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Our journey home did not start auspiciously. Maybe we should have “made merit” like the gentleman in the photo above.
Back in ????, we’d booked an overnight sleeper train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. It’s very cheap (20% the cost of flying), reasonably comfortable, you spend almost the entire travel time asleep, and you don’t need to pay for a hotel room that night. We showed up at the station, to learn the training was running “at least” an hour late. Sounded ominous. The hot season starts on March 1, and it was at least in the high 80s, with humidity about the same. Clouds of mosquitos attacked hungrily — hey, the girls’ gotta eat sometime.. We waited & sweated. Kathy took a wander around the station; she happened to look at the train schedule listing. There were no sleepers on the 8:30 pm train, only seats! Apparently the station agent in Hua Hin had screwed up.This was a 12+ hour train. We would have to spend a long night sitting in upright train seats, after waiting in a hot, buggy train station for some indeterminate time. It took us about 5 minutes to decide this was no longer the desired course of action. A svelte, kindly young man was sitting opposite us and chatted us up — an ex-Vice-Principal from a school in New York City, continuing his journeys in Thailand. He’s meeting up with a friend who is starting a new aid organization. These spontaneous “cultural exchanges” make our travel infinitely more interesting — and in this case, help pass the time while we decide what to do with our dilemma.
Because we’d wanted an air-conditioned room during the day, we had paid for an extra day at our hotel. Worked out to about three bucks an hour, well worth it (particularly in retrospect). The guesthouse was certainly surprised to see us reclaim our room an hour after we had checked out and left! We all had a good laugh.
First thing next morning, we started calling airlines for a flight. Shades of our first Chiang Mai exit back in January – no reservations because of a screw-up, and all the flights full. Veterans of this exact situation, we knew what to do – go to the airport, buy a ticket for a flight atsometime in the future, and standby for the flight we actually wanted. So that’s what we did. And, like our other two standby attempts this trip, we made it onto flight, no problem. Unlike where we waited from about 7pm until nearly midnight (then had to rush through Customs and Immigration) — we arrived at the airport, got our tickets in 10 minutes’ time, and 5 minutes after we got into the standby list, we got confirmed, seat assignments, went to Departure and got on the plane almost immediately. It almost never goes this well.
Bangkok is also pretty warm, but inexplicably, not as hot as Chiang Mai (even though its further south). Blue skies (Bangkok’s air has been improving over the years; Chiang Mai is getting worse). We don’t have many plans for Bangkok; it is our third time here in the past two months. We do the luggage shuffle — rid ourselves of anything we can that is now excess (worn out maps, for example), and re-pack the stuff we’ve been carrying through Thailand along with the bad we’d left behind in Bangkok. Sounds like a trivial exercise, but we travel pretty light, and all this stuff (including, for example, a small carpet we purchase in India) needs to fit into one duffle bag, two carry-on-sized bags, and a pair of rucksacks. It’s an art.
We’ve got a bottle of wine (turns out, a decent bottle of wine) — we score some bread, cheese. . . parma ham at a nearby supermarket — “room service” dining, on the cheap.