Monday morning, faced with a sleepy Oliver (and thus sleepy selves), we slept later than usual, therein making the prospect of bus travel (10 hours) from Bangkok to Chiang Mai seem an insurmountable obstacle. So we plucked ourselves out to the airport and tried to book passage on Thai Airways instead.
As it turned out, this was harder than we imagined it would be, as the flights for Monday were all full and we had to fly standby. We were initially on the list for the 11:15 a.m. flight, but it flew full. Next was 12:15, but that was full too. Finally we got seats on the 1:15 p.m. flight, which required miltary-style precision to coordinate: get notification of our seats from the standby desk, take stamped chit across the terminal to the ticket office to buy tickets, come back to the standby desk to check our luggage and get boarding passes, then make our way to the gate. All in the 15 minutes remaining before the flight. But we did it.
It was during the run up to the 12:15 flight that we encountered Valerie Pringle, perky (her universal TV adjective) former co-host of Canada AM on television. From the look of her entourage, she’s in Thailand on some sort of assignment — camera gear and burly looking soundman types abounded. And on this day she didn’t make me proud to be Canadian. There we were all gathered at the standby desk — probably about 12 stressed out people waiting to see if our names would be called — and Valerie Pringle is hassling the clerk about how she can get her Aeroplan miles for the flight to Chiang Mai credited to her account. She made it be known that she is an Aeroplan Super-Elite member, and pulled out her special gold pass as proof. The level-headed clerk quite properly suggested that there might have been a better time to worry about such things, which appeared to result in considerable exasperation in Ms. Pringle. Later she and Catherine were standing side by each, and she moaned something about how “they need to get a better system than this.” All in all, she came across like a jerky prima dona.
Which stands in contrast to our day to day experiences in Thailand where people seem, if not efficient (although often they are) at least completely unflappable, and always in good humour. The Oliver love-fest continues: Oliver has now had conversations (so to speak) with police officers, security guards, monks, flight attendants, the boy who manned the shoe booth at our shoeless restaurant and countless others. Tonight I am out on the town by myself while Catherine and Oliver sleep, and I’m irked to find that without Oliver in front of me in a stroller, people’s eye’s no longer light up when I enter a room. Sigh.
The flight to Chiang Mai was uneventful. Thai Airways service is about 300% better than Air Canada’s on a comparable short-haul flight (i.e. they’re nice, and they actually still serve food). I was sitting beside an orange-robed young monk and was somewhat concerned that I might commit some religious faux pax (i.e. point my fork at him, or not point my fork at him, or something…) but I seemed to do okay. Catherine and Oliver were seated across the way and Oliver slept for the entire flight.
We’re staying here in Chiang Mai at the Galare Guest House which was recommended by a friend of my mother’s. It’s very plesant — a nice garden, on the river, decent restaurant, friendly and helpful staff. Chiang Mai is plesantly cooler than Bangkok, at least in the morning; afternoons get quite hot. Our Tuesday was spent eating lunch in a Chinese shophouse cum art gallery cum restaurant, then travelling my pickup truck taxi to a park/children’s playground where we rented a mat and sat beside a fetid pond for 1/2 hour in the shade of palm trees. Later we visited the largest temple in town, and had iced cappucino’s at a place called Cafe Chic.
Tomorrow we’re off to explore the wonders of the so-called “home industries” — silver, silk and other factories with demonstrations and factory shops.
I’m off to the Night Market tonight to see what I can see, a briefly single guy in a steamy equitorial paradise. Oh the possibilities.