The STAROBA golfers and their accompanying partners left for home on AirAsia afternoon flight. Some of the golfers decided to play another round of golf at the Green Valley Golf Course in the morning. Pakdokter and partner had planned an extension of our holidays to Chiang Rai and with the help of Happy, our guide in Chiang Mai, pakdokter secured 2 seats on the VIP Bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai that Saturday morning. The hotel limousine which took us to the bus terminus cost 200 baths and the bus ticket cost 300 bahts each.
There bus service from Chiang Mai to to Chiang Rai and other towns in the Golden Triangle region runs every 15 minutes. The VIP Bus runs at an hourly interval. The standard bus service must be a lot cheaper.
The bus operator has adopted an efficient service similar to the practices of the Airport Bus Limousine Service pakdokter had used between Narita Airport to downtown Tokyo. Upon show of the bus ticket, the porter will tag all the bags and clip the other half of the tag to our ticket - very much like the check-in for travel by air. The porter will load the bags into the baggage compartment. This was a marked difference to pakdokter's experience in using the SkyBus from KLSentral to catch AirAsia flights at the LCCT. The bus 'touts' shouted and screamed to get customers into their bus and quite often pakdokter nearly broke pakdokter's back in loading or unloading the bags into or out of the luggage compartment. There was no tagging of bags so anyone who wished to walk away with other people's bag could easily do so.
The VIP Bus was quite comfortable. The reclining seats were not unlike a business-class airline seat. Water and snacks were served during the 3-hour journey. The video played Hollywood movies (dubbed into Thai) in a not so loud volume. The bus ride was smooth as the bus was in a good shape - not bumpy and hard as our SkyBus ferrying Airasia passengers.
The drive out of Chiang Mai first passed through vast rice-fields but gradually took a gradual ascent into the northern mountains. The long dry spell has caused many bush and forest fires and the uncontrolled slash and burn farming methods in Burma and Laos had further contributed to the hazy atmosphere in the region.
We arrived at the Chiang Rai us terminal just short of 3 hours. Pakdokter had booked a room at the Le Meridien Chiang Rai using pakdokter's SPG (Starwood Privileged Guest) membership. The package pakdokter bought included a free airport pick-up which pakdokter did not take up as pakdokter was not flying in. During the bus ride - pakdokter sent a Blackberry message to the hotel's Customer Service Manager asking if pakdokter could be picked up at the bus terminal instead. And within 5 minutes pakdokter received a reply in the affirmative! Such is the convenience of the smartphone communication technology nowadays. This would have been very difficult previously. As we disembarked from the bus, the limousine driver from Le Meridien was waiting for us with our name a big card.