Tuesday 19th December 2000 Day 7

The alarm went off at 4:30am. I was already wide awake, waiting for it! I'd been awake since 1:30am, floating in and out of the two worlds. I've only had one good night sleep whilst in Bangkok. I actually feel worse today than before. I only hope the cooler climate up north helps. Room service brought one Continental Breakfast up for us, which we all shared whilst we finished packing. As we were about to leave we quickly checked all the drawers and found a whole drawer that we hadn't emptied! It came, as no surprise to find out it was Hannah's clothes! Something we did leave behind intentionally were the lotus flowers. They were still releasing ants into the atmosphere so we thought packing them with our clothes would have been a bad idea. Ants in our pants would not of been clever.

We arranged with the concierge to have our luggage brought down to the lobby. A Kuoni rep was there to personally escort us from the Crowne Plaza to our check-in desk. Now that was superb service! We were at the airport, checked-in by 6:30am, and our flight didn't leave until 7:30am. Enough time for Julie to have two visits to the toilet! We sat in Burger King for a while. (The iced coffee was delicious.) The tension in Julie's face was building with every minute we drew nearer to our departure time. It momentarily eased when we went through customs, as the staff were extremely pleasant. We had a ten minutes wait by gate 68 before boarding our plane. The Airbus 330 was a lot bigger than I thought with a width of eight seats, in a 2-4-2 split. I was expecting something half the size, similar to what we flew to Paris. The whole flight only lasted sixty minutes. The take off and landing was very smooth but still an ordeal for Julie. If anything she appeared to be suffering more. The Gameboy was receiving some terrible physical abuse.

Chiang Rai airport was relatively small with only 2 gates, with one for departures and one for arrivals. Waiting for our luggage however took longer than at Bangkok. We were met outside arrivals by a Kuoni Rep holding up our name on a card, 'Mr & Mrs Owen'. I must confess to being impressed by that! The rep looked very young, 16 almost? Her English was not as good as the reps in Bangkok, but she had a very gentle and polite manner, which was in contrast to the sometimes cockiness of her big city colleagues. It took us an hour to reach Chiang Sien, and on to Sop Ruak, which is where the hotel is situated.

It overlooks the point where Burma, Laos and Thailand meet.

We turned into the grounds and up the hill, and our mouths dropped. All we kept on saying was "Wow!" This hotel was stunning!

We walked into the foyer, and wow! The rep checked us in and we had a complimentary drink made from some purple flower, tasting like a very sweet fruit tea.

We were shown to our room, which was decorated in a traditional style, or as much as they could anyway. Our balcony had a superb view of the Golden Triangle.

The mountains of Laos looked impressive the other side of the Mekong river. The Ruak river separated our hotel from Burma, and further in the Burmese distance we could see a large red roofed hotel & casino.

We went for a walk around the hotel and were surprised at how quiet it was. Not many guests around at all.

We assumed they were probably out on excursions. I had also pre-booked excursions for the next two days over the Internet and was pleased to see the Tour office was based at the hotel. I'd also transferred a 50% deposit of a £100 to this DITS travel company not really knowing if they were on the level or not. So I was relieved when I went to pay the remaining 6,615 Baht and everything was confirmed. We discovered also that the pick up for tomorrows trip is not until 8:30am. OH YES, a lie in!!

We had lunch, which was delicious. I had skewered veg with peanut sauce, Hannah had Tempura and adventurous Julie had a lovely Chicken Burger! We were also pleasantly surprised by the prices. We had thought that perhaps they would be ludicrously expensive, similar to the Meridien at Heathrow but they weren't at all.

The afternoon was spent chilling by the pool. It was just so relaxing. Often Julie and Hannah had the pool to themselves.

There weren't many people there at all, which was fortunate as Hannah did a comical slip in the pool!

We were walking to the Jacuzzi pool but instead of going around the pool's edge she decided to walk through the paddling pool.

She coolly stepped into the pool and her supporting leg slipped away. She went flying! She quickly sprung to her feet and regained her composure, similar to how Miss Ghana did on the Miss World stage, hoping that no one noticed. The water must only of been 10cm deep, so Julie and I found the funny side of it, and we all laughed! We had to wait for the Jacuzzi to bubble to life because of a power shortage.

Earlier we'd noticed these people scratching their heads, and prodding at the electricity cable overhead with a large wooden stick, trying to push the cable nearer the pylon? It was making an incredible cracking noise. They seemed oblivious to the risks!

The afternoon by the pool was simply perfect. It gave my body the relaxation it was begging for. It was such a tranquil location, the ideal antidote for the Bangkok condition.

I spent some time catching up on writing this journal, and did what I do best … lounge! I couldn't fall asleep though, not enough pillows.

As we were leaving the pool I noticed a hammock in the garden. If only I had spotted that earlier then it would have been the cherry on the top!

At 5pm we walked down to the sports club, not to do any sporting activity of course, but to have a look at their facilities. The sauna and plunge pool looked excellent. The smell of eucalyptus was inviting but the sweaty walrus in the corner didn't. They also had squash courts and a gymnasium! What sad masochists would enjoy busting a gut whilst on holiday? We're working up a sweat simply strolling down the hill! Anyway, finally, down stairs they had Thai massage. Now that's more like it! Being rubbed up and down for an hour sounded wonderful! They had on offer a full body massage for 2 hours, or just a foot massage for an hour. Hannah really wanted a massage, so we booked a foot session for 7pm tomorrow. It was possible to have it in our room but I felt that it would be far too personal being massaged in our bed!

We had booked a table for 7:30pm but by the time we had a shower, shave, changed and enjoyed some Mekhong whisky from the mini bar, it was only 6:30pm. We wandered around the hotel, being generally nosy. We had a look in The Opium Den, but it was empty, and not staffed. Someone did offer to open it up for us, but it would of meant one of the Yuan Lue Lao restaurant staff abandoning their post and tend exclusively to our needs. So we decided to have our supper earlier in the restaurant. Most of the staff were of 'trainee' status, and didn't have name badges. Obviously you don't get recognised until you pass some serving proficiency test! All were very happy, smiley people, always eager to please. Sometimes you felt smothered but I would rather have that level of attention compared to the total disinterest we experienced in Spain. The food arrived, and it was fantastic. Julie had a Chicken Chasseur, Hannah had an amazing looking Yellow Potato Curry that was served in a clay pot, and the Pan-Fried Eggplant that I had tasted supreme!

This hotel is so idyllic. Everything about it oozes class. Even the pianist in the cocktail bar had style. Julie said it reminded her of the elegance of Raffles after watching Tenko! Very colonial! The real winner is the surrounding area. It's stunning. Today has been excellent. It was just what our bodies needed. I'm not exactly a TB sufferer in Switzerland but I'm convinced that 3 days of this fresh mountain air will sort me out. As my head hit the pillow I knew I was in for a good night's sleep. We were all tucked up in bed by 9pm!!

Day 8>>

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