[if you'd like to bypass straight to photos, you can view them here]
Headed to the airport bright and early. Drank ridiculously overpriced $16 mimosas to kill some time before our flight to Japan. Watched four movies on the 11 hour flight and sewed my jacket that I noticed had ripped going through security. Arrived at Narita and waited for the flight to Bangkok that was overbooked due to another plane transferring 300 passengers-- we didn't make it on--ahhh the beauty of flying standby. Looked online for a hotel for 3 hours, even chanced hopping on a random shuttle bus and asking our best bet hotel with 800 rooms for availability, but everything within proximity of the airport was full. Paid $182 USD for a cab to take us to a hotel 50km (that's 31 miles) away in Chiba. We had bunk beds.
Woke up to unusual snow in Tokyo (10km out of) and watched from the window as it relentlessly fell until noon. Extended our checkout and scrutinized Japanese television then walked to the train station where we paid only $8/each for a ticket and got to the airport in about an hour. Jen and I not only made it onto our plane, but were seated in first class, it was dreamy!
Landed in Bangkok just after midnight. The humidity when exiting the airplane was intense, like something I'd never felt before. We tried booking a hotel in Narita, but the wi-fi was down at the airport so we snagged a shuttle and headed to the hotel I had originally sought out mainly due to the sexual innuendo of the hotels' name: Ploy Khumthong ::insert giggle:: Took a nap and woke up to book our next flight to Chiang Mai. Had a delicious omelette breakfast with adorable smiley face toast and checked out. Flew one hour on Bangkok Air to Chiang Mai and hailed a tuk tuk (3-wheeled open taxi) to a b&b I had initially found online and appreciated was owned by gay westerners. Noland (the owner) came to our room to introduce himself and answered most of our questions. He showed us a small outdoor kitchen across the street from our hotel and I got delicious vegetable fried rice made to order for 35 baht (roughly $1). We walked about a mile to a mall we were told to check out, things are very different here in Thailand. Ate two mango with sticky rice and Thai iced tea macaroons, the waitress called me princess. We left the six story mall and walked along the busy highway called Nimmanhemin aka Nimman, laced with a lot of small boutiques, where we stopped at a very cute spa. This was my first Thai massage and was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. You change into loose clothing that are essentially scrubs and the 60-minute massage entails more yoga-like stretching and deep rubs with rhythmic pressure, for a majority of which your therapist is sitting either on you or on the table. After I opted for a manicure as well, all for 500 baht (approximately $15). We walked back to the hotel and ate dinner at the owners restaurant next door, ordering his go-to dish: the Noland Same Same, it was yummy! Hit the hay.
Woke up at Santitham and had a delicious traditional Pad Thai breakfast. Walked around Northwest Chiang Mai and tried getting my last 2 travel shots, but had a difficult time communicating with the hospital staff. The waiting rooms were the most colorful pastel and everyone looked happy and well taken care of. We walked back to the hotel and chatted about the islands with a fellow who was on his 15th trip to Thailand from North Carolina. Took a 120 Baht ($4) tuk tuk across town to the Southeast, where we checked into the scummiest "guest house" which was clearly a hostel; the internet can be very deceiving. We decided to walk around Old Town Ciang Mai and look at future rooms before booking. Found and paid for two boutiques to get us through the weekend. Had my first scare with a not-very-nice stray dog following us. Decided to walk to dinner at the Riverside Restaurant, where Noland had made us boat dinner reservations. Stopped at a few Wats on the way (temples are Everywhere!) and walked along Thaphae Gate which reminded me of Las Vegas Blvd. Stopped in for a quick 100 Baht ($3) 30 minute hand reflexology on the way--no appointments are ever needed. At 7pm we boarded the boat, ordered food and took off onto the water. It was beautiful and the weather was perfect. Bats skimmed the water around our boat and we went under quite a few bridges, a very lovely lady date. Took a tuk tuk back to the hostel and passed out.
I arranged an all day 7 course cooking class for Jen and I. Ritthichai (pronounced Richy) picked us + 6 others up and we headed to the market. He taught us a lot about rice, vegetables they use for cooking and tofu. We picked our meals, gathered the ingredients and headed to the countryside where upon arrival we scoped out the garden and picked fresh herbs for our dishes. We learned a lot about traditional Thai cooking, received a certificate and cook book. This was my favorite experience thus far. At 3pm we headed back to the city and while crossing a very busy intersection, a college-aged girl on a scooter bolted out in front of our van, actually sliding right under us...the van ran over her scooter and her arm. We were all very worried as Ritthichai jumped out of the van to make sure she wasn't badly injured. Since insurance isn't a thing here, it took less than two minutes before he hopped back into the truck with a smile on his face, letting us all know she was okay. This was the most intense part of our trip thus far. We checked into our boutique in Southeast Old Town Chiang Mai and wandered around until we saw 180 baht ($6) foot massages. On the walk back to the hotel we stopped at a restaurant that had a giant sign for pizza, I couldn't resist. This was the funniest part of our trip thus far because one of the waiters actually took his scooter down the street to pick up a pizza and rode it back. We were sitting outside, watching him pull up and transfer the pizza from box to plate. I laughed for a good 20 minutes then exhaustedly passed out and caught up on missed Zzz's.