The last few days we spent in California before departing for Thailand there was this sense of unbelief and expectation. We were really doing it. We were really going to the other side of the world. I awoke quite early the morning of our departure, and the final preparations began. By 10 o’clock we were fully packed and out of the house and went to meet Monica’s family for coffee at Starbucks before the in-laws drove us to Los Angeles for our departing flights.
There’s the stress of traffic and just getting there. The stress of getting checked-in and getting bags checked. The stress of getting through security. And then the stress in considering that we’re about to board a 14 hour flight to Taipei followed by another 4 hour flight to Bangkok with 2 kids and a baby.
As much as we’d thought about being in Thailand, we’d thought about these flights. What were we in for?
Jackson (6) and Emery (4) were remarkable. Others on the flight even commented to us how great they did. We talked, played games, watches movies, and they slept. Honestly, flying with those two little travelers was a breeze. I’d say the long flights were even easer with them than they would have been without them.
What about Baby Abby? Well, let’s just say that while it wasn’t terrible, the experience already has me thinking of extending our time here to delay our return trip. Flying around the world with a baby just isn’t easy.
We started in a bad position. We hoped that Abby would get a good nap on the 2 hour drive from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles and be chipper when we got on the plane. Instead, she slept only a half hour and was fussy from the moment we got on. The first few hours were rough, but fortunately these rough few hours were at at a time on the plane when people were in general up and about — no sleepers yet. China Airlines provided a bassinet that attached to the plane that Abby could sleep in, but she was just too big for it and the moment she stirred she was up. Abby walked up and down the isles quite a bit, and there was some space in the back of the plane removed from everyone else that we could go for stretches at a time. The flights from Taipei to Bangkok were tougher. By the time we left Taipei, it was late at night. When we boarded, most people on the plane were ready to sleep. Abby was not. She took a lot of managing. On the flight to Taipei, Emery got a little sleep laying on me, but in terms of sleep, Jackson made out best as he laid on the floor in front of our seats.
The flight crew from China Airlines on both of our flights were great. They went the extra mile to help with the baby and the kids and they brought Monica and I are meals at separate times.
We were scheduled to arrive in Bangkok from Taipei at 12:30 in the morning, but our departure was delayed by a few hours. From what we gathered, this is pretty routine. China Airlines basically waits for all the connecting flights to arrive and passengers to make their connections before they take off. Inconvenient if your flight was on time but quite convenient if you are running late. The delay pushed our arrival time into Bangkok to almost 2:30 in the morning. We got through Thai immigration and customs and it was after 3 o’clock in the morning.
With this being our first time in Southeast Asia and us arriving so late, we arranged for transportation through the place we were staying. We thought there was no way our ride was still there and we had forgotten to write down the instructions for our meeting point. We tracked down a place to get wifi and then borrowed someone cell phone to call to call our contact. Low and behold, he was still there.
The flat rate for transport from the airport to the executive apartment complex we’re staying in was 500 baht, which comes out to about $15. The drive itself is about 30 minutes in the middle of the night when there is no traffic. So our driver waited more than three hours to make $15, which tells me that $15 really means something to him. We arrived in Bangkok and were greeted by someone holding a sign with our name on it and had peace of mind as we were driving through a new and strange city in the middle of the night that we were in good hands. I happily gave him a big tip when we got to our place.
As for our first impressions of Bangkok, the first thing I’ll say is that it’s hot. I mean it’s just hot.
At the airport and then driving to our apartment from the airport, I was struck by the fact that it felt like just about any big city. Billboards and highways and mass transit, big buildings and urban sprawl. The mass transit is, in a word, impressive. The BTS Sky Train, Bangkok’s metro train service, covers the whole city. The trains are immaculate and run like clockwork. The Siam Center Mall is like Times Square in New York City, only bigger. Yes, that’s not a typeo. Bigger, more imposing, more sensory, more media driven than Times Square. Chatuchack Park is Bangkok’s version of Central Park. It’s big and winding, and right next to the Chatuchack Weekend Market, the biggest market in Bangkok, which is huge. Bangkok also reminds me of Los Angeles. I’ve always joked that I don’t know where LA is. I know it’s somewhere between Thousand Oaks and Orange County, but where exactly it is in there I do not know. Other cities give you this center center. Not LA. That’s how I feel about Bangkok.
One blogger I read — a blogger who loves Bangkok — talked about how Bangkok doesn’t really open itself up to visitors. It’s a hard city to get to know. In our few days here we have been struggling to get to know it. The struggle is both exhausting and a joy. We’ve eaten tasty street food and walked through romantic markets. We’ve also been scammed by cabbies and smelled some of Bangkok’s infamous and terrible smells.
We’re just getting to know the place and in a few days we’ll be gone, moving on toward the islands and the mountains like most travelers do. For the next three months, though, Bangkok will be our hub. We’ll stop in as we are traveling through to other destinations and I’m excited about that because cities, like people, are usually more interesting the harder they are to get to know.