so much, they decided to expel everything else in its favour.

Second, we received some news about the scheduling of some work we have to do, and it looks like there's no way we'll be able to fit in the entire cycling tour we wanted to do. Somehow, I knew it wasn't going to happen. We needed two whole weeks to do it comfortably, and though it was my biggest priority for the trip, the rest of the universe doesn't seem to give a shit about my priorities. We're going to have to depart a couple of days later than we'd originally hoped to, so we're probably going to have to scale the tour down to an out-and-back to Mae Hong Son, leaving out the lower 2/3 of the loop:

View Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son in a larger map

I was having such a good day yesterday.

The day before yesterday I bought Snakeslayer some new shoes. Snakeslayer's old tires had just gotten too worn out, and I had started to get flats all the time. I had slow leaks in both tires. The holes were too small to find, and I was reluctant to stick brand-new tubes into the tires because I couldn't find what had punctured the last tubes, so I couldn't be sure that the new tubes wouldn't get punctured in the same way. The result of this unhappy situation was that every time I wanted to get on my bike, I had to pump up both tires from nearly flat with the wonderful emergency pump I bought a couple of weeks ago.

So two days ago, I finally broke down and bought two new tubes and two new tires. I got some Panaracer Duro PTs, which I think are not exactly the kind of tire I want for the kind of riding we're doing, but my choice at our local bike shop was that, or something really cheap and crappy. Anyway, the tires promise miraculous puncture protection, so we'll see how we go.

Bpong, the guesthouse's cleaning woman, saw me changing my tires and (in a mixture of Thai and pantomime) told me that my old tires were no good, because they had no tread on them and that would make me wipe out. I didn't have the heart to tell her that the racing tires I'd bought as replacements had even less tread on them, and I didn't have the language skills to tell her that on smooth pavement, the less tread the better for not wiping out.

And yesterday when I went downstairs to get on my bike, both tires were still full of air! It turns out that money can buy happiness. I rode up our local training mountain, Doi Suthep, and at the top I met a cyclist who is an English ex-pat and local resident. He told me that there are several road bike shops in town, most of which have a better selection than the one I've been going to under the assumption that it was the only one around. I could probably have found tires that are much better suited to the lightweight touring Erin and I are doing, but I'm not running out and buying another set of new tires. The Panaracer Duro PTs will have to do the job.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thai Chi

We've been watching a naked Thai person through a crack in a fence for several days now.

It's not how it sounds.

We often go to the soup lady for breakfast, because she makes the best rice soup in town and she only charges a dollar for it. She also makes noodle soup for a dollar, but we've been told that Thais don't eat noodles for breakfast, (that would be absurd) so we eat rice soup. Across the lane from the soup lady's restaurant is a house that's a bit of an anomaly in this neighbourhood. It's a two-story house that would fit in pretty well in any American suburb built in the 1960's, except that it has a nice banana grove in the front lawn. It does have a front lawn, however, making it one of maybe five houses with lawns out of the thousands of buildings in this part of town.

Instead of a white picket fence, though, it has a 2 1/2 meter high concrete wall around it. All the private open spaces in the neighbourhood are fenced off. This is nothing unusual. Instead of a white picket gate, the house has a large spike-topped vehicle gate made out of white plastic fence pickets decorated with simulated wood grain. The pickets are about 15 cm wide each, and the gaps between them are only 2 cm wide.

The pickets of the gate present a visual barrier that is effectively impermeable to casual passers by; you can't really see much at a glance. If you stopped and looked through a gap, you'd see everything in the yard. And if you sat eating rice soup at the sidewalk restaurant across the lane, you'd have a broken view of the house and yard; you wouldn't be able to fully make out everything, but you'd have a pretty good idea of what that yard contained, and especially of what was happening immediately inside the gate.

So, if, for example, a middle-aged Thai man, naked to the waist, came out of his house and stood next to his gate to rub his naked belly and chest in the morning sun with his self-loving hands as a warm up for his little tai chi routine, you wouldn't see him well enough to recognize him on the street, but you would know exactly what he was doing. And if that Thai man pulled his trousers down to his knees to expose his genitals to the sun for some minutes, and on some mornings, vigourously test the flexibility and elasticity of those genitals, (not masturbating, mind, just giving himself a good working over) you'd know just what he was up to.

