Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Elephants and happy everywhere

Posted by Hippo Bean at 4:08 PM
The Singapore Airlines flight to Seoul was relatively comfortable as the middle seat was empty. Finally saw everest and the martian, both very boring. the hour layover at Incheon actually turned out to be a nice way to stretch your legs and move around a bit. The flight to changi was delayed 2 hrs due to snow in seoul. the flight was packed, as usual. This time there was no room available at the transit hotel so i ended up in the aerotel in terminal 1. a bit more expensive but was given a room with a window and it looked a bit newer than the ambassador ones. by the time i got to sleep, it was hovering over 4am.

the short flight to bangkok was uneventful. Nai was at the airport to meet me and the ride to the hotel took about 35 mins. always memorable the first ride in a strange city. the royal princess hotel was luxurious by tourist standards. My room was on a high floor, with a balcony overlooking the pool and the view of the top of the bridge and grand palace. not bad for a start. but admiring the view from the balcony proved to be too hot and humid.

The following morning was the first day of deet. just a thin layer to cover all exposed skin. dengue fever mosquitoes bite during the day in the urban areas, so just a precaution. We took the local bus and walked a few blocks to the wat pho temple with the reclining Buddha, my first exposure of buddhist temple. as the hippo was easily impressed and always the first encounter was the most impressionable, the temple's buildings, paintings, stupas and statues stunned me . Did the coin thing, of course, at the reclining Buddha, and ran out of coins before the end of the bowls. What does this mean? after a break for thai ice tea, we visited the grand palace, fighting and dodging tourists. The place was big, with many beautiful temples, buildings, status, shrines and stupas. There's a grand model of angkor wat in the palace because, i was told, if you cant go to angkor wat, angkor wat will come to you. didnt even care to enter the emerald buddha temple. it's not very big and by then I was tired of taking off/putting back on my shoes. it was suffocating hot and humid and I was drenched in sweat. had enough temples and buddha statues for the day.

After a lunch of pad thai, we boarded long tail boats for a ride in the canals. didnt know bangkok was an island, surrounded by canals. the ride was at times choppy and when another boat came by from the opposite direction, it felt like we were going to crash. but the wind provided temporary relief from the oppressing heat. The views were of wooden shacks on stilts on the edge of the water. some are grander than others, all very poor. when back on firm ground, while some wanted to go for a walk, some of us, hippo included, just jumped into the first taxi with ac and back to the comfort, dry and cool hotel.


Morning flight to chiang rai with thai air. their orange outfits were very attractive. stepped out of the airport and the air up here was significantly cooler. First stop was the golden triangle with myanmar (burma) on the left and laos on the right, where the mekong met the ruak river. this place was nothing but a tourist trap. the view of myanmar was nothing and a casino on the laotian side. up the stairs there was a ruined temple which was more interesting. lunch was by the mekong and then up the road to visit the opium museum. not very interesting for the hippo except on one wall, it had drawings of opium pipe designs. the rest was all text telling stories of the opium trade and a big collection of pipes. so the hippo went shopping instead. the row of shops lined the busy asphalt street. all shops had the exact same merchandise and all designs were elephants. elephants everywhere in Thailand. one particular elephant design was unique so I bought a tshirt for saffy. across the street there was a huge buddha shrine. was told once upon a time there was a temple there but the buddha statue 'drowned' in the river, so they made another one. Hm ... Also visited the Wat Chedi Luang temple with an old red brick chedi and we each sounded the gong. they're building a brand new temple building. other than that, not very interesting.

an hour later we arrived at our hotel in chiang khong. The hotel sign said 'happy hotel'. It's happy everywhere here in Thailand. They even called the restrooms, the happy room. the 'happy' hotel was a beautiful serene place with a few rows of bungalows, each with 4 or 5 small but well appointed rooms with balconies. Trees and flowers everywhere and an open air restaurant. situated literally next to the mekong, we could see laos on the other side of the river bank. the gorgeous infinity pool gave you the impression of the clear water dropping into the murky river. really liked this place. went for a short walk along the narrow 1 street village and it reminded me of the back streets in HK. just as the sun dipped below the horizon, the temperature plunged and the evening became cold. I had to double the duvet that night. Strange how it was hot during the day and very cold at night.

Breakfast the following morning was in an open air breakfast room. It was freezing. All attendants wore stuffed jackets. But noodle soup and rice porridge were available to order and the sunrise glorious.

Even it was cold, I did like and enjoy this hotel a lot. The setting next to the river and ambience were perfect, the pool gorgeous and view spectacular.

After breakfast (sorry to say goodbye to this place), we rode a bit to the border and entered Laos at Xuay Xai and boarded our longboat for a float on the mekong.


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