May 12, 2009

Thailand Adventures (Day 2)

I am officially the biggest douche in the world.

I arrived here in B.C. around 6 pm. I was going to be meeting the rest of the group I’m with at midnight in front of the international departures gate. Or so I thought. Come midnight there I was, standing by the gate waiting for everyone or anyone to show up. The airport is very big and from where I am I can see down two very long hallways which almost runs the length of the airport. So I know for a fact that aside from me and the people behind the airline counters, there are only a handful of people in the airport right now. None of whom are heading in my direction.

After five minutes I break open the little map of the airport I was given. “X” marked the spot where I was, no doubt about that. But it’s right on the line between indoors and outdoors. Was I supposed to meet them outside?

I ran down to the main floor from the second floor and headed outside. There was no group out there either. Back inside I go, heading straight for the information booth. “S’cuse me, where exactly is this spot?”

The gal behind the counter dusted off her copy of the airport map and looked back and forth between my photo copy and her full color map. “I have no idea,” was her helpful reply. Back to the departure gate I go. A half an hour later, my best guess was that they went through the gate already, checked their bags and were impatiently waiting for me to show up on the other side. Worst case scenario, they go through the freak out that I just went through and find me waiting impatiently on the other side for them. Did I say that was the worst case scenario?

I hand my passport to the attendant behind the desk for my airline. He types my information into his computer and tries to bring up my itinerary. Because this was all booked with a group, my flight info was with the group coordinator. So all his questions for me were answered with a very helpful, “I dunno?” But I’m sure they have my name and everything registered for the flight, I mean you have to do that sort of thing, right?

“Uh, you don’t seem to have a flight booked for today.”

“Well that can’t be right. I’m supposed to be meeting like 10 other people here for a flight to Hong Kong at 2:00 am.”

“…Oh wait a minute. I see the problem here. Your flight left already.” My heart stopped. “Yeah they left exactly 24 hours ago.”

I felt nauseous. I booked my flight a day late. How the hell did I screw that up? My mind was just reeling. I can’t afford to pay for another return flight to Hong Kong and Thailand, I just can’t. But I need to take this course for my continuing education credits, otherwise I have to shell out another $700-$1000 for a different course that I’m pretty sure I’ll hate. This was supposed to be a vacation for me as well, a vacation 5 years overdue. What else can I do? I have to go back home I guess? Fuck. Me.

But…after a half hour of some amazing wheeling and dealing with the airline, they got me a flight out of Vancouver to Hong Kong, a day late, no charge. They even worked it out to get me to Bangkok to meet up with the group in time, but from there to Chiang Mai depended entirely on getting back with the group when I landed. Otherwise, I’d have to buy another ticket. The return flight would be “waitlisted” until I was ready to go home. This meant I would be spending some time hanging out in airports until I get an available flight home. I’ll deal with that later, right now, I’m running for the gates like a mother fucker.

Running so fast and so hard that a big burly security guard decides to stop me and do a baggage check. COME ON!? So there I was the one and only guy on a late night flight to Hong Kong, being searched for weapons or narcotics or whatever the hell makes airports go nucking futs these days. As soon as he saw my collection of baggies filled with random objects like cash, cameras and soap…he got a little more suspicious and decided to flip through all the pages in each one of the three books I brought along as well as this journal. The entire time he’s asking me questions about where I’m going, business or pleasure, my occupation, blah blah blah. The whole time I’m trying to be very polite and accommodating while in my head I’m screaming, “GET OUT OF MY WAY YOU STUPID HIGH SCHOOL REJECT!! I’M NOT A FUCKING TERRORIST!!”

After he has searched everything, including a pat-down, with all my carry on contents spread out across a table top, he allows me to leave. He and the three other security dicks, (THREE!) just stood back and watched me carefully as I packed everything back into my carry on. It kinda felt like I was just violated and they were watching me gather my tattered clothes off the ground. Have I mentioned I hate airport security?

Running like a mad man, I make the flight time with 15 min. to spare. I had a few minutes to spare so I quickly sent out an email to the group coordinator;

“This is Jason Brasher writing. So sorry for the screw up, I am in Vancouver right now and they've got me on a flight out this evening to Hong Kong and then to Bangkok. I should arrive in time to make the flight to Chiang Mai. They have me arriving in Bangkok flight 77A at 10:35 am on Saturday at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi. I really hope this is where you are all taking off as well. I have to check to make sure all my return information is still good as well, but I'm a little frazzled right now and can't figure it all out. I'll try to check this email once I land in Hong Kong, if you get this can you please confirm one way or another what the plan is. I also sent word to the hotel in Bangkok as well so you might already know this. Again so sorry for the incredible inconvenience, but I will see you all soon. Jason”

I’m in my seat, on my way. All I want to do is pass out. I’m so wired and freaked out that I don’t know if I can. I had to get this all out on the page before I forgot all the little details, so there it is. A good start to the trip, and here I thought I’d have nothing to write about from Vancouver!?

- Bangkok.

It gets worse.

When I landed in Hong Kong, I ran to the next terminal to make the flight to Bangkok. I could not miss this flight. If I do, I’m semi-screwed. Luckily I didn’t have to worry about getting my checked in luggage as they worked it out to have it transferred onto my connecting flight. So I just ran like the devil. This time, no security stopped me in the hallways, I cleared all the metal detectors and before I knew it, I was in my seat and being served an orange juice. Life was good.


