I’m here! It’s hard for me to believe, but one look around confirms it. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Todo. Here’s a brief rundown on the story so far: I left home at 4:45am on February 1 and drove over to Dad’s. Dad drove me to the airport and dropped me off by 6am for my 8am flight. Who says you need to be there two hours before departure? It took me no more than 15 minutes to get checked in and to find the departure gate. Then it was just a lot of sitting around and waiting. Next time, I’ll hit snooze a couple more times instead.
The flight to Chicago was uneventful. It took about an hour, and then the wait for the flight to Thailand began. That flight left at 1pm Chicago time (2pm our time) so if you’re following along like I was, that meant another 5 hours of time to kill in an airport lounge. To pass the time, I ate an overpriced and undergood salad from the food court, and watched people watching people.
Finally it was time to get on the plane to Tokyo. It was a 747-400… a big sucker. I didn’t get the seats that I had reserved through my travel agent, but that was ok with me. The flight was only about two-thirds full. My new assigned seat was near the back.
Normally, there are three seats in each row beside the window, but I was so close to the back that the plane was getting narrower at that part, so it meant that there was only room for two seats. The extra half-seat space beside the wall was empty, which made for a great place to stow my bags and my legs when I was sleeping. The other seat in the group of two was taken up by a lady who went to sit in an empty seat beside her husband after boarding was complete. I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was to have my own little row. It was like travelling First Class. I could put the armrest up and lie down across the two seats like a bed. Other passengers were looking at me with extreme jealousy, especially those who were stuck in the groups of four seats in the middle of the plane. It felt like my own personal Shangri-La for the duration of that flight. I was feeling pretty lucky. The flight was actually quite good. We chased the sun towards the west at 888km/h, and darkness never overcame us. It was a triumph of technology over night. The view out the window was uniformly sunny and bright for the entire trip to Tokyo. The vista below, when not obscured by clouds, was spectacular. We floated over huge, cracked expanses of Arctic water. The flight path took us well over Alaska and then down the eastern coast of Asia towards Japan. Meals were actually tolerable and healthy too. Because of the large percentage of Asians on the flight, we had Asian-inspired food, like Terriyaki chicken, and stir fried beef.
As we landed in Tokyo nearly 13 hours later, night pounced upon us quickly. I guess you can’t run forever. The Tokyo airport was everything I thought it might be: clean, technologically advanced, and sickeningly efficient. The Japanese security personnel were polite and friendly, a stark contrast to the grouchy workers in the American and Canadian airports. Not surprisingly, the connecting flight to Bangkok boarded and took off promptly on time, despite being completely full this time.
It was actually the same 747 that took us the rest of the way to Bangkok, but this time, I was not so lucky with the seat assignment. I was stuck in one of those middle seats, away from the aisle. Fortunately, this was only a brief six-hour hop. I was already feeling edgy a couple of hours into the trip. If I’d had to spend the entire 13 hours in that cramped spot, I would have probably succumbed to air rage.
Once we landed in Bangkok, I immediately felt like I was in a different world. The air was hot and steamy. We had to deplane by means of stairs, and take a bus to the terminal. Customs and immigration was a snap. They stamped and stapled stuff to our passports and waved us through. I picked up my luggage and headed out to the curb to grab a taxi. My taxi driver was insane. It was after midnight, and he drove the nearly empty expressways like a Formula 1 racer. The taxi ride to my hotel, the Trinity Silom, cost 300 Baht (about $10). After checking in, I discovered that they had upgraded me from a standard double room to a full suite. I have a kitchen, a living room, and a huge bathroom. The place is kind of old, and things look a little bit worn out, but I can’t complain much for roughly $31/night. I checked in at 12:45am, making my door-to-door journey 32-hours long.
This morning, I was out the door at about 7am to explore my surroundings. It truly is an amazing place. The streets are organized chaos. Cabs and buses share the road, jammed together bumper to bumper. Scooters and motorcycles weave in and out of traffic to get to the front of the pack. At red lights, huge packs of motorcycles wait for the green, and then buzz off in all directions. It’s bewildering and awe-inspiring. Despite the traffic zooming in all directions, you rarely even hear a car horn. Thai people are accepting and patient by nature.
Every alleyway is packed with shops and food stands. Vendors cook mouthwatering treats by the sidewalk, and fresh fruit is everywhere. There are also lots of modern stores and fast food joints. It’s an amazing collision of east and west.
Anyway, I’ve already started taking photos, but don’t yet have any facilities for processing them. Keep your eyes peeled for photo updates.
Today’s mission is to get in touch with Tan, who is staying with family near the airport. I’ll also be trying to hunt down a cellphone.
Until next time…