After a long night, a long day awaited me. I had a flight to Bangkok with Air Asia at 10:45, which was pretty comfortable (even though my little knees were by my ear lobes for the whole flight), then a 2 hour wait at immigration(dull!) before running to the Air Asia travel desk and booking my next flight to Chiang Mai. A CRAZY price for a flight but at least it meant that I would get to see Poppy by 5:30pm, which couldn't come too soon.
Just waiting in Bangkok airport for a couple of hours already seemed to engrain a very vivid image of what Thailand was all about. At first, and most obviously, were the fat, sweaty old men, probably rolling in money ,who walked into the arrivals lounge to find some of the most beautiful, young women I have ever seen, waiting for them with arms outstretched and an abundance of kisses. God only knows what the thought processes are there and how the women can overlook the obvious for a little pampering and a ticket out of the country.
Next were the posters plastered on every wall 'The City of Smiles' - never a truer word written. I don't think I have ever been in such a happy airport. Everyone was so helpful and kind and smiley. It obviously started to rub off after a bit. That was until they all started to bow to me. Well, not just me, everyone. They bow to say hello, thank you, your welcome, good bye, sorry. I had no idea what to do in return. I kept nodding my head in their general direction and hoped it would do the trick, which seemed to work, but I don't know if I am just looking like a bit of a clueless t*** or not.
Either way, the bowing didn't offend anyone and I managed to make it all the way to Chiang Mai International airport. As I walk through arrivals there was a happy Thai gentleman holding up my name (LAMINATED) waiting for me. No hostel in Aus ever did that. So once again I must have looked like a bit of a tool as I bounded towards him, beaming and shouting 'Hello! That's me! Hello!'After much bowing he took and my bags to his minivan and whisked me off the 'Empress Hotel'.
What a hotel. I had never seen anything like it. A grand entrance with wooden elephants on either said of the door, a door man to welcome me in, a HUGE flower arrangement (all fresh flowers) in the centre of an enormous atrium. An incredible wooden staircase off to one side and on the other a little seating ahead with ornate wooden Thai chairs decorated in gold leaf. It was incredible. Amongst all of this was Poppy. Amazing. It oddly felt as though I had arrived home, even though I had never been there before.
All checked in and then to the bedroom. Enormous, great views, en suite, and a mini bar waiting for me to indulge in. I honestly thought I had arrived in paradise and the previous night on a cold Hong Kong marble floor seemed like an eternity ago.
After a catch up, we decided to head down the road for a bit of dinner. Once we manoeuvred our way around the brothel at the end of the road, we found a wonderful family owned Thai restaurant.The owner, a very kind and happy looking Thai gentleman showed us up to a wooden balcony which we had all to ourselves and invited us to indulge in our first culinary Thai experience. Pops and I ordered everything we thought was most Thai (including the two main Thai beers - Chang and Singh) and we asked for everything to be 'Thai spicy' - in other words spicy enough to burn off all your taste buds. Green Thai curries, Red Thai Curries rice in the shape of a teddy bear, spring rolls, Tom Yam Kung and pumpkin in coconut milk for dessert followed by the obvious Thai tea and coffee. All cooked to perfection and the best food I had had in a REALLY long time. As we sat there awaiting the arrival of our bill we tried some mental arithmetic and decided that it would come to around 500baht each - £10 each. How wrong we were. The WHOLE bill came to 320baht. That is about £3 each. I almost walked back in to do it all again!
Our short walk home (once again avoiding the lady boys in their pink palace) was cool and breezy and before we knew it were all curled up in the our beds (which had been opened for us and decorated with flowers!) Two full girls smiling as they dream about the start of their incredible adventure.