Thailand 2013 (1) – Volcanoes, Icicles and No Camels and Welcome to Your Asian Experience.

The volcano we flew over.

The volcano we flew over.

Hi all. As you can see, we made it to Thailand safely and are still alive and kicking so far.

 We got to Auckland Airport with plenty of time to spare, and managed to get the Malayasian Airlines staff to accept our slightly overweight luggage at check in – we have our wonderful donors to thank for that: Whangamata Library who donated books for Cambodian kids, Whangamata Vet Hospital who donated syringes, gloves, IV lines, etc, for the Elephant Nature Park clinic, and Sunny’s, Whangamata who gave us coloured pencils and half a carton of kids t-shirts, also for kids that are less fortunate than us. Awesome people, bless their lovely hearts for that! Peter modified a large plastic toolbox to use as a suitcase, which gave the check-in staff cause to wonder if he was transporting tools, but it was more along the lines of a good hard shell, somewhere to sit while waiting in line after line, as you do when travelling, and also a rather marvellous vehicle for scooting around the large international airports. We can duly report that this worked very well, as well as amusing airport staff. We try to be adult, but it doesn’t always work out that way… 

 Once checked in, we had plenty of time on our hands, which thankfully we were able to fill by testing various and sundry forms of liquor at the Duty Free shops. The poor girls giving out the samples were very lonely and desperate for conversation – thank God we were nearby to save them from this terrible fate!!

 The plane seats were surprisingly comfortable, compared to others I have applied my hind quarters to. I was a little bit sad that the food wasn’t Asian-style to start off with, which I am used to on Thai Airways flights, but it was still fairly nice. It was great that we flew out at 1pm, as we got to see Australia from the air right the way through. Some people think that Oz is boring to fly over, but I love it. It’s like having your own personal Google Satellite map – you see ancient riverbeds that look like earthly veins, all widespread and intricate, red sand that turns abruptly into white at times, shadows cast by slights hills and bumps, bits that look like large patches of scrub, strange pockmarks and patterns made by goodness knows what geological factors, and then huge patches of brown sameness that must be hotter than Hades if you’re unlucky enough to be in them.  Fluffy clouds and their shadows hang around like friendly little 3-d sky poodles and then there is my personal favourite, the curve of the earth’s atmosphere – a fuzzy line that changes from white to blue. I tried to spot camels and dingoes and things, but I think they were all inside having lunch. We flew over the drink again for a while after that and at one stage we passed a volcano island thingy (stop me if I’m being too technical). I took a few photos of it, which came out alright, considering they were out a double-skinned window with icicles on the outside. I have no idea what island it was – we couldn’t find it on the plane map. Part of Indonesia, I know that much.

 Many of the other passengers slept while we flew – a testament to how blasé we humans get. Our ground speed was 894 km and the outside temp was -54 degrees and we were flying over a continent from one side to the other. How can you not stare out the window in awe at such a thing?! This is my seventh flight to Asia and it still blows my mind that we are able to do this. I hope I never get that blase about it all. It could be that we are unable to do it in the future, due to global warming and the pollution factor of airplanes. Maybe our great grandkids will ask us what it was like to fly for many miles across the planet. How many of us will have to say ‘Erm, I’m not sure – I slept through it…’

 Okay, I’ll stop ranting now.

 I hate Kuala Lumpur Airport! It’s reasonably beautiful on the eye, I suppose, but it’s enormous and very confusing. We completed at least one circle to nowhere before we found a help desk that pointed us in the right direction. The powers that be in hidden rooms somewhere changed the gate three times, so we found fellow passengers looking as desperate and wide-eyed as we were and then we all stuck together like bewildered, tired, ragged sheep .It didn’t help that our plane had been delayed in the first place and we only had an hour or so to find where we were supposed to be at the right time for the next flight to Bangkok. First, you have to get on a train with no driver that shoots you over to another terminal. It feels a bit like you’re in a Harry Potter movie at that stage. I didn’t dare get into one of their glass elevators, because the last time I did that, I got out the door on the wrong side and ended up thinking I would have to live at the airport because of the confusing amounts of levels, layers, escalators, stairways and other paraphernalia designed to turning you into a blithering heap in a corner. Sometimes a voice will bark out commands in Indonesian from a ceiling panel above you, causing you to nearly leap out of out of your birthday suit. Did I mention I hate that airport?

Lost in Kuala Lumpur airport. It's huge and scary and it's past our bedtime.

Lost in Kuala Lumpur airport. It’s huge and scary and it’s past our bedtime.

 Finally we lifted off on a much smaller plane and were served yummy chicken curry with roti by nice young men in suits. Now THAT’S the sort of food I was after. At Bangkok airport we went to sit outside for a breather, and we found a very flash Nikon camera that someone had left behind on the seat. So I went and waited in line for ages at the info desk and was finally able to hand it in. I hope they found the owner, who would have been having kittens when he realised what he had done.

 Our taxi was a bit of a laugh. Well, you have to laugh when you’re that tired and your hotel bed is still slightly out of arm’s reach. It had one seatbelt in the back on my side, and the only other one was for the driver. Well, in his case it was more a memory of a seatbelt, with a few strands left on it where it passed through the metal anchor and really could have done with several layers of duct tape to at least give the impression of being effective. Watching him in the mirror, I was pretty sure he closed his eyes every two or three minutes and I got ready to yell really loudly if he didn’t open them again after three seconds or so. ‘Twas the usual routine of discussing in two different languages where our hotel might possibly be, but we did get there in the end.

 Relief was temporary, however, when the hotel receptionist claimed I hadn’t paid for the room via the internet, as I thought I had. Exactly the same thing happened last year, but when I tried to find evidence on my Kindle, I couldn’t, so I paid. Again. I would figure it out later when I wasn’t trying to do things through three-quarter-closed eyelids.

 Finally, we were in our room. The bed was hard, the AC was at half mast, but hey, we were home. For now anyway.

 So, Thailand had spoken to us, ‘Welcome to your Asian Experience. We have more in store for you – watch this space.’

 And so it begins.

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