Flight leaves today? Chiang Mai, Thailand

28 Nov

The Chedi. By Night. From my Balcony.

Phone rings. It’s dark. Blue lights from clock spell out 5:45 am. Phone rings again. Reach for phone. Drop it. Pick it up. “Yes?” Voice sings to me. “Ahhhh.. Ms. Amanda… taxi is here for you… take you to airport… send help for bag?”

Eyes flew open. What day is it? Is it the 30th? My travel calendar is based on weather and dates. What number is it today…

I sit up. “ Taxi? Wait, what? What day is it? Today is 29th,?”

“Nooooo. Ms. Aman-DA. Today 30th day. Check out day. Taxi here to take you to airport. You request, no?”

“Give me 10 mins. I will be there.” FUUUUUUUU…

I knew this day would come. It’s only a matter of time when you sleep through an alarm, a train stop, or the last call for alcohol… Well, today is my day.

Body bolted. Heart’s racing. Took a deep breath. I can do this. Eyes darted around the room. Quick assessment of my tossing, throwing, thrashing these last four days at The Chedi hotel in Chiang Mai. Four days is the longest time I’ve stayed in one place since July – excluding my time in London visiting brilliant Mary and her posh husband. The positive here is I properly unpacked, meaning my clothes were free from their imprisoned life in zip-locked bags hanging in the closet or stuffed in scented drawers. I knew where they lived.

The clothing concern is purged. I stood up. Eyes scanned for placement of THE chief necessities – adapters, EQUAL, battery charger, coffee creamer, instant coffee, writing pen, laptop cord, notepad, toothpaste, razor, brush, hair rubber bands, detergent… Items at the local Dollar Store.

Stripped off the boxers and Habitat for Humanity t-shirt. Reached for the bulkiest clothes. More I put on, more room there is for packing. Wiggled on the jeans. Thank you God they still button. Punched my arms through the thick long sleeve brown shirt. Reached for the flowy wool wrap. Couldn’t find my socks. Opted to go without. Forced my feet into my pink hiking boots. Got the scarf. To remember, I chucked my purple PTA-styled rain jacked at the door. Dressed. Box checked.

This was my first pack & jam feast. Prior to this, my track record for packing for air travel was around 45 mins. It takes time to push the life out of cottons, polyesters and wools using an over-sized, vacuumed pack, Zip-locked bag. And, keep in mind flights only allow 20 kilos – equated to 40+ pounds – per person. So the heavy equipment – electronics, shoes, pills, books – is allocated to the carry on case. Ragged apparel and used toiletries are checked. You ask about transport via a train, bus or camel? Weight is irrelevant. Here, the chief concern is accessibility to soap, toilet paper, flip flops, clean t-shirt and underwear.

Mind raced. There’s a Coke Zero in the micro-mini fridge. Couldn’t go to waste. Spent less than $2 on it. Grabbed it from the re-fridge. Flipped the lid. Started swigging. Nice. Love the sensation of carbonation hitting an empty stomach. Inhale. Time to start jamming.

First, I went for anything on a hanger. Next, emptied the drawers. Shoes. Damn, where were my shoes? Located the furry boots bought in Poland. Where’s my black Chinese “wanna-be” Todds. I knew they were here. I wore them the other day. Which day? Damn, right about now I was feeling annoyed with the Thai custom of de-shoeing when walking into a home or room. Neglected the rule, so God only knows where the black flats landed. I opened the hotel door. No flats. No shoes. No nothing. Shoe search put on hold. Back to concentrating on packing.

Night before, I transformed the jumbo-sized tub into my personal laundromat. Biked, hiked, whitewater rafted and road an elephant earlier so scrubbing and soaking the J-crew not made for bike-riding pants, bathing suit, t-shirt, underwear and socks were a glamor-do. Now, where did I hang the stuff. From the looks of it, everywhere. I walked the room and balcony and snapped up the soaked items. No time for plastic bags. Figured it will dry in humid Southern Thailand.

Now, time to locate all the Dollar Store supplies. I heard myself say, “don’t forget about the weight and liquid factor.” Question to self. Do I say, “screw it” and check both bags and swallow the unnecessary $50 luggage fee charge or take the harder, cheaper route? I hated being ripped off. You know the answer.

Bathroom. All SPFs and lotions must go into separate zip locks for the high altitude, explosive factor. Where were the 7-11 plastic bags? Did Thai Molly-Maid toss all of them? Guessing yes. OK, needed to think fast. Shower caps. Nabbed them. Tightly wrapped the explosive toiletries into the thin plastic shower caps. I just hit the ten minute mark. Almost there.

