It probably seems fairly hypocritical to follow up my last post with an entry about having a great time in Chiang Mai. Thankfully, I’m more than happy to be a massive hypocrite when it suits me, so that’s the end of that one.
After a few chilled out days of sobriety and doing generally next to nothing, I decided it was time to be productive. Now, your idea of productive may differ from mine, but it was a Sunday so I decided to head down to a local pub, watch the Grand Prix, a load of football and generally treat myself to a “man day”. Watching the Chinese Grand Prix, in an English pub in Thailand: now that’s what I call multicultural!
The day started off well as Lewis Hamilton claimed his third victory in a row. However by this point I’d had a few beers and shamefully did something I honestly cannot stand people doing.
As he passed the chequered flag to win the race, I found myself clapping at the TV. I’d had a few beers by this point, but I was still pretty disappointed in myself. I remembered all the times I’ve shook my head at people who clap substitutions when they’re sat in the pub or, even worse, scream abuse at the people on TV. As I said, thankfully I don’t mind being a hypocrite.
It was around this point that a group of English football supporters arrived in the bar wearing a shirt I didn’t recognise. I got talking to Kevin, the owner of the bar, who told me they were the Phuket expat supporters club and they were in town for their match against Chiang Mai FC. Kevin then told me that he was a season ticket holder at Chiang Mai and might have a spare seat in the car if I fancied it.
Naturally I jumped at the chance. I’ve not seen a live game of footy for over two months and, quite frankly, it was killing me. How anyone can possibly be an armchair fan is beyond me, but that’s another discussion for another day.
This was followed by a bargaining war between the two sets of fans for my allegiance. The fact that the Phuket supporters club were called “The Mushy Peas” appealed to the northerner in me, but ultimately Kevin’s offer of a lift tied my hands a little: Chiang Mai FC it was!
As an aside but on the topic of mushy peas; after talking to a number of southerners on my travels I have since discovered that mushy peas (and many other things that go with fish and chips) aren’t sold in their chippies. They find the very concept completely alien. I’m not sure what world it is they live in, but I certainly don’t want to be a part of it.
Anyway, back to the football. We arrived at the rather impressive 700th Anniversary Stadium and Kevin told me and my fellow newly converted Chiang Mai fans to go to the ticket window and ask for the VIP tickets. I started to think about how I’m not made of money, and then the woman asked me to hand over 120 baht – about £3. You can’t even get a pint for that at most football grounds back home! This was followed by the purchase of a Chiang Mai FC shirt for 480 baht – less than a tenner!
One of my rituals at the footy tends to be to get a pie and a Bovril before kick off (how very northern) but, as you can imagine, these are both rather hard to come by in South East Asia. Thankfully, I’m always one to embrace the local culture and settled for some deep fried squid and a beer. I’m not sure how much I agree with drinking beer through a straw or putting ice in it, but what can you do? It’s a tough life.
Chiang Mai ran out 2-1 winners which I’m led to believe was something of an upset. It was quite tough to gauge the standard of football in what is essentially the Thai equivalent of The Championship, but Kevin said it’s probably a similar standard to League One. I reckon Rochdale could have given both teams a match though!
One thing that was obvious, however, was the Western influence on some of the players. This was displayed best by the Chiang Mai number 8, who spent more time whining on the floor than he did with the ball at his feet!
We left the stadium with the three points in the bag and headed back to the Red Lion to catch the Arsenal v Hull and Everton v Man Utd games. I was confronted by the Phuket fans, who claimed I was a turncoat and that Kevin had bribed me with a lift. Probably a fair point, but I took great pleasure in rubbing in my newly chosen team’s victory. All in the name of fun, of course.
All in all, a successful man day was had. It wasn’t even until a few days later that I noticed that watching a game of football as a neutral in a foreign country was on my bucket list. I also realised I’ve ticked off a few items along the way without knowing. As they say in football though: they all count!
Chiang Mai til I die!