Monday, July 5, 2010

Time Warp to Thailand

In a previous life I had traveled the world extensively but had skipped around the fabled land of Siam for some reason as if repelled by two positive magnetic currents. I had first heard of this country through my two sisters who in our childhood years had scored roles in an amateur production of "The King and I," my younger sister playing one of the children while the older sister playing one of the junior wives. From Broadway through film adaptations and a little delving in to actual history on my own I discovered the charms of Thailand as well as the food. Time to see it up close and personal after all these years.

The journey begins as such journeys always do at the airport, in this case Washington/Dulles. The line of flight would take me first to Dallas/Ft. Worth on American Airlines, then Tokyo/Narita and from there on United Airlines for the final leg to Bangkok. Some people like to add in all the time ahead of and in between the actual flying to paint a picture of how long it really took to get from A to B? This is one of those occasions! I woke up at 3:30AM to make the drive from Baltimore to Dulles Airport in time for a 7AM flight to Dallas that would give me about an hour at the massive facility to find my nonstop, the all important international flight to Japan.

A slight mix-up at Dulles almost caused me to miss that flight but I made it and connected with no problems to the gleaming Boeing 777 waiting quietly at Gate D33 to carry me to Tokyo. The flight was on time, the service impeccable and the seat just the ticket for a trip that, even after 12 hours in the air, was really only just beginning.

We landed at 12:30PM local time but the United service was not scheduled to leave until 6PM that evening. Three hours before leaving Washington, three hours to Dallas, an hour in Texas plus twelve hours to Japan equals nineteen hours since I last kissed my pillow at home with almost a six hour layover before my last and final flight of the day. Gott in Himmel bitte mir helfen!

Boarding is finally called and I'm seated next to a chipper guy just in from Denver who makes the trip once a month. That announcement clams up my grousing pretty quickly as we settle in for the, wait for it, five and a half hour flight to Thailand. I kept telling myself that it will all be over soon; I needed this vacation. At some point I will have a chance to kick back and relax as planned.

On in to the East Asian night we flew, with every mile taking me literally back in time towards ancient Siam. The 747 flew straight and true, threading the needle of the Formosa Strait between Taiwan and Mainland China, riding the edge of the mainland before skirting Hainan, hanging down like some uvula in the throat of the Southeast China Sea. We made landfall just north of Da Nang at Hue, Vietnam, images of the Evening News with Walter Cronkite playing in my time-warped mind while the country itself slept peacefully below. We continued on over south central Laos and across the northern border of Cambodia before finally entering eastern Thailand where the engines droned our imminent arrival as they throttled back for the descent.

It is midnight and we're pulling on to a remote parking stand at the new Bangkok International Airport some 30 miles to the east of town. The plane is tired, the crew is tired, everyone else is tired and I'm almost in tears from being tired. Without doubt the longest single travel experience in one direction that I have ever endured with everything operating exactly to plan, 30 hours from door to....almost door. Never was anyone so happy to see the plane door open for the last time, sweltering as it still was in the Southeast Asian humidity, as I just then. It wasn't over yet, though; I still had to get to my hotel.

I paid the equivalent of $30 for the journey in to town which was not altogether unreasonable but I would discover later was three times what I could have paid with a little haggling. At midnight after the marathon I've just endured, though, that delirious vulnerability is exactly what the taxis and limo drivers are counting on but I didn't care. They could have driven me to Singapore for all I'd have known. I was an exhausted novice who just wanted to get to a bed so I could get this desperately needed vacation started.

Welcome to Thai.....Zzzzzzz!

Gotta go.

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