Thailand Journal: Arrival

tl;dr version: We arrived in Thailand without any problems.

We did a good job packing the night before,  which is surprising for anyone who knows me, so the morning of the flight we just had to tie up a few loose ends before we departed. We had plenty of time to make it to the airport, and we managed to arrive, check in, and pass through security with a full hour and a half to kill before the flight departed. We waited patiently, listening to the alternating Chinese and English announcements of the preceding flights as we sipped our coffees and read.

We were somewhat nervous about the flight. Prior to departure, we had read some reviews of the airline, China Eastern Air, and they were not good. Difficulties with the accent, the lack of food for long flights, and uncomfortable seating arrangements all were raised as problems by upset reviewers. The airline is run by the government, apparently, and I had taken to calling it Commie Air prior to the flight.

While the announcements were sometimes difficult to understand, the rest of the complaints turned out to be unfounded, and quite frankly, the service was better than Continental Airlines, the airline my dad always takes and complains about constantly. So much for market efficiencies.

The flight got off on time, and during the 15ish hour flight, we were treated to a full 2.5 meals. The extra half a meal was a serving of drinks and a half of a chicken salad sandwich that was served kind of randomly. The fried noodles I got for breakfast (I think it was breakfast…) was actually quite good.

The arrival in Shanghai provided the only moment of difficulty in the process, where we apparently had to pass through 3 lines before making our way to the gate, one of which was a pointless Transfer Services which did little more than tell us which gate our flight would be departing from. I can read the board, thankyouverymuch.

The flight to Thailand was another 5 hours, and we were treated to a snack plate, with an assortment of things both average and strange: chocolate wafers, onion cookies, and one curiously cold package titled “Aviation Radish.” I did not eat those.

After arriving in Bangkok, we waited again on the immigration line, which, besides being long, was a similarly painless process. As I remarked to Bob via email upon our arrival, the ease of the whole experience makes me a bit nervous. I keep expecting something to go wrong. We even managed to secure our bags without incident!

Getting a cab was really our first interaction with the locals. Bob had given us a card with the address and directions to the apartment, which we handed to the bored-looking woman by the taxi desk. She read it, nodded, and went back to reading her magazine. We waited for the cabs to arrive, and I started getting nervous, as the line behind me was starting to get a bit long, but a half-dozen or so pulled up all at once and everyone was able to get one.

There are four different color schemes for Thai cabs: yellow and green, which is the most common; red; blue; and a hilariously bright pink, which matched Heidi’s shirt at the time. We were directed to one of the yellow and green ones, driven by a friendly old Thai man. He helped Heidi get her massive luggage bag into the trunk and directed me to put my bags in the back seat, and I hopped into the passenger seat.

Which, by the way, was on the left side. Yeah, I didn’t expect it, but apparently they drive British-style in Thailand.  Go figure.

I handed the the directions to the driver, and we were off. The driver was super friendly, which is kind of a recurring theme: everyone we’ve met has been really friendly and helpful. His English wasn’t great, but we managed to make some small-talk.

“How many time you come to Thailand?”

“Hmmm?”

“One time, two time…”

“Oh, heh, this is our first time. Staying at a friend’s place.”

“Where you from?”

“America, New York City.”

“Obama!”

He asked us a few more questions, like where we were going in Thailand. I tried my best to keep my responses short and simple, which is harder than you’d think, especially because I have a penchant for verbosity (and big words 🙂 ).

Eventually, the conversation died, and I spent much of the trip staring out the window, taking in the city. I alternated between some level of intellectualization (“This kind of reminds me of Southern Italy.” “It looks like a fairly developed city.”) and astonishment (“Oh my god, I’m in fucking Thailand.”). We had booked this trip in March, so 9 months ago, and it felt like I was in a dream upon arriving.

We did make it to the building and made our way to Robert’s apartment, which was totally awesome. Robert is an avid traveler, now that he lives in Thailand, and his apartment is decorated with artifacts, cultural items, and artwork from around Asia. In addition, he has a balcony, which we spent much time out on, furnished with chairs and a lot of bamboo plants.  We took in the place and quickly fell asleep around 4:30am.

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