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January 28, 2005

From Tokyo to Chiang Dao Nest

The plane ride from Tokyo to Bangkok was literally painful. It's not that my fears of flying got the best of me. As I described before, modern medicine has helped quell my nervous tension. Instead, our American Airlines "code share" flight put us on a Japan Airlines 747 with seats so small I though I was choking.

For once, I cursed my size. Not my weight. Certainly not my height. But my broad shoulders and wide hips made the entire flight uncomfortable. I sat in a seat made for people much smaller than me, and no matter how much I squinched or squirmed I could not help but brush up against the guy sitting next to me.

At some point during the flight, he picked up his stuff and moved to row further back in the plane. This was quite okay with Shaunna and I. We lifted the arm rests and made a little nest for our 8 hour flight over the western Pacific.

By this time, we were spent. Our sense of time was shot. We were awake for too many hours. The small seats and stagnant air (no handy vents or fans) made the entire trip really unpleasant. I drifted between a lucid state of consciousness and dead-ass sleep. I know I was snoring. although Shaunna says she didn't hear it (she had earplugs in).

We arrived in Bangkok at 11:30pm Thai time (about 11 hours AHEAD of Austin time - it's 9pm here right now, it's 8am yesterday in Austin). The first thing you notice when you leave the plane is the humidity. It immediately consumes you like a warm haze. We quickly passed through customs and then sat in a cafe for nearly an hour while our hotel shuttle arrived. Sitting in the cafe I noticed a mosquito buzzing around my arm. When it landed I mistook it for a medium-sized wolf spider. These suckers are huge! Even in the AC, even while walking, the "mozzies" (as they call them here) are hovering close by.

Finally, we caught our bus to the hotel and quickly hit the hay. We awoke at 7am, stepped out to our patio and inhaled the early morning smog. Bangkok is like many other major cities. It is dirty, noisy, and very hectic. The view from our patio overlooked a set of unpleasant warehouses and industrial work zones. We packed up, headed down for breakfast (which was damn good!) and then caught the first shuttle back to the airport for a flight to Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is heavenly. I've read so many descriptions of the city, and none of them do it any justice. First, there are environmental laws that prevent skyscrapers from being built. Second, the entire city is designed to preserve the old feel of the original city. As we drove through the city in a songthaew (pronounced: SONG TAO), I marveled in the design and style of the buildings around. The mountains hug the city on all sides, and the air (although smoggy) is relatively fresh and cool.

We made our way north for almost two hours in the back of the songthaew, which is a truck with two rows of seats in the back. This is a terrific way to see the countryside and get around. We passed through tropical little towns, small streets, and major highways. The entire time we pointed out fancy looking temples and fabulous looking trees. The boganvilla (I think that's how it spelled) is so amazing. I've seen pink and violet varieties before, but in Chiang Mai they are orange, yellow, white.... even blood red. The entire area is awash in flowers and exotic trees.

Let me take a second to say that Shaunna and I have also spent a great deal of time in awe of the beautiful people. Thai are so unique. Every ethnic group on Earth has specific features that set them apart. You can't look at an Irish or Italian without pointing out similar characteristics in their groups. In the case of Thai people, they look like a stunning blend between Chinese, Indian and Muslim Arab. The women are so hot and sexy, I can't describe it. We would see a young Thai walking down the street and both take a second to gawk. Even the men are pretty. It's very, very odd.

Another unique quality are the smiles. Thailand is the "Land of Smiles". Now I know why. Their smiles are so lovely and their humor is infectious. A Thai boy could be robbing you blind, but with one smile you'd think he was giving you gifts. These people are really beautiful in every sense of the word.

Anyhow, we arrived at Chiang Dao Nest feeling worn out, hungry and confused. We hadn't slept decently in days, and the bumpy ride in the back of truck (with us in awe) really zapped the energy out of us. The vibe here was super laid back. Our arrival was met with a smile and an invite to sit down, drink a beer and start relaxing.

Chiang Dao Nest is a family owned operation that is run by an Englishman and his Western-trained Thai chef wife, Wiccha. The place is small but very well-designed. The bungalows circle a main social area, and all around are mountains and lush forests. It is quiet. There are no loud noises or music (thank god). A variety of well-built huts are located in various places surrounded by gardens, hanging orchids, and large bamboo trees.

The main goal here is to relax. We have. I laid around all afternoon and read my book on Zen while slugging down Beer Chang (4 of them). The wind drifted through the bamboo, birds chirped, and exotic animals barked in the distance. It was heavenly.

For lunch I sampled some local Thai food called "Kapow" which was spicy as hell. For dinner I started with a spicy duck liver pate' followed by salmon, steamed veggies, and a creme brule... all washed down with an ice cold beer. This is definitely the life. We will have more of the same tomorrow as we continue to relax and get over our jet lag.

Posted by coywest on January 28, 2005 09:13 PM
Category: Stumbling

Glad you made it safely. Sounds like a really relaxing place to be. ENJOY!!!!

Posted by: MOM on January 29, 2005 08:16 AM

hard to believe that air japan had seats that were made for small people. glad that you made it there safely and are now being robbed by beautifully smiling thieves.

Posted by: bobby-jo on January 29, 2005 08:26 AM

Enjoying your travel log and look forward to future posts. Great writing.

Posted by: Mitch & Louise on January 29, 2005 09:40 AM

I thought that flying on a foreign carrier would of been more exotic then painful. Looking forward to hearing (and maybe seeing pics) about the Chiang Mai Flower Festival... enjoy yourselves!

Posted by: Sean on January 29, 2005 09:10 PM

So glad to hear it's living up to expectations. Can't wait to see the pictuers!

Posted by: Dawn T on January 29, 2005 09:33 PM

may you be stretched, massaged, decompressed, and smiled upon by an entire flock of beautiful thai people with orchids in their hair..... it sounds like you are in paradise.... love!

Posted by: misty on January 30, 2005 01:25 AM
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