And if you were anything like us, you'd snort into your rice soup and have a good giggle at that Thai man.

The moral of this story: solid walls obscure sight lines; property lines do not. You're not invisible inside of your yard.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Snacking Club

Okay, second post of the day! If you haven't read it yet, start with the next post. It will disgust you.

Done? Good. I promise, I won't say anything about dogs in this post. I got that out of my system.

Today Erin and I went for a ride with the Chiang Mai Sunday Cycling Club. They've been going for group rides every Sunday for the last 14 years, and Erin and I thought we'd tag along to meet other cyclists.

Today's ride featured about 4o Thai cyclists and about 10 foreigners, half of whom were expats and half of whom were tourists. One of the foreigners was an English woman who had never been on a multi-day tour before when she up and decided that she'd like to ride a bike from Bangkok to Laos. We wish her luck.

It was nice to ride with other people, but they were pretty slow and they made a lot of long stops, usually for food. We met in the morning at one of the historic gates of the old city, and we made our way to an exhibition of classic bikes. One of the bikes was a 120 year-old Peugeot. The photo below is not it, however. You'll have to use your imagination.

After leaving the bike show we stopped for food, went back to the gate to pick up more riders, and rode to the edge of town, where we picked up something to munch on. Then we rode a few kilometres at about 20 km/h, which made Snakeslayer antsy, because he likes to go faster. It was a crowd of mixed abilities, riding a very mixed variety of bikes, though, and many people probably couldn't go much faster.

We stopped for a wee nibble, then we got back on the road and passed some other club members who'd pulled over for a nosh at a noodle stand; the body of the pack was sated, though, so we didn't stop there. A few kilometres further on, we stopped for a snack, and then rode another 5 km to a nice Wat (temple) on a hilltop, where they fed us abundantly and for free.

Surprisingly, more than a few of the riders in the Chiang Mai Sunday Cycling Club are quite fat. I know that this pot(belly) shouldn't be calling those little Thai kettles black, but seriously, some of those riders are really very fat. I submit that this is because they spend more time fuelling up for the bike ride than they do actually riding the bike.

Erin and I tired of the slow pace on the way home, so together with a 51 year-old dutchman riding a mountain bike with huge, knobby tires, we broke from the pack. That dutchman somehow propelled that mountain bike at 30 to 35 km/h and kept up with us quite well for the whole 20 km back to the city. He did draft behind me, but the slipstream I created covered only 2/3 of his bike and body, because he was tall and had a ridiculously upright posture on his mountain bike.

The Sunday Cycling Club is an excellent institution, which allows cyclists to connect and gets people out on the road. People were very friendly and very welcoming. Still, I don't know how enthusiastic I'd be about going with them again. The trouble with cycling in a group of 50 people is that you're always waiting for someone to finish eating. It took us 6 hours to cover 55 km, and that's including the 35 km/h burn we did for the 20-or-so km back to town. I imagine that some of the slower riders won't make it home until about 3:30 next Wednesday afternoon.

We hear that the club rides are often attended by 250 riders. It'd be fun to ride in a mob that big, but who has time to wait for all that snacking?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fear of Dogs: Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao, Return

I was too lazy to post yesterday, and now I've got to write two posts in a row because there's so much to say!

First things first: Erin and I did another overnight bike tour, this time to a town at the foot of a beautiful mountain north of here:

View Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao in a larger map

I'm afraid of only three things. I covered fish and entropy a couple of weeks ago. Now it's time to talk about my very rational, completely reasonable fear of dogs.

I know that what I'm about to say makes me a monster in the eyes of most people, but I want to say this up front: I think that the world would be a better, quieter, safer, more pleasant-smelling and more hygienic place if we rounded up every last dog and shot them and then shot them all again, just to be safe. Or better yet, we could invent some kind of gigantic food processor to do the job.

There, that's off my chest. Still reading? You think I'm a horrible man and you're just carrying on reading to see what other shocking thing I'll say so you can have the pleasure of being scandalized? Or is it because you secretly share my opinions?

I'll assume it's the latter.

Fellow dog-haters: the canine menace here is grave, particularly if you're on a bicycle. During the day, most dogs here are sleepily stupid. They can generally muster the energy and intelligence to get out of the way of motorcycles and cars, but because they can't hear cyclists coming, they assume we are nothing to be afraid of, and they'll dart out in front of us at random. In the evenings, they get a little spunkier and more territorial and they'll start barking at or even chasing bikes. One lunged at me with the clear intention of injecting rabies into my tender, unprotected ankle, from his filthy, scat-eating, dogloverface-licking noisehole.

