It’s remarkable. I’m sitting in Chiang Mai, Thailand not far from the frontiers of Burma, China, and Lao. But I’m not writing about that tonight, we’ll get to that in a day or two. I want to talk about the journey. It ain’t for sissies.
I left Palm Springs, only God knows how many days ago, at 5am. This had the potential of putting me squarely into inbound rush hour traffic into Los Angeles. Driving from the Mojave Desert to the Coast is not for the faint-hearted in the best of conditions, the thought of doing it during rush hour, before an outbound international flight petrified me. I left early Dad, just like you taught me. And I was rewarded for it.
The normal two hour drive was less than three. When I got to the airport, Joan was relieved because she had been following traffic and it seems I left a trail of destruction just behind me causing accidents on the freeways I wasn’t even on. It seems I was about 15 minutes ahead of a total mess! An omen.
The pan Pacific flight, 12 to 13 hours, was the best I’ve ever taken in a fart-inducing tube. I honestly attribute this to the new Boeing 787…the Dreamliner. The aircraft is able to keep the humidity at 50% (vs. 5%) and the noise level is noticeably reduced. The crew’s service was fantastic, the seat was perfectly appointed. I watched two movies, had dinner, slept, had breakfast and awoke in Tokyo, albeit late in the evening. The hard part is behind me, now just a two hour layover and another seven hour flight to Bangkok.
Everything’s on time, naturally since we’re in Southeast Asia. When we board the Al Nippon Airways aircraft in Tokyo to Bangkok, it was like stepping back into the 50s. The aircraft was from that era yet it was in impeccable condition. Truly like being in a museum or doing a mid-century house tour. We were comfortable, fed, made to feel special, and landed in Bangkok…on time. In the USA we typically only hope one of those will happen.
Arriving in Bangkok at 1:00am has its merits. Stretching out in my bed at 2am was luxurious. No initial assault on the senses, no traffic, just a conservative cabbie that only drove the speed limit. It’s Bangkok! Where is everybody?
I’m so glad we scheduled a “recovery day” in Bangkok. Even though we arrive at an ungodly hour, when I get in bed I can’t go to sleep. And there’s chores to do tomorrow.
One must find money. One must find watch batteries. One must find a pharmacy. One must find a SIM card. One must learn the area. One must eat. One must drink. One must nap. But what one doesn’t expect to do is to run into an old friend. Getting off the hotel elevator I ran smack dab into a man I met in Bangkok four years ago. Bruce Fogel is 81 now and still leaves his New York home every winter for Southeast Asia for several months.
He, Joan, and I met for drinks and dinner, three travelers, full of stories. Two of us were complete zombies after what we’d just been through. But oddly enough the conversation never lagged. We just knew.
Now I’m in Chiang Mai (Joan too, thankfully). I’m ready to switch into a different gear. Recovering.