We had our last banana pancake breakfast at Mountain View, and walked around saying goodbye to our home for the last week. Good-bye porch, good-bye temples (from our windows), good-bye room, good-bye restaurant, good-bye Daeng, good-bye other staff. We were truly sad to leave! Our taxi took us around the north west corner of the old town on the way to the airport – and we realized there was so much we hadn't seen still, even in the old town, which is pretty small! Airport security was ridiculously quick and easy, and all too soon we were in our departure gate waiting to fly to Koh Samui. We had a lovely view of Doi Suthep while waiting to leave, watching clouds fill in around the jungle mountain where we had left half a pound of sweat and a lot of baht (and almost our stomachs!) just a few days before.
(Doi Suthep getting some rain as we leave)
The airport was filling up with French tourists – tidy, stylish, bronzed (already), and totally lacking any body hair (men too – waxed chests and open shirts) hinting at a very different experience ahead.
Our flight was filled with French tourists – we think we may have joined the second leg of a connecting flight straight from Paris, since the demographics were so dominated by Francophiles. Everyone was fresh, dressy, and clearly headed for the beach – so we are guessing they didn't spend much time in Chiang Mai. Plus, all of the many, many children were perfectly quiet and well behaved – especially mysterious for French children! I realized with jet lag it was probably the middle of the night for them, thus most of them were sleeping!
We invented a game to pass the time – called FF for F-ing French (an Eddie Izzard reference). Since Ty hadn't spent much time around Europeans, I got to subtly point out cultural differences with a whispered FF and an eye roll. He caught on quickly and even pointed out his own. Waxed chests (on men), overly exposed breasts (on both genders), high heels on an Air Bangkok puddle hopper flight (where you walk to the plane on the tarmac), children dressed to the nines (brandalicious!), snotty attitudes, isolationist vacations, all FF. In fact, our hotel was also full of FF, but given that they won't interact with anyone else, we didn't have to see much of them. I also explained to Ty, and was quite proud of this observation: the way that we (Americans) experience the French is the way the rest of the world experiences us. Lest I make too much fun of them, I must remember I came from the country of “freedom fries”...
(good-bye Chiang Mai)
(hello tropical island!)
(flying into Koh Samui)
Once we landed, a major lapse of my memory meant we paid double the high taxi rates for the ride from airport to hotel, as I forgot the hotel was sending a car for us. So not only were the rates outrageous, we paid twice – a real culture shock from cheap Chiang Mai. We also didn't spend time negotiating price or checking our options as we thought we were late for the rehearsal dinner, which we were graciously invited to and didn't want to miss. It turned out we had plenty of time, but I just wasn't on top of things. Despite a week in Chiang Mai, I could not yet adopt the Thai attitude “mai pen rai” (never mind), and stewed about my costly mistakes for several hours.
We were also in culture shock about the higher prices, the fancy resorts, and how removed from Thai culture we realized we would be. Tourists rent scooters here and tootle around in nearly no clothing – shocking after our week of conservative dress in the north. And unlike Chiang Mai, taxis carefully follow the laws of the road and give the million mosquito-like scooters the right of way. I, on the other hand, had no patience for legalistic driving and kept imagining passing everyone Chiang Mai style in my head!
Our hotel was small but beautiful, with modern buildings, a fantastically modern poolside and beach side restaurant, and just enough beach to enjoy the view. Our room was lushly spare (an oxymoron only possible with modern design) and new, with a large fluffy bed and walk in shower with lovely tile. Our room rate was three times that of Chiang Mai (US$60 per night with breakfast) but still a steal for the island prices.
(our beautiful hotel)
(hotel pool and beach - aaahhhh....)
The rehearsal dinner was at Beach Republic, the most fantastically hip and modern restaurant I have eaten at. After all of our worry, we were the first to arrive by at least half an hour, an enjoyed cocktails on the poolside lounge-couches.
(Mai pen rai is easier with a mimosa and a beach lounger!)
Finally the wedding party showed up from their rehearsal and we got to visit with the families. Jens's dad, who I'd just met, twirled me around in a bear hug screaming imitation of how Emily reacts to seeing friends – a great impersonation! Emily and Jens showed up in the last car and it was fantastic to see them again, and to be coming to the whole purpose of the trip – Emily's wedding. We ate a fantastic western dinner with a few Thai touches (which is how we would eat the rest of the time on the island), and enjoyed meeting all the important people in Emily and Jens's lives, from California, Taipei, and Germany.
(Emily and Jens excited we've arrived)