If all goes well today we should be in Chiang Mai by 1:00 am tomorrow. So now we begin the Universal Traveler’s Dance. Checkout at the beach bungalow is 11:30am but our flight isn’t until 9:30pm so the owner kindly said we can hang out on the deck until our airport ride picks us up at 3:00 pm for the one and a half hour drive to the airport.
We have an old sailing buddy who washed-up in Phuket and we’d love to meet up, but we’re schlepping all our worldly goods, including our new vacuum cleaner jammed in a new rolling duffel, and dragging this excess baggage on and off public buses to see him is not in the cards. We couldn’t push the airport ride any later due to the rush hour penalty and we’re on a late flight because, well, it was the cheapest. After all, budgets are budgets.
We landed in Chiang Mai way past our bedtime, collected our bags, waited in the taxi queue for a lift, then wound our way through the dark back alleys of the Old City until the we came to a dead end. A small dimly-lit sign read Wayside Guesthouse. No front door, open to the air with a dozen pairs of shoes and sandals just inside.
A young man checked us in, then gave me a long look and announced sheepishly that the room is on the third floor. On the way up the stairs we noticed the impeccably clean varnished wood parquet floors, quite the change from our primitive beach hut. Exhausted, we flopped down on a thinly padded, semi-hard king size bed.
In the morning as we made our way down the stairs we could smell coffee and toast wafting up the staircase. We met our new best friend Jackie, the owner, tiny, smart, energetic and a magnificent maker of breakfasts, included. Budgets are budgets.
Bathed in Thai sunshine I was helped in tying my shoes by several neighborhood cats who extorted a few head pats. It turns out Thailand is a cat country.
We’re off to see where we are. Within a few meters of our guesthouse we entered a tree-covered park that shelters a beautiful peaceful temple. Classic Thailand. Not to borrow a phrase but you can’t swing a cat in Thailand without hitting a temple. And this is our neighborhood. For now.