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Published: March 1st 2019
Just managed to get into the air bnb apartment
It was a good flight from Sydney to Bangkok, and I arrived late afternoon, with plenty of time to sort out my onward flight to Chiangmai at the Bangkok Airlines office at the airport before setting off in a taxi to find my air bnb “apartment with rooftop pool” near Pra Kanong one of the sky train stations. It’s sometimes difficult to follow the instructions for how to get into an air bnb apartment ( as Eunice and I had experienced on a trip to Japan) Many of the air bnb listings are in apartment blocks that prohibit the sub letting or letting like this. You can imagine why -noise, security.... lots of issues for the other residents . So the ‘secret ‘ check-in can be a nightmare when you’re tired and have to negotiate some new system. I thought I was well prepared this time, as I’d taken photos of the check-in instructions on my phone. So, found the building, got inside, went to the mailbox room, found the unlocked box for 1/11, found the key ...... went to the lift. Oh no -same system as in Eunice’s apartment in Sydney. You have to hold the key fob against a
The broom and brush man stops for a red light
laser thing while pressing the floor number, and it will only let you out on the floor of your apartment. I assumed that it must be on the first floor, but there was no 1st floor ( and anyway it’s usually the ground floor as in America) Luckily a kind lady in the lift recognised my genuine bewilderment and asked me where I was going. She said it was on the 5th floor , and luckily that’s where she was going, so I could get out there with her. I suppose as a tired oldie hauling a heavy suitcase and a backpack, I didn’t look like much of a security threat! I was a bit puzzled that I hadn’t been told that it was on the fifth floor, but puzzlement turned to dismay when I reached the door of 1/11 and the keycard was no use. Now it wanted a security code. Which I didn’t have. And no WiFi or phone signal to contact the owner. By now it was dark ( it gets dark quite suddenly at about 7pm) and my body clock was still four hours ahead on Sydney time. One solution-just check-in to a nearby hotel until
Complicated street wiring
the morning. Another solution...... back down in the lift ( luckily I’d learnt the keycard-in-the -lift security in Sydney) out of the front door, trundle my suitcase down the street on uneven pavement until I reached the first bar ( early evening so Empty) buy a drink and ask for the WiFi code. Phew. Could get into my messages and find owner May’s phone number. “ I can’t get into the apartment “ I wailed “ I can’t find the security number” ..... a gasp from May “ Oh, I’m so sorry-I forgot to send you that page of the instructions ! I’ll send it now! Please don’t ask anyone in the apartment block to help you or I’ll get into trouble!”
Ha - I always assume that it must be my fault , so I was so relieved, and said sorry a few times back to her. Sorry tennis .
Back down the street ( suitcase wheels protesting about uneven paving slabs) back through the front door , back through security door to the lift lobby, back up in the lift using the security card, out on the 5th floor, security number on the door keypad....... and -click-I’m in
There are always traffic jams on Sukhumvit
! Relief! That’s when I took the exhausted photo with the sky train station behind me. It was a tiny apartment ( smaller than yours in Tokyo Stevie) but with tiny kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. All clean and tidy , but bathroom smelling a bit of drains. I slept well , but I must say that I was a bit concerned about how I’d get out in an emergency. Although from the kitchen window I could see an outside garden area only a few feet below.
Next morning I walked down to Bibi and Tui’s bar/ restaurant at Counting Sheep Corner and had a great breakfast. Bibi now has her own Lifestyle shop next door. It’s called Loam. Neither of them were around , so I went to have a look. Everything was in gentle natural colours and fabrics. Bibi’s business is in interior design so this is a great ‘shop window’ for her.
