14th March 2006. Go time. My last step on English soil (well, OK – tarmac, carpetting and tiles) for over a year.
As is usual with the larger British airports, once you’re in the departure area there are no windows so you have no idea what time it is. This pretty much messes up your body clock before you even start to figure in jet lag – and prior to taking off. Also, food is ludicrously expensive and “duty free” items are usually cheaper down the road in Morrisons.
However, I had some pounds and pence to use up so dinner consisted of a hugely overpriced cheese and ham sandwich, some fruit smoothie or other and a bag of crisps. The pennies I had remaining clinked into a charity box. No more currency with the Queen’s head on until I reach Oz.
There were no delays with the flight, and I was fortunate with my seating position. The chap behind me was somewhat the worse for a few pints and was conversing rather loudly with someone behind him about how great Arsenal are. The two lads I was sat next two were really nice and kept muttering “shut up…” under their breaths. Noisy Man soon fell asleep, but not before removing his shoes and releasing an odour which I’m surprised the security equipment didn’t pick up. And then wriggling around like a slug on a salt bed, kicking my chair from behind.
As I said, though – fortunate. The plane I was on had three rows of three seats and I was on an aisle. The two seats nearest me in the centre were empty so I hopped over there. Harry Potter 4 was watched (not bad, but too short for a flight!), sleep was had, and an awful woman 2 seats over was talked to. I managed to fob her off after 5 minutes with a quick loo break. Essentially, she’d retired on alimony from her husband who’d decided he preferred an 18-year old Thai bride to her. Frankly, I can’t blame him. All she did was say how much she hated Thais (“you ask them to do anything and they just look at you and go … ‘myeh'” – I have a theory on that; it’s because you’re a crotchety old witch who badmouths them), and how she stayed there till she was ready to punch one, then went back to the UK to calm down. Which begs the question “why?” but, frankly, I just couldn’t be bothered.
Those little downturns aside, the flight was very enjoyable. My only real quibble was getting to within 5 minutes of the ending of Zathura when the pilot announced we were landing and they shut off the entertainment system. Gah! So if anyone knows what the kid wished for with the second gold “shooting star” card and can tell me what happened, I’d be most grateful.
Passport control was swift (even with two rucksacks and a painful back) and Louise was waiting for me in the arrivals hall.
My first experience of Thai driving was… just that. An experience. Want to be in a lane? Just kind of drift that way and someone will let you in. Turning at a junction? Find a gap you’ll fit in (don’t worry about the oncoming traffic) and just pull into it to get across. Lots of beeping horns and waving fists? Nope. There appears to be no road-rage or frustration whatsoever. I know the Dutch are meant to be laid back, but they’re nothing compared to Thai drivers. Most cars are fairly new and in good condition, though in fairness I’ve seen a couple of bumps (nothing serious) in the last few days. Certainly no more than I’d have seen back home, though.
We stayed in the Davis Hotel with Tim and Tracy, friends of Lou’s from back home who were here for a fortnight. A very nice place, and we got a “superior” room for about the price you’d pay for a Travelodge in the UK. Thailand’s cheap – very cheap indeed if you don’t go for relative splendour like this.
I wasn’t too jet-lagged as I’d slept on the overnight flight and woken up early enough for my body to only be an hour or so out. We had dinner at the Barbican (Lou’s cousin Joy’s western restaurant) and then went to Patpong which I can’t describe in a family-oriented blog. Suffice to say if you took prospective parents-in-law here for a drink to try and impress them they’d lock their daughter up and refuse to let you see her again. “Good to say you’ve been” is, I suppose, the best I can say. Another one of those “experience”s.
Courtesy of aircon and a sudden realisation that the plane seats weren’t as comfy as I’d thought, sleep came easily that night.