Door knocks. Little Thai boy with no shoes smiles. I smile. He started apologizing to me. Loved the Thai graciousness, service and hospitality. But, there was no need to apologize. I asked him to help me find my black wanna-be Todds.

I blurted, “black shoes. Dark in here. Poor lightening. Can’t find black shoes. You help.” Yes, I’ve started talking like English is my 4th language. He got it. I looked over and he’s searching blindly on his hands and knees for the black flats. Little Thai boy found my flip flops instead. SCORE. Would have forgotten those.

Meanwhile, I dumped my tall self on top of the ginormous brown backpack masquerading as a suitcase. Anxiety adrenaline rushed through me. The infamous sweat mustache formed. Flight will shoot in the air in 45 mins. I struggled. The zipper appends itself to some piece of cloth. I tugged harder… It zipped. Little Thai uttered “I sorry… Help you…taxi waiting…?” I pointed to the bathroom. “Please. Look. No leave nothing. Please. Look one more time.” He’s been here for 2 mins, and now I’m annoyed. Get him out of here.

“Have you found black shoes?”

“Yes. Found sandals.”

“No, black flats. No heels. Sparkles. You find. I happy.”

Damn, this place is dark. NOT going to leave without my shoes. As I write this blog, I truly can’t remember if I found them nor not…It will be a Southern Thailand surprise.

Now, where’s the passport and money? In the safe. Good job Amanda! Surprised I remembered. Running off without the passport and $$ would be very typical. I could see myself packing old hotel soap but forgetting to pack the passport. So me. Thank you God! It was then, I started to pray. “Ok. Need help here God. Don’t want to miss the flight to Southern Thailand. This is in Your hands – with or without my black flats. Help me stay focus and calm…” I felt my body relax – a notch. I smiled at little Thai boy and used a sweet voice – not my bark voice – to please take the brown, hairy monster suitcase to the taxi.

I did a quick scan. All packed, dressed in 14 mins. Oh, yea – needed to wash my face. Washed off the eye gel or random lotion residue.

Took a deep breath and looked in the mirror. Wow. This was a bad one. Looked like I was bit by a vampire. Where’s eye drops? And, what did I eat last night? Face looked like I opted for salt instead of food. Eyes darted from eyes to hair. Damn. Matted frizz served up and in-style… It dawned on me as I was reaching for a hair band that I was to shower first thing in the AM. What was the reasoning? Oh, I laundered clothes instead.

Earlier in the day, I hiked, biked, whitewater rafted and rode an elephant for nine hours in the rain. So, it makes perfect sense to forgo a shower for doing laundry. Sometimes I want to put my logic in timeout. What’s staring back at me was ripe, river rank and elephant aroma. Pray a stunner does no sit next to me on the plane.

Turned on faucet. Wet down the bangs. Matted them over. Tried for the severe Latin look. Washed my face with left over soap. No time for the teeth. Time check?

Scanned the room one last time as I was touching my passport. Brain saying, “remember the passport, credit cards, cash, laptop…other than that, GO!” Touched it all and ran out the door. Watch said 6:08 am. Plane leaves at 6:55 am.

Ran to counter. Thai receptionist said, “Oh, Ms. Aman-DA…how you stay? Fill out questionnaire?” Didn’t he just call me a few minutes ago about my taxi and I shouted…”WHAT!” I breathed. “Thank you. No time. Late for plane. We good.”

“Oh, but Ms. Aman-DA. Please fill-out form, please.”

I responded, “I love hotel. Body forgot what day it was. So relaxing. So beautiful. Want to stay forever and ever and ever. We good?” I forced a smile. Let’s go buddy.

He says, “Oh. Oh. Oh. Need your your credit care for buy-one-get on free spa treatment. You have spa, no? Fill out form about spa?”

I handed him my credit card and ignored him. I looked for Mr. Taxi man. Signed the slip. Screamed thank you and took off for the taxi.

To taxi man, “How long to airport.”

“Ten minute.”

“Seven minute? Five minute? Faster? Late for airport.”

He pushed the accelerator. Car lurched from 30 mph to 35 mph. Really? This is going fast at 6:15 am on a Saturday morning… God was in charge here. Calm down. I’m fine. As my fellow world traveler Stephanie would say when we were in these types of travel predicaments, “We’re fine… everything is Fiiiiiiiinnnnnneeee.” I thought of Steph. She would have LOVED this.

I searched for a car light. Wanted to see what I threw into my LL Bean blue backpack. Hoped I packed my flight information. Dumped everything onto the backseat. Started to reorganize. My three-ounce liquids were thrown everywhere. Stuffed my cover girl cover up cream, chap stick, SPF, toothpaste, hand lotion and eye drops into the zip lock. Laptop and Kindle were there. Found flight information. OK. Good.

