Fang, northern Thailand, Friday 9-3-73
The day after writing my last letter, I collected two from you at the Aust embassy. These were received with thanksgiving.
On Monday morning we were up well before dawn (didn't know I had it in me!) and took a trip along the canals of Bangkok in a thin sliver of a speedboat to see the floating market, the royal barges etc. The river-life was most interesting (better than anything else in B.), especially the saffron-robed monks calmly paddling along and unselfconsciously collecting their day's rations from the faithful of the flock. You would have to be faithful not to resent keeping those fellows alive just to mumble a few prayers and collect money. I suppose the children of Israel had the same thing with the Levites.
Postage is expensive in this country. I really have been quite exceptionally diligent since leaving: 12 letters and 18 postcards thus far. I thought if I got it over early, everyone will have forgotten I existed by next month and I will be absolved of all responsibility in this regard.
On Tuesday I packed up my traps (again before dawn) and set out to the Bridge on the River Kwai which I found of interest, though the current bridge is not the original. Then on to Nakhon Pathom to see a 115-metre pagoda (the largest in the country), and back to horrible Bangkok for the night, where I languished amid the heat and the mosquitoes in a room exorbitantly priced at Baht 30.
On Wednesday I travelled to Ayutthaya (a former capital) and viewed some old ruins they've recovered from the jungle, then took a night train on to Chiang Mai (sitting up second class, of course). I suddenly found I'd lost my steam for sightseeing, but perhaps I just hadn't been getting enough sleep. I slept that night on a mat on the ground under the YMCA for Baht 5, in conditions you sybarites just couldn't hope to understand! Oddly enough, there was a peripatetic sexagenarian there too! (V. unusual.) Today I came by bus to Fang near the Burmese border in the extreme north where I'm sitting on the steps of the P.O.
Tomorrow a few of us plan to hike up to spend a day and a night with a primitive hill-tribe, then down a tributary of the Mekong River to Chiang Rai and bus back to Bangkok, whence I'm booked to fly to Rangoon on Tues 13/3.
Better go and eat. Staple diet is kao pat (fried rice - pronounced "cow pat" but doesn't taste any the worse for that!) and Pepsi Cola! (Total Baht 7 = c. 35c. U.S.) Best wishes et hoc genus omne. J.