Thursday mid-day we flew up to Chiang Mai, taking One-Two-Go Airlines – the domestic arm of Orient Thai. Traveling in the middle of the day is quite nice as there isn’t any pressure to wake up too early and rush to the airport. And since the flight is only an hour long, we arrive at a reasonable time, too.
On the way into the airport I saw the Airbus A380, the world’s largest (and, yet, still not in service) passenger aircraft which was in town for several days as part of a proving run. It really doesn’t look that impressive, especially when parked at the far end of the apron near the humongous THAI Airways hangar. Physically, the plane has the same general footprint of the Boeing 747 with only slightly wider wings. The big difference is that the entire aircraft has a double deck instead of the partial double deck in the 747.
In fact, from a distance and without anything around it for size comparison, I think the A380 has the same general shape as a 737! (Opportunity for a.netters reading this blog to disagree.)
The flight up on One-Two-Go was fun. Mom and Dad had wandered off before boarding and were not on the same bus out to the airplane as the rest of us. As we were seated on the plane a second bus arrived, which they were not on. We began to worry and I told a flight attendant that we were still short two people and he assured me that they had one more bus and wouldn’t be left behind. Sure enough, a few minutes before departure a group of stragglers arrived including my parents.
Left: During the safety demonstration, my mother dutifully followed along in the safety card. Right: Sandy is a good traveler; Dick is not.
Our tour guide, Arm, picked us up at the airport and transferred us to the hotel, Baan Kaew Guesthouse (left). Ironically it is located directly across the road from the riverfront resort hotel, The Chedi, where Tod and Darrin stayed two weeks ago. We went for the less expensive option, though, at only 700 baht a night.
The guesthouse is really pretty, though, with nice gardens and veranda areas to sit and relax in the shade. Chiang Mai is very nice this time of year. Daytime highs are still warm, in the 32-35 C range (86-94 F) but with less humidity than Khrungthep. The real difference is at night when temperatures drop down to about 20 C (65 F) which makes it really pleasant and maybe even a tad chilly!
We had several hours of down time in which to relax. I’ve discovered, especially having older travelers, that it is okay not to have activities scheduled for every minute of the day. Time to just relax is an important part of making the trip enjoyable.
About six o’clock Arm showed up and a few minutes later so did our evening’s transportation, a song taew. These are little pickup trucks that operate as taxis, with a covered back and two rows (literally, song taew) of benches in the back. This was a pretty wild way to ride! Below: Outside and inside views of the song taew.
Our destination was the Sountaree Restaurant, a riverside location specializing in Northern Thai food. It was founded by a woman who was a very famous singer about twenty years ago. Live music is performed each night and often she sings.
We were not fortunate enough to hear her but the music was nice nonetheless, an interesting mix of English-language songs that traced from the Gypsy Kings back to 1960s folk music, making my aunt particularly nostalgic.
When they sang, “Puff the Magic Dragon,” it was… incongruous.
Dinner was followed by a surprise birthday cake for Jackson, as it was his birthday that day. He had been wandering around taking pictures when the cake arrived so we had to douse the candles and relight them when he came back. I think the surprise worked.
I’ll write more in the next few days about Northern Thai food. This is different from the Issan (Northeastern Thai) food that you may be familiar with – green papaya salad, etc.
After dinner we took the song taew back to the guesthouse. On the way back we spotted this immaculate old Volkswagen Beetle, driven by a young man and the girl he was trying to impress. When we came to a stop in the traffic, Dick took a picture and everyone gave the drive a big thumbs up. He looked a little embarrassed.
Jackson and I went out for massages; there are no shortage of massage parlours to choose from although Arm cautions that most of the masseurs are not licensed so you run the risk of injury when getting a Thai-style massage. Despite this, the massage I received was quite good, sort of like doing yoga but having someone else do all the work for you.