Thursday 17 August, cloudy / showers, 29°
Another early alarm this morning as we had arranged a taxi to take us to a bridge on the west side of town that is near the Chanthaya Monastery. When we booked the taxi we had to show the staff at reception where it was ( they had never been there before ), and even the taxi driver didn't know where he was going. Anyway after a short drive we found ourselves standing on a teak bridge over a lake / canal ( the Thinga Yarsar Canal ) watching the sun struggle through the clouds. At 6am we decided that the light wasn't going to get any better so we headed back to the hotel ( the taxi drive took us there and back, and waited for us for an hour, and charged Ky15,000 ( NZ$15 ) ).
We relaxed in the room for a bit then went downstairs for breakfast ( the hotel normally has a rooftop restaurant but it was currently being remodelled, in the off season, so was out of action ). After breakfast we packed up our stuff again.
I went for a walk around the streets of Mandalay, heading west from the moat into some of the market streets where all the action was happening.
I got back to the hotel about 10am and we caught up on some admin ( these blog posts take time you know ) and editing photos. We checked out of our room at 11:45am, and went out for a walk to get some lunch at the bakery in the mall around the corner. We headed back to the hotel again at 1:30pm, and sat in the lobby and waited for our airport taxi to arrive at 2:30pm ( Ky12,000 ). We sped down the expressway this time and arrived at the very cool looking airport at 3:30pm
We had to sit in the waiting area for our check in to open ( we couldn't get into the check in area until our flight was open ) and then we went through the scanners to the check in desk. We checked in with Bangkok Airways and she informed us that we had access to a complementary cafe to use while we waited for our plane to board. We then headed through immigration and went airside to the low key shops through there ( mainly souvenir shops ). Liz bought a small laquerware owl ( a speciality of the Mandalay area ) and then realised there was no place to change money ( we had about Ky35,000 left ), and you could not change the money outside the country.
We found the Bangkok Airways cafe which had free food and drinks for us, and wifi of course. While we waited a few other people came in and enjoyed the free cafe, then the lady that checked us in came to use with a change in our seat numbers ( we were originally 2A and 2B, and we had been moved to 17A and 17B ). I made the comment that the only reason they would move us would be to spread the weight out on the plane, and that probably meant an empty flight.
At 5:00 they told us to start boarding, the flight wasn't due to leave until 5:55pm. So we headed to the gate and then down onto the bus to take us to the plane. Once we had 20 people on board the bus toured the tarmac to our plane and we got on board. As soon as we were all on the pilot fired up the engines and our 5:55pm flight left at 5:30pm. I don't think I have ever been on a plane that left early. It was a bit of a bumpy flight as we skirted a few thunderstorms and we landed in Chiang Mai at 7:00pm local time ( 1/2 ahead of Myanmar ), so a short 1 hour flight.
We got through immigration etc pretty quick as the airport was nearly empty,
We grabbed a taxi van to our hotel ( B300 ( NZ$12 )) and arrived at Mandala House at 7:45pm ( B3451 (NZ$135 for 3 nights, with a pool, a/c, wifi and breakfast ) and got into our big fancy looking room on the top floor, with a balcony and a view over Chiang Mai.
We needed supplies so we went for quick walk to have a look around the area, headed down Loh Kroh Rd to the '7 Eleven', then walked around past restaurants, bars and lots of clubs with 'girls' sitting outside waiting for lonely men to come in. Certainly a much more civilised area than Mandalay, and even Bangkok. It felt nice. Anyway back to the hotel and rested.
Tomorrow is a day for planning the next few days travel and adventures, and may involve a plan to see Elephants.
I will finish this blog with an observation about my observation on SE Asia so far, by using our room at the Mandala House as a metaphor for the Asian way. Again I am not criticising, just making an observation.
When we walked into the room we went "wow, this is cool', a big high ceiling room on the top floor with a balcony and a view. But immediately there was a problem with the lights as it appeared a bulb had blown. No problem the receptionist sent up the maintenance guy with a spare bulb. All fixed; but 2 other lights weren't working either ( these were in the middle of the room so the room was quite dark without them, they are the hanging ones in the photos ), when I pointed to these other lights the maintenance man shrugged and indicated that they never worked and didn't attempt to look at them. OK, fine. When I went to plug my travel adapter into a socket next to the table and chairs to fire up the laptop there was no power to them, and not another socket nearby. The lock on the slider out to the balcony didn't work, so we couldn't lock this door properly, and our balcony connected to another rooms balcony. The shower over the bath was designed in such a way that when you ran it water went all over the floor because there was no curtain, and there was a nice flat surround around the bath to act as a pond. And the bedside lamp could only be turned off by unplugging it.
This is how SE Asia seems to be; even the things that look good and fancy, were probably done on a Friday afternoon and don't work properly, and if they did work properly once they probably haven't been maintained to keep them working properly.
It isn't a big issue to me, it is all part of the charm of the place, but I do find it amusing, and seems to represent the psyche of the people, and shows the things that they think are important. And it is not the material things that we think are important. They are probably right.