Sunday, January 24, 2010

Off to Chaing Mai

O.K. O.K. Wake up, pack up, grab a taxi to the airport. Who needs the bus, I say? Sure a few people refused to pick me up because they didn't want to drive out to the airport on the meter (they could more easily scam tourists this way) but eventually someone let me in.

We jumped on the highway – 70B toll extra – and zipped along at 130 kilometers an hour passing everyone we came across. Sure it cost a bit more than last time, but the ride was twenty minutes instead of nearly an hour. So – you know – it's all good.

At the airport, I checked in, and discovered the Thai lounge was for business and first class only. Sigh. But that was fine, with head phones, I could plug into the wall and watch some more Spider-Man. You know, now that I can consume media again, I wonder if I'll ever catch up on my reading? And I quite like my book too.

Up in the air things happened fast. These intercontinental flights in relatively small countries are somewhat silly. Just as you reach your cruising elevation and have a little box of food on your tray table in front of you the message is played to return your tray table to its locked position, as you're beginning to descend.

On the ground I watched as the bags were thrown from the trolley to the baggage belt, and wondered, wouldn't this be more efficient if he just left the trolley and let us grab our packs? Probably not. But mine was right on top of a pile that he kept avoiding, so it was frustrating. I used this time to grab my taxi chit, and then watched as everyone was offered a free sim card – with, it can be assumed, terrible rates that tourists wouldn't know were terrible. Everyone but me. No sim card this way. Do I either look a.) like someone who would see through the silliness, or b.) someone who can't afford a phone, when even the ultra poor in 'middle of nowhere' Africa had them? ...they probably had to have them, there being no land lines, but still.

Back to the tourist airport scam things. You could pay 3000B for a one hour massage at the spa, the taxi would take you right there. I cringed at this. How many people fell for this? They had a full menu of options, not just for the body massage. All the prices, though, were just as silly. When I finally got taxied into town I checked to see if my assumption was correct, and yes indeed. All the prices were exactly ten times higher than you would be charged anywhere else. Ten times. Ten! Ai ya.

So I got to my hostel easy enough – delightful 120B airport bus. And then once there I tried to check in. Of course they said I hadn't made a booking. I said I had. they checked their files – oh, I had. But they checked their book – nope I wasn't there. Eventually it was decided that I was Michelle and that I could stay. This was just one of the many fun organizational issues you can see here at this hostel. Lovely hostel – but... organizationally? It's not so hot. I've heard a few people pay 300B deposit for keys, but as deposit is only 200B that's all they get back when they leave. And many times people have come into this room to find their beds already taken. There are other rooms, so all is well – but...

Still, there's two tvs, hundreds of DVDs, three guitars (which is how I amused myself until I was named Michelle), and a drink store where you just put your name on a list and check off what you drink. In theory you could steal them, but the honour system works well. I wonder when I'm supposed to pay?

Anyway, I wandered the streets as the sun was setting. I wanted to head to town. I've been told I should just take a taxi but I don't know how. There are taxis that cost too much, tuk-tuks, which are, you know, tuk-tuks. And then there are these red buses. They're probably the thing to use, but I have no idea how.

So I wandered the road to town, checked out the 7-11s (just as many here, of course), and then I checked out all number of other things. Like restaurants made for tourists, and priced to match. Just as I was nearing town I thought I should ask a local where I was to confirm I wasn't all screwed up. She told me I was somewhere way far away from where I thought I should be. I knew she was wrong. Well I thought I knew. Well – she was wrong. But not before making me think, as it was getting dark, that I should probably just leave exploring until tomorrow, lest I really did wander into the middle of nowhere.

So that was that, I headed back to my hostel, and crashed in for the night. I started to watch some movies with the other folks, but my goodness are there a lot of mosquitoes here. I couldn't deal with them. Too much slapping and scratching. So I wandered into my dorm, shut the door, cranked on the aircon, and set to catching up on How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory.

These headphones... a blessing or a curse? Time will tell. But I am entertained none the less.

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