Extended Stay in Chaing Mai
We recently enjoyed an extended stay in Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Phuket. These are some anecdotes from that visit.
1. Arrival and Phuket
My wife and I, along with our two children, flew from Brisbane to Phuket, on the now defunct Air Australia – a subject for another submission. A quick overnight stay in Phuket pretty much cemented everything I had heard about Phuket, and
holiday islands in general – they grow a culture of overinflated prices with locals trying to get every last baht from every transaction since they will probably never see the customer again and there is no reason to try to get repeat business.
I had pre-booked a quick overnight at the Airport Resort & Spa, barely a kilometre from Phuket airport. A big attraction in booking was that the hotel included free transfers to and from the airport. We arrived to the throngs of clipboards
claiming exotic names, but none of them were mine. We tried a few laps of the clipboards, before deciding that my wife would call the hotel from a public phone and ask.
I include the Thai transliteration of the conversation here because the wording is relevant:
phaaw dee faaen nuu bork wa day jaawng ao wai laaeo kha." (My boyfriend has already made a reservation)
mai mee kha." (We don't have any (reservations)."
My good wife returned, upset that I had screwed up our layover accommodation. I had the confirmation email and was sure there was nothing amiss, so we got a taxi. Perhaps we have been in Australia too long, but there was no negotiation, and
my wife immediately accepted the first bid from the taxi driver…300 baht for the 5-minute journey. Kids were tired and complaining, and I think in hindsight that we just wanted to get head to pillow as soon as possible.
Upon checkin, the clerk advised that they had a driver waiting for us at the airport.
"But we called, and you said you didn't."
"No, no, we said we had no reservation for Mr John. Only you sir."
The hotel is a collection of bungalow style accommodation with hard Thai-style mattresses. Water in the shower/bath had the orange shade of bore water, and smelled like it too. Wi-fi was expensive, but the breakfast was quite good. The free
return airport shuttle was boarded without incident.
2. Chiang Mai
We were met in Chiang Mai by the rep for Northwheels Car Rental. I cannot speak too highly for these guys – when we lived in Chiang Mai previously we had several long-term rentals with them and they always
deliver a good product.
We packed the car and headed into town, where we were staying at Huay Kaew Residence. This apartment block is great – single bedroom apartments are 14K baht/month, studios are cheaper. We had thought that we'd be buying an additional
travel mattress for our eldest to sleep on the floor, but the futon sofa converted to a bed so that solved that problem nicely. It's a very short walk to Kad Suan Kaew shopping centre, which means you've also got a ready supply of songtaews
to take you wherever you want to go, and back again. There is a laundry onsite that charges 40b/kilo and the friendliest coffee shop downstairs I've ever been to. The negatives for the apartment block are the noise, the hard mattresses, and
even though they're "serviced apartments", there's no towels, cutlery or crockery. We were heading upcountry to my mother-in-law's place, where all our stuff was still in storage from when we lived here, so that was only
a temporary problem. Wired internet access is included in the more-expensive rooms, but was a little variable in quality. 3G internet worked from my mobile. Things we regretted not buying immediately: a big plastic tub for bathing kids in (119
baht from Makro) and a clothes horse for drying clothes etc on the balcony. If we were staying there for more than a couple of months, I would've also wanted to buy a proper mattress. This could've also been stored at Ma's place
for future visits.
My mother-in-law stayed with us for a week, which was just enough time for my wife to stop missing her and resume arguing with her – perhaps highlighting the fact that younger generations think that the older generations are feeble-minded,
even across cultures. My wife had decided that we were going to buy Ma a new fridge, but at the last minute Ma declined, saying that her current fridge was still serviceable, and she felt greng jai enough towards us for the monthly contributions
we make towards her welfare to accept a 10K baht luxury item. I really appreciated not having to make this 10K baht investment whilst on an already expensive holiday, but I do wish the announcement that it would not be accepted was made before
I spent a weekend doing comparison shopping around appliance shops. Ma adored being able to see kids, and do stuff as a family. We went to Chiang Mai zoo together, and the Royal Flower Show. We continued to then visit her at her place every weekend,
which was about how long I could stand before itching to get back to civilization.
She's a dear, sweet lady, and I'm glad that I've married into a nice family. Many years ago on one trip to her place I brought a six-pack of Coke along for the fridge. Nobody else in the household likes soft drinks of any kind,
so I drank them all myself over the course of the stay. She noted that well, and anytime we've visited since, the fridge has been well stocked with Coke. I am reminded, however, to not throw away the bottles, since empty bottles being returned
yield a 2 baht discount on full bottles.
Whilst in Chiang Mai I enjoyed catching up with Thai business leaders who I consider my friends, and meeting some new ones, through service clubs and charity work I am involved in. These new acquaintances would routinely gave me their cards
and instruct me to call them immediately if I have any problems in Thailand. It's a very generous offer, and a nice feeling to have a support network of locals who might help you if things go wrong, but I hope to never need to rely on it.