I had arranged to meet Oun at Mo Chit station, which is at the end of the sky train line, and to pass the time I had a little wander around one of the modern shopping centres. Surprised to see people queuing outside a Gucci store,
Queuing to be let into the Gucci store
and being let in two or three at a time. I couldn’t imagine what bargains could be luring them to queue so patiently! Bangkok, as ever, is a confusing mix of ultra modern, traditional old, traffic jams, noise and the unhidden tangled wires that keep the city moving. So it’s not surprising to see the broom and brush man, his bicycle completely swamped with carefully balanced wares, at the traffic lights amongst the dark windowed Mercedes and the exhaust belching trucks and pickups. And the new glass and shiny high rise buildings, masked by the tangled wires of a city constantly on the change.
I got back on the sky train and alighted at the last station, Mo Chit. It’s a busy junction as many buses go out into the countryside from here, and I just have to hang around at the side of my he road, dismissing curb-crawling taxis, until Oun turns up. A lot has happened since I saw him two years ago, and he tells me that his divorce papers are on the back seat of the car. We set off to pick up his two youngest daughters from school.
We park in the car park and
Annie and Ellie -Home from school
then set off through swarms of primary school boys and girls in school uniform, waiting for school buses or parents. The teachers on duty greet us with a bow, hands clasped together in Thai greeting, as I’m introduced as Oun’s “ mare fallang “ ( Foreign mother ) We find Annie and then little Ellie and set off for home.
Ellie changed out of her white shirt and navy track suit trousers into her favourite outfit -a pink shimmering “Frozen “ dress. Annie didn’t bother to change, just slung her face mask ( against city dust) around her neck instead of over her nose and mouth. The nanny came too and we set off in the car for a ‘secret’ surprise location for dinner, trying to keep little Ellie awake until we got there. It was a huge out-of-town night market in the suburbs. Early evening so the light was just fading, and electric lights coming on and food stall holders cooking up their individual specialities for the evening. We chose a variety of dishes and took them back to the table. The nanny could hardly contain her excitement and soon disappeared into the maze of stalls selling clothes, reappearing
Oun , Annie and Ellie explore the night market
a few minutes later with bags of bargain purchases and a very satisfied look on her face!
We went for a wander amongst the stalls and it wasn’t long before Ellie and Annie spotted something they’d been coveting for some time -brightly coloured furry animal hats with long dangly bits hanging down. When the dangly bits were squeezed the ears flapped. I decided to fulfill the part of foreign grandmother bestowed on me and they chose one each. Annie had a ‘Pikachoo’ ( Japanese cartoon character) and Ellie had a pink pig. Hilarious when she made her pink ears flap up and down . We made our way back to the car, Oun buying the girls a new nightdress each along the way. And Ellie in a constant state of decision about whether she should change the pink piggy for something more chic. I was relieved when we got back to the car with the pig hat still on her head, despite the heat ( as you know I am very fond on pigs myself)
The sleepy girls and their nanny were dropped off back at the house and Oun drove me back to Mo Chit station. Traffic was heavy(
Satay at the night market
as usual in Bangkok) , we were crawling along and I was rummaging in my bag for coins for the train ticket “I’ve got some change in the car” said Oun, and he started looking around by the gear stick. THUMP. We’d run into the stationary car in front of us. A big Mercedes. Bumper to bumper. Oun was very calm. His third accident this year. The two men in the car in front were calm too ( thank goodness) and we pulled off the road and into the hospital car park. No one was injured. Just the car bumpers. Both drivers phoned their insurance companies and within about 15 minutes two assessors arrived , one for each insurance company, on their scooters. Damage was assessed by the light of mobile phones, several photos were taken and the money was transferred. We could go. Oh dear. I can’t imagine what Oun’s insurance premium will be next year.
The next day I concentrated on finishing my Sydney blog. When my eyes started seeing double ( I do all this on my mobile phone using my little finger to tap the letters out ..... and that’s why you’ll find quite a few
typos) I thought I’d brave the rooftop pool that had attracted me to book this air bnb apartment in the first place. So up in the lift, and yes , it let me out on the34th floor as this is a shared area. The view was amazing. High rise Bangkok buildings fading into the foggy distance. The pool was an infinity pool, water appearing to lap the very edge of the glass wall surrounding it. Only one other woman up there , working on a laptop...... or perhaps playing computer games. But I just couldn’t bring myself to get into that water as it teetered on the edge of the 34th floor. I just imagined the displaced water slurping me over the edge. I retreated.
