30 April 2012

Thailand, getting There : Apr 29-May1

The plan is:

Leave Des Moines Sunday evening around 5:30pm and fly to Dallas.
Leave Dallas Sunday evening and fly to Los Angeles.
Leave LA in the wee hours Monday morning and arrive in Hong Kong early Tuesday morning (crossing the international date line).
Leave Hong Kong slightly later Tuesday morning and arrive in Bangkok around 10:30 am on Tuesday.

How long is that, really?

Well, we're supposed to be at the airport by 3pm Sunday and arrive in Bangkok at 10:30 Tuesday morning ...that's 43.5 hours. (I don't know how long it will take to get from the airport to the hotel so I'm not factoring that in.) Subtract the 12 hours earlier that Bangkok is and you get 31.5 hours of elapsed time...almost a day and a half of travel. Subtract the 6 or so hours of airport layovers and you get around 25.5 hours of flight time.

Let's just call it "a lot" and leave it at that.

One thing about Thailand being 12 hours ahead of home...I won't have to change my (analog) watch. 8:27 at home will be 8:27 in Thailand...just at the other end of the day.

The trip was pretty much like you'd expect traveling for 40-some hours to be. The worst part was the 14.5 hour flight from LA to Hong Kong. I did manage to sleep on the plane (usually that's the bane of my travel existance)...a couple of sleeping pills and a glass of wine (free on international flights with Cathay Paciffic!) will do that.

Al had made a batch of chocolate chip cookies for me before we left for the airport and I passed them around at every opportunity to save me from having to eat them all myself. On one flight I shared them with Virginia and Felicia, my seatmates for that leg. Felicia had never flown before. How wild is it to have your very first plane trip ever be one to Thailand?

I spent part of the time knitting and part of the time reading from Traveler's Tales: Thailand. One of the pieces was about a temple that cures herion addicts. The part that struck me has nothing to do with curing herion addiction (an amazing process in itself), but with the monks' philosophy on travel. These monks take "vacations" where they carry everything they need with them and go walk-about for a time. It's considered a sort of spiritual pilgrimage. The quote that caught my eye was, "Travel is limiting the comfort of the body to gain freedom of the mind." Then, in a later paragraph, "Travel is transformation...if the trip shook your ideas up, if the experience changes you, then the journey was a success." (The Secrets of Tham Krabok by Michael Buckley)

I don't think I've ever had a trip that didn't change something. That experience is part of why I like to travel to places I've never been. Jury's still out on the changes that will be wrought by this trip.

Another thought sparked by something in Traveler's Tales... There was a brief section on feet in Thailand. Feet are considered the lowest, dirtiest part of the body and it's considered very bad manners to do anything with feet that is normally done with hands, for example, pushing a door shut or moving a chair. There is a Thai expression for the feet, "meu farang", that means 'foreigner hands' because of the way they use their feet for things.

I can only imagine what they'd think of my husband and stepson's habit of picking things up off the floor with their toes. Meu farang, indeed!

I was really impressed with Cathay Pacific. Not only was wine free with dinner, the dinner (in economy coach, mind you) consisted of a salmon caesar salad, sweet and sour chicken with rice and Haagen Daaz ice cream. It was the best airline food I've ever had.

Breakfast was really good too. At least mine was. The choices were an omelette with potatoes and sausage or congee. I don't know how many times the flight attendant had to answer the question, "What is congee?" but I heard her say it lots. It's basically a rice porridge. In this case, it was in a chicken broth with abalone and some sort of fish, some fresh ginger threads and thin rings of green onion. It was delicious I thought. others were not so impressed with their omelette "hockey pucks".

The flight wasn't exactly smooth, though. I don't know how many times turbulence woke me up. That's hardly the airline's fault..

Unlike every other international trip I've done, we didn't do customs and immigration in Hong Kong, the country point of entry...we did that when we got to Bangkok. An I've apparently gotten a lot better at sleeping on planes because I must have slept through getting the forms. When we were all gathering after getting off the plane everyone was busily filling theirs out and I realized I didn't have any. I wasn't worried, though. I knew I could get them at immigration and it was unlikely that the line would be short enough that I wouldn't have time to fill it out..

We cleared the terminal and connected with our transportation...a tour bus with guide, PJ. PJ gave us commentary as we drove the 35 km to Bangkok proper and our hotel, the Twin Towers.