Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Arrival in Thailand

Sitting in an outdoor Thai restaurant, looking out over the setting sun's rays shimmering on a small lake, I reflect on my first two full days in Bangkok. A breeze offers welcome relief from the sweltering Thai heat, as does the large cold beer that washes down a meal of noodles, peanuts, bean sprouts, egg and shrimp. My feet ache from the constant contact with hard teak and tile floors: They are not used to anything other than carpeting and thick shoe soles that cushion each step, but here in Thailand, one leaves shoes at the door. Tomorrow I plan to relieve the pain with a famous Thai one-hour foot massage near our home.

I've not met anyone who actually enjoys trans-Pacific flights. They are simply endured as best as one can. The airlines do their best, bless them, but free wine with meals and a long list of movies--I watched five between Atlanta and Seoul--is not enough to lull the traveler into believing that he is having fun. Of course, there are usually a number of intriguing people that share the ride and provide moments of entertainment: The American missionary who reads an ancient Bible and does yoga in the aisle (not at the same time--that would really be something to report), the Brazilian actor who repeatedly says in amazement how can any trip take so long, and the Pakistani who nervously glances at the sign in the exit row that says "Emergency seating" before asking to be reassigned. But the flight does eventually end, and fatigue gives way to excitement: People press their faces to the window as the lights of Bangkok pass by and loom closer underneath the plane, ornate temples dotting the landscape.

Emerging from the baggage claim and customs area, I spot a man holding a sign with my name printed on it. He immediately takes charge of my baggage and swiftly packs them into a car and we drive through the light rain to a service hotel where my suite awaits. A basket of bread, juice, peanut butter, jams and dehydrated soups are on the table next to a tourist guide and school brochure, neatly tied with a golden ribbon, and there is milk and water in the refrigerator, all compliments of the school. After a much-needed shower, I blissfully fall into a heavy sleep, my stomach happy with the arrival of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I awake to find that I had, surprisingly, slept for six hours. Normally, jet lag hits me hard, but this time I decided to try the 18 hour fast before the flight, and I must say that it is the first time that I have not felt the ragged wave of confusion and disrupted sleep patterns, something that has always happened before on each of my 13 or so previous flights between Bangkok and the U.S.

A rental agent picks me up, but not before I have had a complimentary (again, from the school) buffet breakfast, a swim, and a short jaunt to do some ATM banking. the agent, Sak (Thankfully, although Thais have quite long formal names that are unfamiliar to westerners, they all have one syllable nick names), drives me to the "moobahn" or village as it is called where we will be living. This "village" has 4,000 houses, more than 200 shops, and several lakes scattered throughout. We stop briefly where I am showed the place to buy vegetables, fresh seafood, fruit and other groceries, as well as the ubiquitous 7-11 convenience stores (there are two only 2 blocks apart). I note veterinarians, restaurants, hardware shops, noodle stands, a Chinese language school, a pre-school, post office and many massage parlors. I buy some ready-made Thai food (and later return via motorcycle to buy a wok--A side note: There were parts of chicken I had not seen as part of a meal before). Eventually we pull up to our house and I am given the grand tour, shown how to turn on the water and propane, and am given a handful of unmarked keys, a Thai version of a Chinese puzzle that will no doubt keep me frustrated for days. Every door in the house locks and has its own key.

To end the day, I take a taxi to Kat's apartment, a 20 minute ride, and surprise our very confused pets who apparently don't hold a grudge: They are very happy to see me. We fall asleep together on the bed, serenaded by choruses of frogs and crickets, and, as it is the monsoon season, a deluge complete with thunder, which sends a beautiful breeze that washes over us. The next day is moving day. I'm getting much too good at it.


Unknown said...

On my last holidays, I went to Koh Samui, to Kamalaya spa resort, they picked me up at the airport and the ride was exhilarating, so much green everywhere!

What a place!! It wasn't my first time in Thailand, I go there every two years or so, but I have to say I haven't seen a hotel like that, it wasn't only the facilities, it was everything, the staff, the food, the treatments...

I will come back next year for sure, Kamalaya is one of the best spa resorts I have been to and Koh Samui is a magical place.

Thanks for your blog.


Unknown said...

This last vacation, I went to Koh Samui, to Kamalaya spa resort, pick up at the airport and an exhilarating ride, so much green everywhere!

The arrival at the resort is spectacular, just in the middle of nature, what a place!!

I go to Thailand every two years or so, but I haven't seen a hotel like that, it wasn't only the facilities, all you can ask: restaurants, cafes, pools... it was everything, the staff, the food, the treatments...

I will come back for sure, Kamalaya is one of the best spa resorts I have been to and Koh Samui is a wanderful place.

Thanks for your blog.