Wat’s boutique?

What’s a boutique airline? One with art works hung all around the cabin? Trendy service? Small numbers of passengers? Whatever the answer, we were about to find out.

We woke to the sound of rain. It was dark, except for flashes of lightning. I assumed that it must be very early, as Thailand is four hours behind Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time. Actually, we’d slept until 10am Aussie time, or 6am local. Good! I could write some of my blog.

While I wrote, Alex played. The hotel had the Australia Network Channel available on the televisions, which was good because Alex got to watch Playschool.

With all the rain outside we gave up on going outside to search for breakfast and decided to eat at the hotel instead. Sadly, their buffet lacked local dishes, though the selection of fruit and pastries was nice. The atmosphere was spoiled a little by the male Qantas crew bitching at an adjacent table. Not certain if they were flight attendants or pilots, though I suspect the former.

The rain eased up a bit by the time we checked out of the hotel so we were fairly dry during our walk to the Skytrain station as we reversed yesterday’s journey. There were escalators up to the platform, but you first have to climb about three stairs to reach it.

We just missed an airport train when we reached the platform at Phaya Thai. The run every 20 minutes, so we would be cutting it fine for checking into our flight to Chiang Mai.

It was another fantastic rail journey. At Makkasan we saw what looked to be the flooded and ruined remnants of old railway yards. It was like Everleigh in Sydney, only with water inbetween each building.

From up high it was obvious that Bangkok was a water city. Flooded streets and canals everywhere, crossed by little bridges between the waterside homes.

We just made it in time to check in, our bags labelled late. Our flight was with Bangkok Airways “Asia’s boutique airline” says their tagline. It took us a long time to reach the distant gate, but when we got there the flight was delayed anyway.

We boarded the little Airbus A319, the three of us together in a row. The flight attendants gave Alex a little foam helicopter to construct, a task that fell to Daddy. I was excited to see an audio channel with a lot of film music listed in it (Ennio Morricone was even pictured!), but sadly the audio was never enabled.

Suvarnabhumi Airport is full of strange airlines (to an Australian), so the taxiing was pretty fun, but the sights of Bangkok as we roared into the sky were even better. It’s an amazing city from above.

Then we entered the cloud that would accompany us almost the entire way to Chiang Mai.

The crew came through and served us very nice sandwiches, a slice of cheesecake and orange juice. Alex picked out the fillings and left the bread. It was very funny to watch him.

When I think of Thailand I always think of damp tropical jungle, but the countryside around Chiang Mai looked very dry. There was haze from burnoffs. Soon we were down on the ground again at Chiang Mai International Airport.

We quickly exited, then used the taxi desk to get us a cab to our hotel for a flat 120 Baht fee, no haggling, no worries. He did seem to get a little lost, however, and I wonder if the first stop at a guesthouse was a ploy rather than a mistake. Still, we got the Manathai Village hotel in the end.

It’s a gorgeous place with lots of water and fountains to distract Alex and rooms in the ornate wooden Lanna style for us. The giant stone bath would look more appropriate for a Japanese ryokan than a hotel room.

While we tried to book some tours Alex distracted everyone by wanting to run around, play with water and everything else. We then took him on a long walk to the old town to explore. The roads were busy and the footpaths bumpy, which meant I again regretted not bringing the backpack carrier instead of the stroller for Alex.

The first time we visited Thailand we were in awe of the golden Buddhist temples. Now it’s hard to muster up much enthusiasm. However, I can see why the Lonely Planet raves about Chiang Mai: it’s backpacker central, perfect for making them feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I find it all rather blah.

We walked all the way to Wat Phra Singh along Ratchadamnoen road, stopping at a few others along the way. It was often a fight to get Alex to come out of the temple, put his shoes back on and get into the stroller.

Then we walked all the way back again, unable to find dinner. The orange-gold-red sun looked brilliant and cast a gorgeous light over everything.

Took Alex to the loo back at the hotel, walked out again and caught a tuk-tuk to the Red Chilli restaurant, which B had taken a fancy to, along Ratchadamnoen road. Alex loved the tuk-tuk, especially the internal flashing lights.

The dinner was very nice, especially the beef and pomelo salad. Alex kept fighting with B over who got to drink the young coconut juice. Then another tuk-tuk ride back to the hotel. I was dead on my feet, too many late nights before the trip and too many hours difference now. Time to join the other two in the four poster bed as we have a long day of tigers and elephants ahead of us.

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