2008- Entry 1: Thailand

We landed in Bangkok after circling the airport for about 30 minutes. There was a tremendous thunder, lightning and rain storm as we approached the city. You know after a flight of that duration, you just want to get on the ground already—– thunder, lightning or whatever…………..

Isn’t it said that the longest journey begins with the first step? Actually, I think that the second one must pass an ATM. They are everywhere around here now, but I think that the best deal on the exchange is still to get travelers checks.

I can’t believe that it was only 6 days ago that I left on this fourth little journey of mine to rediscover SE Asia. It is already proving to be a totally different experience. I find that I am meeting a lot of new people and going about the act of living rather than just visiting this wonderful country.
Leaving JFK was maddening. I got to the airport at 7 AM for the 11:30  flight on American Airlines. I couldn’t believe the crowds that I encountered as the automatic doors opened! Between people and luggage, there was barely a square inch to call one’s own. It was pandemonium to say the very least. American Airlines had canceled several flights at the last minute and the attendants were trying to reroute the close-to-being-riotous crowd! It is amazing the way you just fall in with people in a situation like that. My flight was not canceled, but there were NO attendants at any of the stations to check in the long line of passengers for uncancelled flights I was on! We were just all waiting there– waiting for something in this increasingly bizarre situation to change in our favor. An American Airlines rep came by and said that we should go to the self-check-in down the hall. I met a nice family who were going on the same flight to Tokyo. They saved my place as I reconnoitered this “oh-so-easy” check in! I have learned, from many experiences, that when I see “It’s as easy as 1-2-3!!!” that you should proceed with extreme caution. If that caption is accompanying a photo of a friendly, smiling face tilted just slightly to the right to give you the feeling that he or she is also very approachable—— well then, it must be a downright lie! And, of course, I was right! I scanned my passport and filled in all the necessary information on the screen. And JUST when I was done with that, a message appears and tells you to contact an American Airlines rep in the area to “verify your information.” Well, look around and you cannot find any one to help because they are on riot duty in the same area I was before. Within a minute of getting the message the screen reverts to the original page with all your information– -as the new Thai expression goes “kaput”! I returned to my position on the original line to sadly report that the machines were not working, either. I felt like Christopher Columbus returning to Spain and saying, “Yep! You were right all along. The earth really IS flat! So why did I bother going over there!?” Well in that 20 or so minutes, not only had the line not moved, but the there were no attendants still to be seen. I grabbed a guy who was just walking around and he helpfully suggested that I use the self-check-in down the hall! When I told him it didn’t work for me no matter what method I used, he escorted me and the family down there and processed us through using his pass. It was really that simple. I wonder to this day if that line has yet moved. Or are all those people still there in place like some weird wax tableau.
The rest of the trip to Tokyo was mysteriously OK, save the turbulance and the food! One meal consisted of cold, hard rice and plain chicken. (I asked for it to be microwaved and the attendant looked at me and said, “We HAVE no microwave.” I ate the chicken. All I could think of is that on any of the Asian airlines this wouldn’t even be discussed as they would NEVER serve it that way to begin with!
Narita was calm for once, but I had to take a bullet train to get to my conencting flight! Fortunately, I had plenty of time. I’ll only have about 2 hours between flights on the return, so I am not that hopeful! The Japanese Airlines connecting flight ot Bangkok was a step above the American Airlines experience. Got to the hotel in Bangkok on Wednesday morning about 2am. Slept for five hours and was fine. No jet lag, thankfully!
The past few days I have just been enjoying the city and connecting with friends. I have been actually doing just every day stuff with people….. a movie here, a trip to the market there. All very mundane. I negotiate the subway system as easy as, well, 1-2-3 (only this time it is true!) Busy making all my connecting reservations, calling friends, getting over some “walking stomach” probably from the “khanom krok” I purchased from the vendor on the street yesterday (when will I learn?)  and preparing to go to the coast for a few days with some friends of mine tomorrow.
Next week, India and finally to the Taj Mahal!
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