6am - Awoke with a wake up call from reception. Lee regrets not brushing teeth after pre-bed Oreo snack. Shower and finish packing.
6:35am - Walk to free (or included) breakfast. Yoghurt, pineapple, meusli, toast for Lee; rice and pineapple for Sachi.
6:50am - Pay final bill at checkout. An extra night plus 2 lunches and a couple of minibar indiscretions = about US$100. Karon Beach Resort was a bit of a splurge.
6:55am - Go outside assuming we would see taxis or car-like tuk-tuks. None are found, feel at-risk for missing flight. Go back to hotel reception, she calls their driver- he cannot come for 20 mins- not enough time (he says) to make our flight. Bell boy takes off on motorcycle to track down taxi (earns nice tip).
7:03am - Aging Alpha Romeo taxi appears. We climb in and find that we could have saved money by using the hotel minivan. Feel regret for not accepting the hotel's offer yesterday.
7:52am - Arrive at airport, check in, buy Rough Guide to SE Asia.
8:25am - Board bus to plane and wait for 20 minutes on stationary bus. Travel approximately 150 meters to plane. Laugh with other passengers about the ridiculously short bus trip.
8:50am - Board plane to Bangkok.
10:28am - Arrive Bagkok, recheck in for Air Asia flight to Chiang Mai. Find infinite amusement is witnessing a women scurry rapidly from her family to ensure a place in line in front of us- for a flight leaving in 2 hours.
11:22am - while waiting for flight, try to connect to airport wireless internet. Costs US$7 per hour. No way - too much. Domestic terminal lunch options are: Burger King, Smoking Pub, Black Canyon Coffee and Dairy Queen. We have Whoppers.
1:05pm - Discover that flight is delayed 1 hour. Meet Sonja, who just graduated high school and has lived in Chang Mai for 5 years.
2:10pm - Board flight to Chang Mai on low-cost Air Asia (US$38PP). Feel pressure to compete for unassigned seats. Share our row with Sonja, who is 1/2 Iranian and 1/2 white American and has lived in Atlanta, Swaziland, Cambodia and Thailand. Really cool to talk to Sonja. She recommends the Amora Hotel and even has a business card.
3:55pm Arrive at aging but nice Amora hotel, reserve 5 nights for about US$40 per night, breakfast included.. Great location. Relax and plan.
5:05pm - Walk blindly into Chiang Mai streets, quickly discover a neighborhood full of uninteresting house fixtures. Find better street, eat at Noi's Kitchen, buy book on Pol Pot. Return to hotel.
6:09pm - Lee is awed to see this text scroll across the TV screen on BBC World News: "Microsoft blogger who made the software giant more human is leaving to join a technology startup". Scoble made the BBC World ticker? Wow.
7:12pm - Sachi dissects our toiletries bag and finds 31 miniature toothpaste bottles from Japanese hotels (pictured above). We realize a great travel tip: If you have more than one of something, use it up completely before opening the next. Otherwise you carry mutiples forever (like both of Lee's half-full mini shaving cream bottles).
8:05pm - Head out to the THC Rooftop Bar, cool hippy atomsphere and uncool unhippy staff- no smiles at all. Have dinner for 3 dollars (panang curry beef, oyster sauce beef and pineapple shake).
9:55pm - Return to hotel to settle in watching US play Czechs in world cup, feeling good about Chaing Mai.
11:59pm - Feel disappointment for USA's poor showing. Sad to see so much ball possession, so little goal scoring.
I think we overdosed on the Internet access in Japan, as we always had a connection in our room. I could revert to my habitual surfing. Once we landed in Thailand, I had an Internet hangover and I haven't shared pictures in a while, so this is a chance to catch up a bit.
It's rather strange to return to a place like Thailand or Phuket. My camera doesn't seem to be drawn to the same things. The world is not uniquely new to me, like it is for the first visit. Nevertheless, it is still a wonderful place to be.
We spent a few days in Bangkok, at our old home at the Asia Hotel. If anyone wants to see some Thai quirk, go there any night for dinner (MRT Stop: Ratchatewi). The Elvis impersonator is there nightly and is fun to watch.
You can see from the sweat the he's working hard. Speaking of sweat, the traffic police must have the hottest job in Bangkok, complete with face mask:
Even the dogs can hardly stay awake.
Next was Phuket, where we met Kris and Robert (and tried to get certified for diving). We went to a Thai boxing match with them and here is Robert with "the champ", who is actually only there for pictures.
Since Phuket doesn't really do it for us, we decided to replace the days that I would have been learning to dive with a few days on Phi Phi Island (Known for beautiful scenery, the movie "The Beach" and tsunami devastation). Kris and Robert are hopefully going to come meet us here after Kris is certified. We really hope they do, as Phi Phi is another world compared to Phuket.
Being a secluded island, we thought Phi Phi might be too expensive, too crowded and not what we want, but we've found it to be very cool and a good value. It has the laid-back island vibe and it is an amazingly beautiful place.
I plan to write more about the tsunami's effect on Phi Phi soon. It really seems that the island has fully recovered. In fact, this little guy makes me wonder if tiny aliens have not invaded recently.
This is a shot of the area around the place we stayed at the southern end of Phuket, called Ao Nai Han. We've moved on to Railay Beach now and it's great, but we miss Baan Krating already.
Our friend Tanya Mau, who has spent a lot of time in Thailand, contacted us recently in email and said this "YOU MUST TRY AND VISIT THE SONGKRAN FESTIVAL (water festival for the Thai New Year) this week." So we were sure to heed her advice.
So, we struck out on the scooter yesterday not knowing what to expect. Within about 2 minutes of leaving the resort, we were both completely soaked, head to toe, including the scooter.
Songkran Day is the Thai New Years celebration that has roots in using water as a symbol of cleansing for the new year. From our prespective, Songkran is the National Water Fight Day. All along every road, there are people waiting with huge tubs of water, ready to drench anyone who comes by. This makes the normal 40kph road a wet, splashing and noisy parking lot that is more like a party than a road.
It makes for an incredibly fun day and a chance to interact with the locals who love nothing more than to drench a Farang (white foreigner). Some approaching vehicles would see us and rally the troops to cries of "FARANG! FARANG! FARANG!" We were targets, willingly. Everyone, young, old, male, female, got into the action and no one was spared. All in good clean fun.
Of course, we had our own defense...
And I sprang to action when the time came...
But found that we were slightly over-powered...
I've got to hand it to some of the Songkran innovators, who get giant blocks of ice and put them into the water barrels, making ice cold water that is a startling surprise. We're both thankful to have been a part of the celebration- and that we have a Pentax Option WP- a waterproof camera- without which these pictures would not be possible.