We pulled up. There’s a line at Bangkok Air. Check-in gate was open. When Thai taxi asked if the flight was domestic, I had a flash back of Poland. In Poland, I was going to St. Petersburg, Russia. I told Polish taxi man my flight was an international flight. Wrong. On that day, Russia was domestic and I landed at the wrong terminal. So, when I responded to Thai Taxi my flight to Southern Thailand was domestic, I took a wild leap of faith, praying it was still part of Thailand.

Paid the taxi. He had no change. This gets me. You give them a large bill. And, they claim no change. Not going to budge. Might miss my flight, but he was already robbing me for the taxi charge for 8 minutes. Loath getting ripped off. I just looked at him. And, said, “Problem? Get change inside?” Then, I smiled and waited. He looked around. Went to another taxi man and got the change. OK. It was all of $2, but it was principal here. Was I really going to miss my flight over $2? Maybe. I could have seen it happen.

Got in line behind more Norwegians. This is the travel year for Scandinavia. They’re everywhere. The family of four was traveling with four kilo-sized bags of Thai chips. I mean these bags put American-style, super-sizing to shame. What was it? Major munchies on domestic flights? I could not stop starring.

I checked in at 6:42 pm and flew to the gate. No line at security. Actually,there was no nothing at security. As I start to strip, I call out…“Laptop..liquids..shoes?” He said, “no worry.” Thank you GOD! Wow, I could have brought my Coke Zero through X-ray security without a problem. I told myself just to be grateful and forget about the Coke Zero.

Last call for the flight. I asked the agent if I had time to go to the toilet. She said, “yes.” Went to the restroom and looked in the mirror. I must do something about my eyebrows. I can’t even see my eyes or my face. When I get on the plane, I’m locating my eyebrow pencil. Or, any pencil. This must be fixed ASAP.

Last one to board the plane. Two happy Bangkok Air attendants welcomed me with freshly brewed coffee, EQUAL and fruit. I exhaled. Settled into my window seat. Thank you God! You got me here.

We’re to go to Bangkok.  I have an hour lay over.  Then, I’m to jump on a plane to Krabi, Southern Thailand. I sipped my coffee. Looked out the window. Let my mind wonder. Bad idea. Mind goes to dark places. I started itemizing everything I forgot.  Time to think positive.

It’s not bad. Really. I have been needing to change out a few t-shirts. Talking about it for weeks. God’s way of pushing me to purchase. Even the night before as I was scrubbing my pastel peach t-shirt – trying to get the elephant mud out – I told myself, toss the pastels t-shirts and replace with brown or black. I will be trekking, hiking, biking and kayaking these next few months and don’t have the time or energy to scrub dirt. Dark colors wear dirt better. Besides leaving the pastel shirt, I may have gifted my J crew pants made for tall people. I’m OK with the shirt. But, replacing pants in the land of the little will be more difficult.

My mind ran through items I don’t recall touching. Bra? Hankie Pankies? No memory. Confident I touched the soaking wet bathing suit. I don’t recall touching my black, bullet proof, mini-purse I carry for day trips. Ugh. I think I tossed it in the dark corner of no lights in the hotel room.  What else was in that corner. That’s right. Postcards. Written too. I even bought stamps. The more I tried to remember the time between 5:45 am and 6:10 am, it all turned to mush. Brain is out of order. Perfect.

Think positive. Positive is the pink-now-gray bra was on its last leg anyway. Can switch to the black bra. And, since I’ll be buying a dark t-shirts, we are good. Postcards can be rewritten. Stamps are not that expensive. Bullet, terrorist purse can be substituted for a plastic 7-11 bag. And, I have been complaining about style. When I get the islands, I’ll go the market and buy some t-shirts and a long flowy skirt to go with my pink hiking boots. I’m fine. Plus, when I open my brown backpack, it will be like Christmas. “Let’s see what Amanda brought me from Chiang Mai!” It is all good. God is good.

I landed in Bangkok an hour later. Back to my home away from home. Bangkok airport. I need a shot of my addiction – a super-sized fountain drink. Head to Burger King. I forgot they sold beer. It’s 8:05 AM. No beer for me. Just my Coke Zero. Sit down at my favorite place overlooking the green park and mini-Buddhist temple cozening up next to concrete structures. A family of four walk by. The husband is carrying a pitcher of Chang beer and one mug. Mom has coffee. Kids have Burger King fries and burgers. Where are they from? And, was the flight that bad that Dad had to go solo on a pitcher of beer at 8 AM. Now, I’m curious. The majority of the people in this food court are drinking beer. One dude is drinking coffee and beer. In Bangkok, it’s stimulants and depressants before 8 AM. Got it.

In order of importance. Sugar. Depressent. Stimulant. Rehydrate.