I get to Bangkok international. I wait in line for 20 min. waiting to get through the immigration counter. Which seemed kind of odd since I’m not staying here for more than two weeks. So what’s the point of being in the immigration line? Every second that I stood there was a second keeping me from connecting with the rest of the group. Plus I had to get my bags here as well. Finally, I walked up to the immigration counter, smiled for the little camera they have, got the passport stamped and away to the luggage claim I go. 1 hour left to meet with the group.

Under extreme stress, I am not a patient guy. I stood in front of the baggage claim for what seemed like an eternity waiting for my luggage to pop out. 20 min. later it became clear…my luggage was not coming. As if he could read my mind, one of the airport workers came over to me and asked if I had claimed my luggage yet. When I told him I hadn’t he called down to make sure that the last of the bags had been put on the belt. Nope, no more bags were coming. This cannot be happening.

The attendant pointed me to the baggage claim assistance area, where people who lose their luggage get to go and cry about it to someone else. At the far end of the airport is this little room. In it, you sit down and fill out a few pages of information to find and retrieve your luggage. As soon as it was all filled out I asked to borrow the phone to call the hotel the group was staying at. The group had checked out and were probably already in the airport. I had 30 min. to find them.

I ran out of the baggage complaint department and headed out to the departure gates. I wasted no time and sprinted to the information booth. I begged them to send out a message over the P.A. to have my coordinator meet me at the info booth. I waited for 10 min. and no one came. I panicked and thought that the smartest thing to do would be just to see if they have my info at the airline booth to Chiang Mai. If so, screw it, I’ll hop on the flight and figure out where the rest of the group is when I touch down. I’m not missing this flight.

I get to the departure gate for Chiang Mai. I ask if they could check my flight status and see if any of the rest of the group had checked in. “Absolutely. If we could just see your passport.”

I reach into my bag. Grab the Ziploc Bag with my money and my passport. My passport was not there. I looked inside the bag. Not there either. I sat in the middle of a busy Bangkok airport and just like back in Vancouver, I dumped everything onto the floor and searched through every piece of paper, every pocket, every page of every book I brought with me. My passport was gone.

The lady behind the desk came out from behind to assist me, or to see if I was okay. “Sir…,” was the only thing she said before I looked at her with bloodshot eyes of rage and pointed at her with contempt. She jumped back a bit and scurried back behind her counter. That was the biggest, “dick-head” thing I’ve ever done to another person. It’s not her fault that I was stupid enough to misplace my passport in one of the largest airports I’ve ever seen.

I felt hollow. I felt weak. What the hell was I going to do? I’m stranded in a foreign country with no passport. Even if I wanted to, how could I get home? I stumbled back the way I came retracing every step through the airport. Finally I realized, the last place I know I had to use my passport was at the baggage lost and found office. But that was on the “arrivals” side of the terminal. I had passed through the gate already. Maybe security would let me through again just to get my passport?

I don’t know why, but it seems that everywhere I go in Asian airports, the people who are the for information, or to help you, speak next to no foreign languages. Pilots and flight attendants? Fluent English and an array of Asian languages. So why the hell does the head of security request me to write out exactly what I’m saying so he can take it down the hall to some pencil pusher in front of a computer screen to have him call his cousin to translate it for him? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?

15 min later, I’m still sitting in the airport security office, waiting for someone to come back and tell me if they found my passport or not. I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to throw up. I want to punch security in the face. If I can do all of that at the same time, I just might feel a little bit better. I’ve missed the flight yet again. So now, I’ll have to pay for a new ticket. Please God…I don’t want to turn tricks on the streets of Bangkok to get home again.

A lady no bigger than 4”10 walks in and hands me my passport. I leapt up and scooped this midget woman in my arms. She squawked as she was lifted in the air, at which point all the security guards came to life and put their hands on their guns. I dropped her on the couch and ran out the doors to the airline counter again. I bought a one way flight to Chiang Mai, which only cost me about $47 Canadian. Woo Hoo! I’m on my way!

- Chiang Mai.

I’m here. I’m at the hotel. I’m sitting on the bed in my deluxe suite. I found out the hard way that beds in Thailand are not like the bed I have at home. I fell onto the mattress with a “thunk”. It’s stiff as a board, but at this point I really don’t care. The complimentary mini fridge is stocked with Pepsi and bottles of water. There’s a fresh plate of fruit waiting to be consumed. The shower is all tiled, open spaced and inviting. Which is good cause in my airport panic, I finally developed a ripe funk of sweat and threw up in my mouth a little bit. But before that, I have to run across the street to a 7-11 and pick up all new toiletries.

Now you’re not supposed to know this, but I have crazy dry skin at the best of times. So the first item to purchase is moisturizer. But that really doesn’t exist in Thailand. What they do have in abundance is “whitening cream”. Apparently the Asian culture views white skin as a thing of beauty, where as we view tanned skin as beautiful. So I opted for hand cream and hoped for the best. Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and luckily the hotel had shampoo and soap provided for me. Done…now to eat.

My first Thai meal. I thought after all the stress of getting here I’d start off a little less adventurous than I had planned. Last thing I need to cap off the night is to have a bad reaction to Thai food. So I ordered something safe like Chicken mixed with garlic. It tasted great, and it came with these crunchy little peanut things mixed into it. After my fifth bite I realized what the crunchy things were. It said Chicken and Garlic in the menu. And that’s what it was, Chicken…and cloves of garlic. Whole cloves, enough so that garlic was a side dish at this point. I could hear the distinct sound of my sister gagging in disapproval at this revelation.

But who cares. I’m here, I made it, I’m in Thailand. Can’t wait to meet the group tomorrow.

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