Thailand (Day 2)

Got up at about 7. I guess I slightly overestimated how close we were to the airport. I put on most of my make up, we went to buy some breakfast and then catch the train to meet everyone else at the airport.

Trish and I caught the wrong train and started heading toward the suburbs of Osaka. We had to get off and change trains. We were both a little nervous. Actually I was really nervous and Trish was borderline freaking out. To which I recommended that she wait until we were heading in the right direction, on the right train before she started freaking out. Got on the special line headed directly to the airport. It was the express, so it took 40 min instead of an hour.

I texted Janet and they picked up my suitcase.

Got to the airport just in time. Went through all the hoops and bought a shikwasa flavored chuhai to drink before take off.

The Thai Airways plane was interesting on the inside. All the seats were purple, as were the pillows, blankets, and staff uniforms. Even the tickets were bright purple. The flight itself was great. Very smooth. The food was OK. The beer was free. I got to see the movie Dreamgirls. Before the plane landed they gave us ice cream and all the girls were given orchid boutonnieres.

We got to Bangkok (BKK) and it wasn't too complicated. We had to get a connecting flight. As we showed our tickets and passports to a lady sitting at the switchover gate, she slapped a "Thai Airlines: International" sticker on my breast. Welcome to Thailand.

We had about 20 minutes until the connecting flight.

The next plane was a little smaller, but all the seats had little tv screens in the back. We were sitting toward the back of the plane and were surrounded by a group of American high school students. I have no idea why they were taking a trip to Phuket together.

The flight was scheduled to take a little over an hour. It was bumpy most of the way. Maybe 20 or 30 minutes before we got there the plane kind of dropped. All the people near us kind of called out in surprise, I guess.

Then it happened again.

I grabbed the back of the seat in front of me. It was really quick, but I had actually floated out of my seat that time. The kids around us were laughing and cheering like they were on a roller coaster.

We got to the airport and headed to immigration. It was funny because the woman just inside the entry way was speaking in a big voice, "What-is-thiis? What-iis-this?...Don't blame me for your problems." Then she handed something back to an angry, yelling brown man.

Immigration was a little strange (read: ghetto) because they had used electrical tape to make little feet on the floor to show you where you should stand. On the passport checker's desk there was a small video camera. The kind that's a very futuristic-looking ball on a stick. Well, futuristic for the 70's.

Wynne said that it usually took guys much longer to go through immigration. However, I ended up taking the longest. I wanted to ask what was wrong, but I didn't want to stand there any longer. Finished, picked up our bags and went into the lobby.

The inside of the airport was fairly small and dirty. We changed money and I was very disappointed that they wouldn't change coins. Went outside and it was hot. I think it was about 7pm, but still, there was no indication of the heat dying down. There was a whole wall of sweaty local men waiting along the curb with a handful of tourists. Some hotels had sent "shuttles" to pick up their guests with poorly written signs and dusty taxis. Next to those guys were the taxi drivers. I suspect most of them were from one or 2 companies. Right out of the gate Wynne started haggling. When the taxi driver she would insist, and I would start in too. We were followed from one end of the sidewalk to the other by one of the guys. Janet walked across to get the price for 2 taxis vs. 1 van. We finally talked the driver of one of the vans down to an OK price.

Not great, but OK.

Climbing into the cloud of funk and sandalwood inside his van, I wondered out loud how much of the time, when people slipped into speaking Thai at a business, the locals were trying to get us to pay a price much higher than the local people would pay. That's when we decided to have secret asides in Japanese. It worked fairly well except for the fact that Stephen doesn't speak any J-go at all.

The ride from the airport to Patong was scary.

It was night now and our driver was driving as fast as he could. I couldn't see the speedometer, but the engine was making a high sound. The kind that tends to happen when you drive a car for too long in one gear.

Our driver wove around other cars, and although there were lines painted on the road, they didn't really seem to serve a purpose. At times the cars would ride 2 abreast in the same lane. At others the cars would overtake one another, but they would continue to drive along the center line. Other roads intersected the main one that we were on, but there were no lights to control the flow of traffic coming from them. So occasionally a truck would just fly out. I was happy that we were making conversation with our driver. I wanted us all to be buddies. I was kind of freaking out. I have seen/ participated in crazy driving before, but this was freaking Mario Kart. Scooters and motorcycles took up the space not filled by cars and trucks on the road. Sometimes you would even see 3 people riding on a bike. It was weird. Finally we got to Patong and drove up the large hill at the end of the main drag, at the top of which was our hotel, the Baan Nern Sai Resort.

We got out and paid what the man originally asked for. That way his tip was whatever you had left once you subtracted what we wanted to pay.

The man quickly left, no doubt driving twice as fast to get back to the airport as he gets paid according to how many customers he ferries about in a day.

In the front office of the hotel we were greeted by a skinny Thai woman in her 30's. She spoke in short, terse sentences. I 'm not sure how much of that was a reflection on her English skill level vs. a general distain for tourists. At any rate, we checked in and a girl brought in a tray full of shallow glasses with yellow pineapple juice inside. It was very sweet. I walked out of one of the side doors of the octagon-shaped room with the front desk in it. I went to look at the pool. There was a pool bar complete with some seats in the water, welded to the sides of the pool. Only there were no lights and the "bar" had been converted into a makeshift storage shed with cardboard boxes full of books and magazines. Hardly any of them were in English. A few were in French and German, but the majority was in Swedish, I think. Maybe Dutch. We walked to our rooms. There were 2. One room had 2 queen sized beds while the other had that plus a single trundle bed.

Trish tried to drop hints about who should sleep where, but they were too oblique. I was only interested in throwing my stuff down somewhere and going to get something to eat. In the end, Trish and Wynne shared a room while Me, Janet and Stephen shared the other. This was fine with me. They could take the beginning of their boyfriend/ girlfriend thing somewhere else.

We got ready and stepped back out. Every hour, for interested customers, the hotel offered a shuttle into town for free. This "shuttle" was the back of a truck with "benches" balanced over the wheel basins and a canopy/ tarp suspended over the top.

The breeze was nice. The diesel fumes were not. Getting to the main drag, we let the man know that we'd need a ride back around 11, the last pick up time.

We walked down the main drag, looking for a resturant. There were people everywhere. Tourists and locals.

People called out occasionally. Selling things. One man had a shop where he made suits and stopped Stephen, pushing his business card into his hand, offering him access to all the porn that he had in the backroom.

We went to an Italian restaurant across the way from there. It was ok. It protected us from the sudden storm that happened as soon as we sat down. The power almost went out, and I had a calzone that was too bready, without enough sauce with a giant beer that I was too tired to finish.