Bangkok Airport. View from Food Court.

Go to the gate. Board a mini-plane. The airline baggage carriers are sportin’ the terrorist fashion. Whole head is covered in a black mask. This look wouldn’t go over in the states, regardless of air pollution index.

Just took off. Heart stopped again. Damn, bad karma day. The pilot said we’re going to Samui. I’m not going there. I’m going to Krabi. Am I on the wrong plane? They were laxed through security. And, Bangkok Airways gate lady did not really look at my boarding pass. I swear I went to the correct gate. My brain is so scattered right not, I could be on a flight to Ho Chi Minh City and not know it. I catch the eye of the Thai flight attendant. Smile. Just smile. I tell him I’m going to Krabi. Smile. Keep smiling.

I watch his expression. What do I see. I’m holding my breath. I can feel it. Wrong plane… He smiled. “Oh, we go to Samui first. We get off. Get next plane. Go to Krabi.” I need to repeat what he said. I’m not trusting my synapses. “What I hear you say … I get off this plane. Go to Samui airport. Wait for next plane to Krabi. Same flight number and same seat, no?”

“I go to Krabi too. You follow me…”

I exhale. Body relaxes. Thank you God. Thank you for sending me another travel angel. Yes, I’m in need of a lot help today. Need a travel angel to carry me from point A to point B… wherever that leads. My journey continues with the help of travel angels.

Land in Samui and greeted by Disney-like, colorful tram to transport us to the airport. The air is thick with humidity. I’m sweating through the layers. No matter. I’m in the islands baby. I smile. Tram man drops me off at the best airport gate in the whole wide world. Pictures have to describe it. I mean, the ladies room has an aquarium in it. Bangkok Airways offers complimentary pizza topped with can vegetables – peas, carrots and potatoes. There’s an all you can drink juice and coffee, and water bar. And a table full of complimentary cakes and coconut jellies. Love this!

I plop myself down in a chair. Taste the cold pizza. Smile. A few mins later, we’re back on the colorful tram in route to the same plane. Boarded. And, behind me sat a young German couple with a 2 year old. Little girl is NOT happy to be on the plane. Neither is the mother. We took off and she reached for a barf bag. I’ve never seen or heard anyone use a barf bag before. You are not missing anything.

About 45 mins later, the plane bumps into Krabi airport. Two hotel greeters welcome me. I don’t even know where I’m staying. They have my name on a card. I go with them. Again, they could be Armenians posing at Thai greeters wanting to sell me to an underground sex market and I would not know the difference. The more I think about it, I don’t even know the name of the hotel. Nor, do I have a brochure. I booked this two weeks ago based on price and a friend’s recommendation. I just followed them. Folded myself into the back of their recalled Toyota. Little Thai lady handed me a bottle water and cold towel. I sat back. Made it.

A hotel brochure was perched next to me. Guess it’s time to read about where I’m going, where I’m staying and where I am. The name of the hotel is Nakamanda. Wait. That is my name. Nak-Amanda. It means Sacred Sea Dragon of the Andaman Sea. This is fortuitous.

We pull up. Wow. Kari and Patrick were right. (Friends from grad school living in Singapore). It’s small. Boutique. Beautiful. My room has its own private, bodacious balcony. We’re talking chairs, couch and tile. Bathroom is the size of my car port at home. When checking-in, the owner greeted me. Served me tea and showed me around. Before, he opened NakAmanda, he was in the Seafood business. This resort was his dream.

I’m surprised this place does not cost more. I mean, this is paradise. I’m more surprised more Americans don’t travel to Thailand. It’s easy. Inexpensive for what you get. The word is “value.” Good for kids. Customer service focus. Best food ever. And, they have over 6,000 7-11s. Love Thailand! Thank you God for getting me here safely. Thank you. Thank you. And, Thank you. Tomorrow, I’m off to island hoping. But before that, I need to unpack… Let’s see where the day takes me.

Bangkok Airways. From Bangkok to Krabi.

Outfit for Bangkok Airways baggage handlers..

Airport Tram. From plane to gate.

Nak-AMANDA hotel in Krabi, Thailand

2 Responses to “Flight leaves today? Chiang Mai, Thailand”

  1. Jeffrey Blydenburgh 08/12/2010 at 3:38 pm #

    I have only been to Bangkok…not at the beach. Sound great. Someday after I have a job or a project (other than volunteer) Caroline and I will get on the road again.

    Your writing is terrific. Time for an illustrated book. I think its called a scrapbook.

    Can’t wait to see where Amanda is off to next.

  2. ktlou 02/11/2010 at 10:02 am #

    i want to be there! ok-must get to work. love you lots and want to hit Thailand

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