Monday, March 19, 2007

Story Jar - One Night in Bangkok

Story Jar - a biweekly column in the Patriot and Free Press, Cuba, NY
copyright 2007, Elaine Hardman

One night in Bangkok

We are now in a hotel in Bangkok. We hadn’t planned to visit Bangkok outside the airport. We left Cambodia this morning at 7 and flew to Bangkok. We found our bags and checked them on a domestic flight to Sukhothai. Then, boarding passes in hand, we spent 4 hours wandering this gorgeous new airport. Eventually we went to our departure gate. Lots of other people were there so we figured that was good but then our boarding approached and our flight wasn’t called and that was bad.
We had passed through security and our boarding passes said we belonged where we were so the guards wouldn’t let us out and that was bad. There were no Bangkok Air people in the area and that was also bad but finally the boarding time passed and a security guard understood that something was amiss so she took us out and that was good.
We discovered that the boarding gate had been changed so we rushed to the new gate but our plane had taken off without us and that was bad. The airlines found our bags and that was very good and they booked us on a flight scheduled for the next morning and that was also good and they offered us an inexpensive hotel room so we said, “Well, that’s good.”
The taxi driver, however, neither knew where the hotel was or how to find it or how to ask. You might think that the dispatcher on his radio could help. We thought so. She couldn’t. All that was bad.
He took us to a hotel and thought we should be happy but it was a $$$$$ fancy-pants hotel and we were wearing pants suitable for climbing over temple ruins. That is to say, it was not our kind of hotel so that was bad. But, the people there spoke English and Thai and knew where the target hotel was and talked with the driver so we thought that was good but he still didn’t find it and that was bad again.
He asked directions three or four times more and drove 80 minutes for a 20 minute ride and then we found it. Good. We didn’t pay him all that was charged on the meter but he accepted our offer and that was also good.
We put our things in the hotel and called the guest house in Sukothai and the owners said that the new airport opened just one month ago and was a constant mess. We shouldn’t worry. Our rooms would be held for us and that was excellent.
We went out of the hotel and there was a grocery store right there. Great – well, almost great. We found many things that we could not identify. Soy milk looked familiar but there was a note on the box - cow milk protein added for enrichment. I often take soy milk while traveling because it’s a great snack but milk protein is worse than bad for me so the English warning was very good.
We found food for our 5 a.m. breakfast. Rick would have sweet cashews - tasting of coconut milk, an apple, yogurt and peanuts. I would skip the yogurt and substitute a carrot and we could share a chocolate chip cookie and water. When we get to the airport we will hold tight to our departure passes and will check the board 95 times.
It was dark and late so we went in search of dinner. We went to a mall food court thinking that it would be easier than trying to find a food stall in the streets where, if the Taxi driver could get lost, we’d be in trouble. Our good idea went bad when we found that, as with the grocery store, nearly all the signs were in Thai.
We found one stall with a sign in beautiful English letters and ordered. With a mixture of Thai and demonstrations we were instructed to buy a coupon to pay for our food. The mall, the hotel and we were considerably away from the tourist areas of Bangkok and therefore without Western conventions or language. We managed to buy the appropriate coupon, get the food, eat and find our way back to the hotel. Small tasks become large accomplishments sometimes. Amazingly, I have no photos of this place. How unlike me.
Now it is really late. Jet lag is keeping me up but Rick is sleeping. Good for him. Outside the hotel, the city bristles with noise from people, trucks, cars and something constantly bangs all seeming as awake as I am but probably not wondering as much about how things will go tomorrow.

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