Note to self, pack one change of clothes in carry on, and remember deodorant for the sake of those who have to travel within a 25 foot vicinity of me.
Well here I am, finally sitting on my flight to Cambodia. A tiny turbo propwhich is without a doubt designed for Camodians, all 4’11” and 90 lbs of them. Before I even sit down I receive chuckles from the flight attendants. I would laugh to, it must be comical watching me, doubled over, bumping my head every time I have the nerve to look up to see what row I’m at, trying to navigate to my seat, which of course is the furthest one from the door. I feel sorry for those that must sit next to me. One leg off in front of the seat next to me, the other tucked up nearly into my chest. The seats are narrow too. Trying my best, I can’t even attempt to use the arm rest, so instead I’ll just use the person leg next to me. 20 hours of flights down, only a little, cramped, 1 hour flight remaining.
Day late, dollars short, and at the wrong airport. I should have been on this flight yesterday, but as luck would have it someone had a panic attack back at JFK which in turn would throw off the next few days for me. So after being delayed for an hour we started our 13 hour flight over the North Pole to Beijing. I had a 1.5 hr layover and airlines can usually “make up time”, whatever that means, so I wasn’t overly worried. Well, we landed 1 hour late, make up time my butt. 30 minutes to my next flight…I could do it. After exiting the plane there was an airline agent with my sign “Flight 979” asking us to please stand off to the right. Awesome, personal escort to the plane, they knew we were running late and they are going to get us there quick, or so I thought. After waiting for another few passengers she walked us to quarantine and immigration. Here she delightfully informed us, the flight had already left and the next flight was in 24 hours. There were no other flights out of Beijing airport to Bangkok that evening but we had a choice, we could pay $200 extra to get a flight that leaves in only 22 hours if we like. This was going to get pricey. Being the genius that I am, I booked Internet specials at the airport hotel in Bangkok for that evening, and the next morning I had a non-refundable/changeable web special flight to Siem Reap. All the sudden those deals were no longer deals. I had to rebook the next night at my hotel and buy another airline ticket. 1 Night for the price of two and 2 flights for the price of 3. Something is wrong there.
A hodge podge group. There were four other individuals stuck with me in Beijing, a Turkish jeweler, a Taiwanese brother and sister, and a young Thai man trying to make it back to Chang Mai. After some discussion with agents at Air China and we were able to acquire 1 day visas and instructions to go to the Air China desk in the terminal were they would arrange us a hotel, no bags though as they were “checked” through to Bangkok for us already. I’m not sure how the Chinese got left out of the loop, but most people, at least ones who work in international airports, at international ticket desks speak English. Well four “help” desks later and after a plethora of Chinese women yelling at each other over the phone, which can only be described in a way of sounding like the early communist Chinese propaganda recordings, we were told to sit over on a bench and we would be escorted to our hotel in 15 minutes. 2 hours later and more propaganda yelling later, we finally got on our bus to our hotel.
Chinese Institute of People with Many Talent. Clearly Air China doesn’t recruit from the institute across from our hotel. After our bus driver abandoned us on the side of the street, we wandered up to what we hoped was our hotel. We’re in luck, it was our hotel. We were informed by the hotel desk clerk that our transfer back to the airport was at 5:30am even though our flight was not until 7:30pm that evening. I grabbed the members of our hodge podge group and asked them if they wanted to do a quick tour of Beijing. I, being the only one who had been here before, arranged 2 cars with “English” speaking drivers to take us to the Temple of Heaven, The Forbidden City, and the Great Wall of China. Normally I would be excited, except for the fact I had already been to all three just last year, but it will be better than sitting in the airport.
Can I get two fermented eggs please with a side of toast? After about 1 hour of sleep and 4 hours of staring at the ceiling, it was time to get ready to meet the group for breakfast. I forgot how much I dislike Chinese breakfasts. Not only is there very little that I deam edible, but most items just turn your stomach. After eating my fair share of dry toast and one banana we were off to our cars. We walked up, said hi, and they stared at us blankly. English speaking, uh huh. So after heading back in and working with half the hotel staff I was able to get Chinese translations next to our English words for everywhere we wanted to go so we could at least point. We were off again. I am thinking of writing a new book. How to see “fill in the city name” in an airport layover. We left the hotel at 7am and were done with Beijing, sitting in the airport by 2pm.
Are you sure my bag is checked through to Bangkok? 4 hours later we were finally able to check in, we’ll most of us anyway. Apparently some of the people in our group had already flown to Bangkok on the previous night, I guess they forgot to tell the agent of this. Also a simple question of “Are you sure my bag is checked through to Bangkok?” Is not that simple. Another 15 minutes of propaganda yelling later we were told we needed to go pick up our bags from there storage facility and then re-check them back in. In hindsight at least I asked. Otherwise we would be, without a doubt, wearing the same clothes again. Finally, jumping through numerous hoops, we were able to get our boarding passes, check our bags, get through security, and make it to the gate with 15 minutes to spare, even though we had gotten there almost 6 hours before takeoff.
$0.50 a minute. After another nearly 6 hour flight we made it to Bangkok just before midnight. After grabbing my bag and getting through customs I made my way over to the Novetel Airport hotel by around 1am. Of course they didn’t honor my reservation, but I needed a shower and a new change of clothes. So for a discounted rate of nearly $150 I could spend 5 hours in the hotel. It was a rip off but with an 8am flight I didn’t need anymore than 5 hours and it was a fair price for the way I felt in the morning, showered, shaved, and in clean clothes.
Well here I am now, finishing my first blog entry and about to land in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Look for another update in a day or two.