Friday, October 21, 2005

October 19: Chiang Mai

(1) Arriving back at Charlie's Huts from the Full Moon Party at around 6:30 in the morning, I felt it was best not to climb into bed and risk missing my 10:30am flight to Chiang Mai. Instead, I gave myself a brisk, oceanic slap in the face. Basically, at this hour, it was just me and the stray dogs out there. As a general rule, dogs are better than people, so this wasn't such a bad thing. After my peaceful swim, I packed up my things, had some breakfast at Ninja Crepes, and grabbed a cab over to the Samui airport.

(2) This is definitely one of the most unique airports I have ever seen. Peppered with tropical huts, the entire facility is open to the air, sort of like it came right out of Gilligan's Islands. Bangkok Airways actually owns the airport, so they have a nice monopoly on flights in and out of the island, and everything generally goes through Thailand's capital. Therefore, fares tend to be a little more expensive than usual. My flight cost me nearly $150. What I should have done, in retrospect, was taken one flight to Bangkok, and then a less expensive flight to Chiang Mai through another airline. But, whatever... at least Bangkok Airways knows how to take care of you. Every flight, even the short ones, came with a meal, and the terminals in both the Samui and Bangkok airports offered free food and internet access. That being said, their planes are a little outdated. Anyway, flying from Samui to Bangkok to Sukhothai to Chiang Mai, my entire travel time only took about four hours.

(3) Upon arriving in Chiang Mai, Thailand's second city, I could immediately feel a new sense of ease. The north is widely known to be slower, friendlier, and less expensive than Bangkok and the southern islands, and I was pleased that I had decided to alter my rough itinerary to spend some time here. The Tha Phae Gate district, centered between old town and new town, is arguably the best place to situate yourself for exploring the area, and home to countless guest houses, restuarants, bookshops, and bars. Based on several recommendations, I directed my airport taxi to Eagle House #2, and couldn't have been happier with my choice of lodging. Clean, friendly, and full of useful information, EH2 sits right in the heart of everything. Of course, a hot shower would have been nice as I hadn't had one since Ko Lanta. You get used to it.

(4) I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the area around Tha Phae Gate, eventually finding my way over to the famous night bazaar. It's a great place to waste away several hours, and only about a twenty minute walk from where I was staying. Later that night, after eating a rather unexciting meal at a restaurant called Kafe', I strolled over to an Aussie bar and mustered up enough energy to watch the Manchester United match before finally heading back to my room... the Full Moon Party had finally caught up with me.

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