Next morning I packed my bags and got the sky train one stop to Ekamai. Only a 15 minute walk, but with the uneven paving slabs it would be the death of my suitcase wheels. And along to Counting Sheep to meet one of my other old students , Air. She’d even been to visit me at Home End last year. Her brother, Art, is a musician and busy burning the midnight oil, making an
album at the moment, so her wasn’t there this time. We had a lovely lunchtime chat and then I got a Grab taxi to the airport for the domestic flight to Chiangmai. Oh no. Flight delayed by 2 hours. But the airline is Bangkok Air and they have a lounge for economy passengers with free drinks and snacks so that and a good book helped to pass the time. While I was there Nui, my landlady in Chiangmai , sent a message to say they were overbooked and could I stay in the Marwin Hotel near Rimping Supermarket for three days. She’d booked me in. Well, that was fine by me because friend Kathy was also arriving from Singapore the same day and staying at the Movenpick Hotel. Google told me that it was a 10 minute walk away from my temporary accommodation. Perfect. Felt so good to be back in gentle Chiangmai after the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Checked in, did the 10 minute walk to Kathy’s hotel. Gin and tonics in her room with Dorothy also ( Dorothy lives in Chiangmai) and we decided to share some room service food as of course it’s 14 February and
Dinner at the night market
there are red roses and lovers everywhere in the restaurants!
I usually arrive in Chiangmai from Singapore, and bring Nui and Kong some special barbecued pork and special pineapple tarts. But I’d arranged with Kathy to bring some with her from Singapore and I exchanged them for some Australian liquorice. So next morning I set off from my temporary accommodation at the Marwin Hotel and did the 15 minute walk to BaanSongJum. The dogs seemed to be happy to see me at the gate and I had a great greeting from the two sisters. It’s good that they’re busy for a few days , sorry they can’t fit me in, but it’s great that I’m much nearer to where Kathy is staying. I had a lovely morning wandering around my old haunts, the flower market, the dog temple and having a coffee with Jo in The Meeting Room Gallery. However things are changing in The Meeting Room: there aren’t any delicious cakes because Jo and his wife have split up and Jo says the owner wants the building so he’ll have to move.
That afternoon Kathy signed me in to her hotel swimming pool and I did a few laps.
Shopping for a piggy hat
Hoping it will help the back ache.
That evening I met up with Kathy and Dorothy and we walked across the road from Kathy’s hotel to the night market and ate at the food stalls.
Next day I introduced Kathy to the delights of Rimping Supermarket. It’s truely remarkable in its selection of eastern and western groceries and fresh vegetables and fruit. And a good supply of tonic water. And green tea Kitkats ( my favourite) and even wine. We walked to Woo cafe where we met Dorothy for lunch. It’s such a beautiful place with pots of flowers everywhere. Not tastefully arranged, but crammed lushiously into clusters of pots everywhere. And the staff are you g and jolly. Their khao soi is delicious too.its a thick curry sauce with crispy noodles and pickled vegetables.
And when we’d finished eating, the Dragon Phoenix annual textile exhibition was just around the corner. It’s always on for a month in February and I’ve been to it every year since I’ve been coming to Chiangmai. It’s in an old wooden Thai house with wide wooden steps leading up to the front door. It used to be the manager’s house and offices of the
Trying out the flappy ears
British Burma Logging company, but is now owned by a Tai man and his American partner. And their dog. The dog has always been old, but now the dear thing is really old! These two men collect textiles from all over the world, but mainly from Asia, and the work is beautifully arranged in the spacious rooms of their house. Sadly I’ve never actually bought anything there, but they are always interesting and informative. I had intended to lure Kathy and Dorothy out to Samkamphaeng , about a 20 minute drive from Chiangmai. Jo at the Meeting Room had suggested that I should go and see the Maiiam Contemporary Art Museum there. But the heat and the delicious lunch had made us all drowsy, so we decided to retreat and regroup later for drinks and eats in Kathy’s hotel. She’d also discovered that all the cakes were half price after 8pm. Kathy is always good at finding all the special offers and bargains!
