Thursday, March 14, 2013

Beds and the thirty six hours in between

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
 - Lao Tzu

Thursday March 14 2013 - noon

What a trip so far. I guess I shouldn't have said all those nice things at the beginning of the trip, because after that the wheels came off the bus.

I am still a bit sleep deprived and my double morning java express hasn't really started to work yet, but here goes. 36 hours between beds and 10 time zones will do that to a girl I guess.

The plan was scheduled to depart at 1:50 pm and so I got to the airport in plenty of time to get checked in and through T.S.A.'s theater of security. I scanned my bar code into the kiosk and it had all my information as well as a note that the plane was going to be delayed by an hour. No disaster yet. I had a two hour layover in Tokyo (NRT) and now that was whittled down to 1 hour. I could make that, but there wouldn't be any dilly dallying between planes.

2 pm. came and went and finaly at around two thirty we got to boarding, but the ground crew assured us that the connections in NRT world still work. Since the plane was in late from Amsterdam we needed to refuel at the gate, using little trucks instead of those big semi trailers I am used to seeing. The little trucks lined up and slowly began to refill our thirsty Airbus. The plane gulped down it's fill and then sat there - and sat there -- and sat there. The man on the flight deck came on the intercom and said that since they weren't filling as usual that the computers in Atlanta would not accept the weights and balances input and they would have to calculate it by hand, just another few minutes, Folks. I don't suppose I need to elaborate too much on what happened from there. Besides making for nervous time about whether whoever was making the calculations had passed sixth grade math, it took him or her forever to do the calculations. So much for my two hour window in Tokyo.

Eventually the numbers got input, and I hope double checked and we pulled away from the gate, did a taxi turned a but corner and were pressed back into our seats and this miaricle of European engineering sped down the tarmack. The nose lifted and then the main gear and I waited for the out of balance rocket to wallow and either fall in a huge fuel filled fireball or wake us for a cold wintery dip in Puget Sound. Neither of course happened.

The guy next to me was from Saskatchawan and going to meet his Thai wife in Bangkok (BKK). Wifey number one had died of cancer three years ago and he had met his current wife through a friend while in Thailand playing goilf.  Canadian Immigration was holding things up ... etc, etc. This I learned all before cruising altitude. Only nin hours and forty-five minutes of a ten hour flight to go. Then his conversation came around to the book he was reading. I don't remember the exact name of the book but it was something like - You are wacko. Here is how to fix yourself - and of course I must read it, because in the 20 minutes we had know each other he could tell that I was a perfect candidate for help.

At long last we got to 'altitude' and the inflight entertainment came on and I was able to hide behind my shield of protection. My Bose 2 noise canceling headphones. Well mostly anyway.

Three or so movies and four periods if airline food we began our decent into Tokyo three hours late.The pilot warned us that NRT had been experiencing high winds all ay (gusts over 50 mph) but it was  much calmer now. Because of the high winds many planes had been diverted to nearby airports and there was a good chance any necessary connections would still be available. No one clapped upon touching down in Tokyo, though thi]s was one time I thought it was warranted. he plane rocked and rolled as we approached the ground and really started  yawing (or is it pitching?) as we got closer and closer to the ground and our maker. I briefly gave some thought that perhaps I should have read a little of my seatmate's book before my demise and forgot that idea as soon as the main gear settled onto the Japanese concrete.

We scurried like rats from a sin king ship into the terminal and found ourselves in a new line to go through security another time. Same as in Seattle only slower in spite of no requirement to remover shoes or belts.

The departures board had our next flight listed on the board with the large red flashing word INDEFINITE next to it. A little asking around and a few eaves dropped conversations I learned that the flight was one of the ones diverted and would be departing at 9:45 pm. At nine the red word listed a gate and it was obvious to me that the nine forty-five number was jst a W.A.G. (a Wild assed guess - in pilot parlance). The plane was at the gate when I got there and then it wasn't and a different piece of equipment was there in it's place. Okay so they have to clean it, refill it with food, get the crew on board, do and redo their checklists and THEN get a plane load of impatient souls and their hand carry trunks on board. Maybe we would make it in time for me to catch my flight home in 21 more days.

I settled into my seat and then did that waiting chant I generally do - Oh, airplane Gods, please let the seat next to me remain vacant. I guess my earlier pleas to the Gods to arriving alive into Tokyo was my quota for the day, because soon there was the smiling face of the occupant for 38H looking down at me from the aisle. It was Jim, my previous SEA to NRT seatmate. He said they had changed his seat at the last minute. Seven more hours in a cramped seat next to an evangelist.

It soon became clear that the flight was not even close to being full and as soon as the doors closed the ganes of aircraft Musical Chairs began. Jim hopped across the aisle into a four across and then traded wit a woman for her window /aisle twofer and we all had room to stretch out and get a few hours of tossing and turning in our own small worlds.

I managed 4 or five hours of non awareness (it might have been called sleep or it might not have).. We arrived in BKK at four-fifty a.m. a full five hours late.  I had purchased travel insurance for the medical - emergency evacuation coverage. There was a clause for delayed luggage and delayed flight compensation. I'll have to review it later and see if there is a claim there for me.

A couple miles of moving walkways and then Immigration and my bag happily spinning on the merry-go-round and I was officially in Thailand. As I was securing my big puffy down filled purple coat to my luggage and man approached and asked me if I needed a taxi. I said Yes and asked how much. 700 Bhat ($25 +/-). My only question to him was "Is it YOUR taxi?". He said it was a friend's taxi and I blew him off. Enough traveling had taught me that he was just hustling for a commission from the real taxi driver and it was not going to be a negotiation in my favor. I caught an official metered taxi to my hotel and the bill came to 400 Bhat, even with a healthy 100 Bhat ($3.50 +/-) tip I was still ahead.

The room is nice. Clean and new. I had to turn the air conditioning down from the 'meat locker' setting to something more fit for human existence. A short shower and into my jammies for about four solid hours of slumber.

So here we are now, full of coffee, sitting by the pool getting stickier by the moment waiting for a Coke Zero and thoroughly enjoying life.  I don't expect to leave the property until tomorrow when I wend my way to Cambodia. It's a little after one pm and I just don't feel like negotiating the madness of a new city that I'm only going to spend 30 hours in. Maybe at the end of the trip I'll venture into Bangkok for a day or two.

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