Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How I survived 25 hours of travel to Bangkok - plus, some observations

Photo by ME! I took it out of the window of the plane!
You can tell who the veteran Asia-Pacific travelers are when you begin to tell them about an upcoming trip. They get that blissful, far-away look in their eyes, recounting amazing adventures in foreign lands... then those same eyes narrow and darken as they tell you how horrifying 24 hours of pure airplane travel can be. Now, having experienced that type of travel firsthand, I have to agree. 

In a taxi at 4am, we flew from Washington, DC Reagan National Airport at 6am. First, we stopped to change planes in New York (parenthetical side note: can I just tell you how NOT user friendly JFK is? We wandered aimlessly for some time to find the mysterious Airtrain, all while listening to security yelling at shellshocked tourists...) From New York, we flew 16 hours straight to Hong Kong. I wrote a haiku to sum up the experience: 

Little screaming boy
Non-stop sixteen hour flight
Free baby for sale

You may be asking yourself, "how could a small child possibly scream for 16 hours straight?" My answer to you? Easily, actually. And shrilly. 

The good news is, the other aspects of the flight were relatively easy to deal with. 6' 4" Andy scored exit row seats the whole way, thank goodness - he read an entire novel, while I knitted and partially assembled a hat. The window blinds stayed drawn throughout the flight, keeping the plane dark for a majority of our travel, and making sleep fairly easy and frequent. Meals were served regularly, and didn't seem to tweak my gluten allergy one bit, I'm happy to report. I watched something like 6 movies and a TV documentary, taking time between each to stretch and walk around. Landing in Hong Kong was a blissful experience, even though we still had 2 hours to go in order to get to Bangkok. 

(See the woman over Andy's left shoulder? That grey tentacle creeping around her neck belonged to the screaming creature she had with her...)
After the easy flight into Bangkok, we found out that our luggage decided to spend more time in Hong Kong, and would be along later. Because we've traveled many times with gigantic, heavy scuba bags, this is a pretty frequent occurrence for us, so we turned in our hotel information, and made our way outside to meet up with the driver from the Mandarin Oriental. We were driven in a sleek BMW to the Mandarin - it was a fairly long drive through terrible traffic, with weather that was rainy and stormy all the way. It was during that drive that I made one of many observations - that Thai people do not observe traffic lanes in any discernable way - luckily, everyone engages in this practice, so it wasn't nearly as scary as it may sound. 

This is our driver, totally straddling 2 lanes...

Other observations:
  • My husband is an enormous, tattooed giant in this country. Seriously - he's a really tall guy, but even I felt gigantic; it was pretty amazing. Also, he's the only person I saw with facial hair for the better part of Tuesday. 
  • Thai people are wonderful - kind, hospitable, and lovely. 
  • Personal space, particularly in queues and on escalators, is absolutely non existent. 
  • People pick their noses unabashedly here. Just saying. 
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok is tucked away down a tiny little side street - because Andy works for the one in DC, we got a good rate to stay, and knew it would be a welcome respite after all of that travel. It literally has the most beautiful lobby of any hotel I've ever seen. Apparently the staff-to-guest ratio is 3:1. Being here for the last 12 hours, I can honestly say that's true - there's a person who pushes the elevator "up" button for you. (SQUEE!)

We were greeted with orchid garlands and a chocolate elephant, carrying other chocolates on its back:

Our view faces the Chaophraya River, where little boats dash about all day and evening

We took a quick hour to step out and grab a quick bite, and the chicken on a stick purchased for about $1, plus the most delicious chicken curry I've ever eaten in my life, made me optimistic that this is going to be an amazing trip - travel and all.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Adventure Begins

Today - well, tomorrow at the asscrack of dawn, really, Andy and I take off for Bali, by way of Bangkok. This was my 40th birthday gift, and will be the furthest we've ever been from home. Couldn't be more excited!

At this point, over-packing, nervous peeing, and a lot of way-too-loud tense giggling have been taking place for most of today. But, if all goes according to plan, in a few short hours we'll be at the airport!