On Sunday morning I packed my bags and called a ‘Grab’ car to take me and my belongings just along the road to BaanSongJum. It seems that Uber no longer operate in Thailand either, but Grab works
Annie in her Pokemon hat
on the same principle and the drivers use their own cars and Sat Nav to run the service. So now there was a room for me at my favourite homestay. Sisters Nui and Kong are so welcoming and it’s lovely to be around their three dogs-shy little Lanna, Frankie, who used to be so nervous, and BamBam who was only a puppy last year. He’s a handsome and good natured Thai ridgeback.
In the afternoon I walked over to Kathy’s hotel and we called a Grab car to take us to Dorothy’s apartment further out of town. We had intended to have a couple of drinks and then go out somewhere to eat. But it was so lovely and companiable sitting on Dorothy’s wide balcony, overlooking the lake , as the sun dipped down, enjoying a gin and tonic that when Dorothy suggested she had some leftover curry in her freezer, that seemed by far the most attractive option. It also meant that Dorothy could enjoy a drink too. And a Grab car deposited us back in town.
The next day was Kathy’s last day in Chiangmai. She’s been enjoying the hotel, the food, some massages and having her hair
Ellie happy at last with the pink piggy hat
done ..... and the company of me and Dorothy of course! So we arranged to meet at Tamarind Village, a rather lovely hotel in the middle of the Old walled city, in the coffee shop for lunch. Dorothy drove herself there, Kathy would get a taxi and I would walk. I used to wander around the streets and narrow lanes of the old city, never worrying if I got lost because I knew I’d eventually recognise where I was. But that doesn’t work if you’v Arranged to meet someone somewhere at a particular time at a particular restaurant! So now we have the wonderful app on the mobile phone called ‘maps.me’ and it will help you find a route by car train or on foot. Just like Google maps, but it doesn’t need WiFi. Very handy when you’re somewhere without access to WiFi. Which makes me wonder why everything else can’t work without WiFi ??
Anyway we all met up in the restaurant, despite Kathy’s taxi driver not knowing where it was ( a regular taxi, not a Grab car) We had a delicious lunch ,,,,,,, and despite the fact that we’ve been meeting up every day, we have no
The car insurance company assess the damage
shortage of things to talk about. And Dorothy knows the manager of the restaurant so we got 20% off our bill too!
I wanted to show them the Terracotta Garden cafe that I’d loved so much last year. It’s in a walled garden in the old city, and has an overgrown feel about it, and lots of terracotta statues and heads piled around. It really feels as if you’ve stumbled across an ancient temple. So we followed my maps.me and found it just in time for an afternoon tea. They closed at 4pm! And it didn’t seem as lovely this year. Just across the road a huge Terracotta Hotel has risen up. So perhaps that’s where all the energies have gone during the last year.. Back to Kathy’s hotel for a last evening of drinks and chips!
Walked back to BaanSongJum through the darkened streets. I never feel afraid walking around on my own in Chiangmai. I walk through Worarot market and China town where Chinese New Year festivities are still going on. Although the holiday is for three days there are really 15 days to the new year, so the parties continue, the giant joss sticks smoke and scent
My air bnb apartment is in this tower block
the night air and the garish costumes of the Chinese open air theatre are lit by fluorescent lights down by the river.
I’m going to publish this and start a new chapter.It starts to become a litany of eat -drink -talk -walk . And the streets of Chiangmai have become so familiar to me now ( I’ve been coming back here for about 4 or 5 years now) that maybe I don’t see things with fresh eyes. But hang in there! There’s more to come!
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