On Thursday March 29, we had an early afternoon flight from Luang Prabang, Laos to Bangkok, Thailand. The airport terminal in Laos is only 2 years old, but it looks like they didn't bother purchasing any new stuff for the inside - the chairs were old and several were broken. Fortunately, we didn't have to hang out there too long. The two hour flight was uneventful, and we even had a decent snack. Two of us thought that the main protein was fish and one thought it was chicken. None of us has gotten sick, so we will never know.
At the Bangkok airport, an immigration official noticed us and sent us to the "Priority" line, which was much shorter than the regular one. We didn't know exactly why we were among the chosen few, but later saw a sign with symbols for all of the following: an old guy with a cane, a pregnant woman, people with children, a monk, and a person in a wheelchair. Obviously the guy put us into the first category; we saw no need to argue.
After luggage claim, we were met by Alice, a guide arranged by IOT, and shortly we were whisked off in a van to drive downtown to our hotel at the Adelphi Suites. Since the Bangkok airport is enormous, we were really glad to have someone to get us through the mass of humanity. By the way, it is so hot here that we gasped as we got off the plane. All of our flights since we arrived in southeast Asia have been on airplanes where passengers go outside, and then enter or exit via a small stairway at the back of the plane. I am looking forward to using jetways on our trip home: only 3 flights to go!
Alice's Thai name is Orasa. During our ride to the hotel, she told us a funny story. If her name is pronounced correctly it means, "wife of god". However, the Thai language uses tones as well as spelling to confer meaning. Unfortunately, most western ears cannot even detect these tones. As a result when westerners try to say "Orasa", it often comes out meaning "wife of buffalo"! This leads to much kidding by Thais within earshot. As a result, she finds it easier to just use a western name with her clients.
Today is Friday March 30, and it is our last full day on the ground for this journey in southeast Asia. Bangkok is quite hot, and it really doesn't cool down much at night. We will leave for the airport this evening, for an 11:20 PM flight to Seoul, then one to Detroit, and finally back to Traverse City. Our total travel time will be about 26 hours, but with the time changes and the International Date Line, we should be home by 1:30 PM on Saturday.
On Alice's suggestion, we got up before dawn today to get some exercise, and see the sights. We took a taxi to Lumpini Park, which is 2 or 3 miles from the hotel. The fare going was half of the fare coming back, since we were in standstill traffic much of the time on the return trip. The two rides together cost about $4 US. When we left the hotel at 6 AM, there were lots of people up and about, but not too many cars. Alice had told us that taking a motorbike taxi (where you hang on behind the driver) would be more expensive, but faster, since they can zip in and out between the cars. We prefer the air conditioned slower method.
The doorman for the hotel escorted John, Jocelyn and me to the corner to hail a cab for us. Meanwhile, a very drunk hooker saw his crisp white shirt, and latched onto his arm for support. She had on four inch heels, lots of makeup and a pretty dress, but she was so tipsy that it was amazing that she didn't fall over. He was very cool and didn't push her away. Finally she let go, and she proceeded to cross a very busy street while the cars maneuvered around her. It was scary to watch, and also very sad to see. It was 6 AM!
John & I had stayed at the Adelphi when we were here in 2014, so we are familiar with the area. That street is so congested that even though it is divided (with the sky train overhead), there are no crosswalks for several blocks, but rather a few pedestrian overpasses. We have even seen street dogs use the overpasses.
So we got to Lumpini Park in just a few minutes, and walked around for an hour and a half as the sun rose in the sky. It is Bangkok's version of Central Park, though I doubt that there is as much activity in NYC at that hour of the morning. It was quite clean, with several well maintained toilet stations, and literally thousands of adults of all ages exercising. Kids are in school now. There were a few folks on bikes, but not going fast (the speed limit for bikes during the main part of the day is 20 km/hr). Lots of people were running, usually solo, but a few in twosomes or a small group, and we also saw numerous walkers. It makes sense that if you want to be outdoors in this town, you go to the one place where cars are not allowed, so it is quiet.
Breaking the silence though, were at least 8 or 10 groups of informal Tai Chi exercise classes, with very soothing musical accompaniment. Most of the participants were older women, with a few males joining in. Several of the groups were dressed in matching shirts, as if they were in a club. They all smiled us and offered to have us join the activity. It looked so peaceful and healthy - I think I might look for something like that when I get home. We also saw two groups of people doing stretches on horizontal metal bars, including one woman who looked like she was about 80 - she had her ankle up on a bar at chest height while she moved her arm over to it. I was VERY impressed.
There was also a zumba group going, which had their music turned up far too loud for the otherwise peaceful venue. The park has a pretty lake, but nobody would think about venturing into the water. Not only does it look pretty scummy, but at one point we spotted several Komodo dragons playing around in the lake. While they are only about half the size of large alligators, they do not look like an animal that most people would feel comfortable around.
There were about 6 or 8 small pavilions scattered throughout the park, many funded by local organizations or rich private donors. The Lumpini Bicycle Club sponsored one, and their sign said, "The more you ride, the longer you live"; I liked that! I can't imagine living in such a hot place, but obviously the residents are used to it. I won't mind wearing a jacket when I return to northern Michigan this weekend. Although we have enjoyed this adventure, we are ready to go home!
We are relaxing for the remainder of the day, while Jocelyn was headed to visit the Royal Palace. Time to spend the rest of our foreign currency!
P.S. Special thanks to Jocelyn, who has posted tons of wonderful photos on her Facebook page, and always remembers to tag me so I have been able to share them with my friends. John and Jocelyn have schlepped their cameras all over and for that I am eternally grateful.