I think we were chased about 5 times in the course of 190 km. Next time, I'm bringing bear spray. Don't think for an instant that I'm kidding. And I won't just spray the dogs who are actively chasing me; I intend to spray every dog I see as a preventative measure, including dogs that are pets, even if their owners are watching. Don't like what I did to Fido? Watch it, or you're next.

If only the Thais would eat dogs, like the Vietnamese and Chinese do. They'd clear this problem right up. Thais would probably love a capsaicin spray-soaked dog: nice and spicy. Maybe I'll start a new culinary trend by leaving pre-seasoned dogs lying helpless on roadsides across Thailand.

Apart from the dogs, we had a fantastic tour. We wound our way through rice fields and jungles, often on tiny but well-paved roads with virtually no traffic on them. It felt like the government of Thailand had built them just for us.

I am suffering from some equipment entropy, though. My tires have over 4,000 km on them and they're not doing such a good job of holding out glass anymore. I've got slow leaks in both tires now. It wasn't so bad when I just had to pump up one tire in the morning, and again halfway through a ride, but now I have to do it to both tires. It might be time to invest in some new tires before we do a longer tour.

Unfortunately, we won't be doing our long tour anytime soon. Work has reared its ugly head.

Late addition: anyone interested in the route we took can find a better map here. This map is one way only; this definitely isn't the exact route we took, and we took a different route back. Some of the minor roads north of Chiang Mai are confusing, and it's hard to tell exactly where we went. It was similar to this route, however.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cock Mystery

Erin and I just realized why we can hear so many cocks crowing in the yard of the house two doors down from our guesthouse.

You really don't need to keep a lot of roosters to keep a good backyard laying operation running. Vancouver, which recently legalized keeping hens in the city, has made it illegal to keep cocks. And with good cause. If one of my neighbours kept roosters in their back yard, then at about five o'clock one morning they'd find me, my eyes bloodshot, my shirt blood-soaked, with a bloody prostrate cock hanging out of my mouth. (And that cock would be a rooster, and there is a substantial difference between "prostrate" and "prostate", you juveniles.) I'd go weasel on their asses. Because of their wanting to avoid my psychotic rage at animals idiotically shouting nonsense at dawn being acted out, Vancouver's backyard laying operations are not self-sustaining.

Anyway, all day long we're treated to a cacophony of cocks' crows. At first, I thought it was the neighbourhood's collective breeding force serenading us, but I gradually realized that it was really only coming from one direction, from the vicinity of a couple of the smaller, ground-oriented houses.

The neighbourhood we're living in is in the old town, back away from any major streets, in a maze of little laneways. The development here is a mixture of newer, three to five story concrete buildings, and older one- and two-story buildings, many of them wood.

Below is a photo I took three minutes ago. I'm sorry it's so shitty. It really is shitty, isn't it? The sun is setting, though, so if I wait any longer, it's only going to get shittier, and I can't wait until tomorrow to write this post. Anyway, it should give you the general idea; a few taller buildings, a lot of shorter buildings, all of which are crammed very close together with very little room for any kind of agriculture, be it rows of corn, watermelon trees, or chicken farms.

Just now, not fifteen minutes ago, we heard the reason for the roosters. The cocks' crowing was joined by the jabbering of excited gents. Men were gathered around in a circle in the adjacent yard shouting excitedly. A couple of cocks were also squawking excitedly. There was a cockfight happening. We couldn't really see the action, but when it was over, we saw one of the men carrying off a bird with its neck hanging limp.

It was a backyard cockfight. The cocks are being raised to slaughter one another. So now, to add to everything, when those cocks crow, I can't just feel annoyed at them; I'm supposed to feel sorry for them. What a bunch of assholes! It's like being held up walking down the sidewalk by a guy in a wheelchair; now you're going slowly and you can't even be pissed off about it, like you would be if an able-bodied person was getting in your way.

When we first arrived in Chiang Mai, I saw a poster I thought was hilarious. It said:

(Free wi-fi)

Yes, let's all go learn about cockfighting and watch some cockfighting, and while we're there, we'll check our email -- for free!