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Published: January 23rd 2010
A little catching up:
Stormy. On the approach to LAX we could see how high the surf was. A variety of floods and evacuations are going on, though it's only sprinkling at the airport right now. My fight isn't for almost 11 hours and it sounds like the current warning may expire by then.
I spent most of the day in the Alaska Air Board Room, which was quiet, had nice furniture, and offered unlimited soup, salad, cookies, chips, juice, soda, fruit, and water, plus 3 alcoholic drinks. I had soup, salad, one glass of sparkling wine, one glass of cranberry-orange juice, a lot of water, a banana, and a cookie. I was able to sleep for a few hours and listen in on some bizarre conversations that were stereotypical entitled industry dialogues, including people feigning not knowing what coach seating was like in planes and posturing to each other about how many calls they had to take on their Blackberries. It was like the scene in Julie and Julia
where all her friends are taking calls at the lunch table. I enjoyed it very much.
7:45 PM LAX:
Wireless service was disrupted, and Thai Airways's site down, perhaps due to the storm. People around me couldn't keep a phone signal either. I decided to head to the international terminal during a break in the rain, since I wanted to see if my flight was going out on time.
Talked with a woman from Ohio who was alarmed that the Thai Airways gate, advertised to be open 4 hours before the flight, wasn't going to be available until 3 hours before. She said she was meeting friends at the gate and they'd been here since 4:00. I assured her that they had come into one of the domestic terminals and couldn't be at the gate because Thai Airways didn't have an earlier flight. About an hour later, I saw her unite with them in line. Their flight from Phoenix (and apparently, many) had been canceled due to high winds. They had driven from Phoenix and just arrived. They'd called her, but she hadn't answered the phone because she didn't recognize the number. Hmm. I was glad they'd made it and located each other despite these obstacles.
Now I'm in the international terminal, which is an embarrassment: Beyond security, little food ($12 sandwiches, e.g.), few outlets, no duty free to speak of. As compared to last year, when I was able to check my e-mail from up here, it's only pay-to-connect now.
I heard a man telling a friend that his connecting flight had been struck by lightning.
Stinking of Thai wine
and bad behavior--sadly,
my drunk countrymen.
My flight went pretty well, though as the above haiku attests, there were a group of very unpleasant fellows right behind me who disrupted the cabin repeatedly. Finally (far too late, inn my opinion), the staff cut them off, but that didn't stop their clumsy, loud, vulgar behavior until 2:00 AM, and they were at it again the moment they awoke (though with slightly less loud vulgarity, since the staff refused to bring them morning cocktails). The trade-off was that they'd had so much to drink that they smelled just foul by morning; fortunately, the flight wasn't full and I was able to scoot across the aisle to escape the rather nauseating stench. I practiced my two mantras: I extend compassion to all stupid sentient creatures,
and At least I'm not married to him/her.
I had a lovely conversation with a Thai-American woman, watched This Is It,
the film about the concert tour for which Michael Jackson was rehearsing, and read about half of Shutter Island.
The Premium Economy seats were more plush than the normal Economy cabin, and the leg room was much better. The color scheme was pink and purple, with heavy, large reddish blankets in artificial silk and pillows with cotton covers. If my photo's any good, I'll post it when I have my camera out again. The food was quite good. I had a Euro-American beef dish for dinner, boiled rice (congee) with shrimp for breakfast, and fried rice with shrimp for lunch.
No sweat. The hotel
van is late. A rare cool breeze
ruffles the palm trees.
Now (10:16 AM on 1/23 my time; 15-18 hours earlier fo most of my readers). My flight arrived on time at 6:30 AM. The new Bangkok International Airport is laid out so well that I remembered my way around and was through Immigration, Baggage Claim, and Customs by 7:10. The hotel guy was where I expected to find him. Then I waited 45 minutes for the van, the guy apologizing over and over. I was tired and certainly could have been nasty about it or pitched a fit, but Thai culture (and Southeast Asian cultures in general) value having a "cool heart," that is, not getting angry or agitated. Anyway, what purpose would it have served?
The van finally came and there was a room ready for me. I've stayed in this hotel before. I can see a wat from my window (and a gravel lot, and the sides of some commercial buildings, and some rubble, but I choose to look at the wat). I've walked by it before and might again later. There's a little river in that direction, and back toward the airport, a park.
When I get to a new hotel room, I check for bedbugs (pull out the sheets at the bottom of the bed, look for brown or red spots on the sheets and mattress, and examine the mattress seam and label), buy an Internet card if necessary (this is 15 hours for 100 baht), hang my clothes for at least the next day (misting them to get rid of wrinkles as needed), and wash the clothes I was wearing while I shower or in the sink. This is easy to do since in this part of the world, the shower is on flexible hose and there is often no separate stall. Pros: Easy to wash clothes and there's a drain in the floor for spills. Cons: Accidentally spraying the toilet paper while showering. Perhaps more on toilets at a later date. This trip, I'm adding "purify water" to the initial tasks, so I've got a bottle going now. I figured that before the tour was the time to try it on municipal water, not right before we get in a van for an excursion.
Since the Sky Train still hasn't reached the airport area, I may skip downtown Bangkok and stay local, check my recording gear, and relax tomorrow. The restaurant next door made a mean pumpkin curry last year, and I intend to eat it at least twice.
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