Thailand – The Journey East

My bags are packed and I’m ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime. I have an airline ticket in one hand and my guitar in the other. I have no idea where I’m going to be staying or what I’m going to do once I get there.

But its ok. The friend that talked me into coming to Thailand assured me there were plenty of inexpensive hotels. He also said the timeshare industry was booming on the island. However, the main reason I’m coming here is to watch him marry to a Thai girl.

He assured me it was something I must see. The reason he gives is because the small village his soon to be wife comes from will all have a part in the wedding. The Buddha found in their town would be covered in gold before the night was over. And I was to witness one of the greatest events I have ever seen. He would be following in a few weeks. We will meet in Phuket and then go to her home town. I decided to go early, have a great vacation and look for work while I am waiting for him.

During my career in the timeshare industry I have often said that the greatest part of my job was the fact that I could show up in any country around the world with nothing more than a suit and some Tommy Bahama Shirts and I could get a job. I had been proving this over the last few years and I wasn’t going to stop now.

My flight would take me from Colorado to Los Angeles for a very long lay over. Then to Taipei for a short layover. Then to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and finally to Phuket Thailand for a grand total of 36 hours. Add in the 15 hour time difference found on the west coast of America and the grand total in time was going to be 51 hours of travel time.

I must admit the worst leg of the trip was the Los Angeles airport. The transfer between the domestic terminal and the international terminal was not that easy. Without the help of a kind soul, that had made the trip before, I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to finally find my way.

I had 8 hours to do it in and I’m sure I would have found it sooner or later, but I’m very happy there are always people willing to help if they can. I have always considered myself fortunate to find these people during my times of need as I’m always willing to give a helping hand if I can assist someone as well.

So, I’m in the international terminal and they won’t let me carry on my guitar. It’s in a soft shell case that offers little to no protection. I watch as they plaster it with fragile stickers written in what I believe to be Malaysian. And I have visions of getting back a case full of tooth picks by the time we reach our destination. I justify that it’s only a guitar and if that happens it can’t be that expensive to find one in Thailand. After all, most of the instruments we play in America are made in Asia.

I make it through customs and ticketing. My plane is on the schedule to leave at like 4 O’clock the next morning. I’m exhausted but don’t want to sleep as the adrenaline and excitement of the experience are still running in my veins. Besides, me sleeping in an airport and leaving myself that vulnerable is just not going to happen. Looking back on it, I’m glad I fought off the urge to sleep. I believe it made the jet leg much easier, as by the time I finally got to sleep I was on Thailand time.

I’m feeling bored and can’t find anywhere to plug in my computer and get wireless so I decide to walk around. In my wandering I find a currency exchange window and decide to exchange some money for when I arrive. I mean after all exchange rates are the same anywhere you go right? Well not really. I think I got 28 Thai baht to the dollar. When I arrived in Thailand I was getting closer to 35. Not a big deal just a lesson learned.

Of course, being a man, one of the first things I notice when boarding the plane are the beautiful uniforms the flight attendants are wearing and what beautiful ladies each and every one of them were. The service on an Asian flight is so much superior to Western airline companies. The quality of service given and the amount of times you’re fed would make even the most seasoned traveler happy and content.

I must have gotten some sleep because as I looked up the flight attendant was standing next to me. She was smiling and handing me an entry/exit form for me to fill out before our arrival. I quickly covered my mouth wishing I had a tooth brush and hoping my morning breath hadn’t ruined her morning.

We touched down in Taipei with the captain announcing that the penalty for smuggling drugs into Taiwan is death. This must have been said four or five times during our arrival and then again during our departure. I remember asking myself “What kind of an idiot would try to smuggle drugs into a foreign country knowing the penalty was so harsh?”  I wondered if other countries embassies would get involved and try to save one of its citizens if they were stupid enough to carry out such a deed.

The passengers conversations changed. Two foreigners had arrested for smuggling a few days before we arrived.  The judicial system is swift in Taiwan. It only took a matter of days for their execution. There was no way any intervention was going to take place to save them. I was coming from Mexico and the drug problems found there. And I thought “Now this is a country I would like to live in.”

We re-board the plane. All I can think about is how much I wish I would have brought my toothbrush. And of how badly I wish I could take a shower. I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be traveling. But at this point I know if I don’t get a shower soon, no one is going to want to be anywhere close to me. Thank God for Kuala Lumpur.

As we arrived in Kuala Lumpur I remembered my guitar problem in Los Angeles. They had been kind enough to make it up to me by giving me a coupon good for their lounge in this airport. After wandering around the airport for what seemed like hours (my direction problems again) I walked in and looked at the breakfast buffet. A gentleman greeted me and promptly took me into the bathroom showing me where I could find tooth brushes, toothpaste and a hot shower. The long trip had been hard on my body and apparently it was obvious.

I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. I don’t think water has ever been hotter or that toothpaste and food has ever tasted as good as it did that day in the Kuala Lumpur airport. Western airlines could really learn a lot from the airline companies like Malaysia air and the other Asian airlines. The service is amazing and they truly do everything they can to make your travel more comfortable. Kuala Lumpur will always hold a special place in my heart because of this and because of another trip I made months later. But this is an entirely different story and I promise I’ll tell you about it in the blogs to come.

So it was back on the plane with our final stop coming soon. It was dark outside as the plane landed. I was finally in Thailand. My heart started to beat a little faster as I realized I still didn’t have any idea where I was going to be staying.

Customs is never much fun going through but after the long flight I was fortunate and the line wasn’t very long so the wait was minimal. I made my way to the taxi stand where they found me a hotel. They then put me in a taxi for the ride there. The ride was almost magical as we drove around the island. I could look out the window and see the night life that’s there. I think the taxi driver was lost. We made a few stops and it seemed like it took hours to get there. But I did get to look around and it was a flat rate taxi so it was part of the journey and fun.

I lived in Thailand for next two years of my life. During those two years I drove around trying to find out where we had driven that night. I never did figure it out.

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