More Daily Adventures Living in Bangkok
Well, for those of you who remember my last submission, I was off to Chicago to attend my son's wedding and dreading the 30 odd hours of flying and layovers, not to mention travel time to and from the airports which made the trip there 44 hours and
the trip back 46 hours. After watching the Seinfield re-run that showed Jerry living it up in First Class and Elaine stuck back in coach having a terrible time I called China Airlines and upgraded to Business Class and boy am I glad I did. Let
me give you a short rundown on what that extra $480 dollars added to my round trip ticket bought me.
First, there was no long check-in line. The “First / Business” class check in line was empty while 4-5 rows of coach class flyers were standing there sweating in line. We walked up and a few minutes later we had our boarding passes and “Invitations” to the VIP lounge. So we headed to the VIP lounge and in the middle of a hot busy and noisy airport we walked past the cardboard cutouts of pretty stewardesses and through the double doors into a very quiet, very air-conditioned, very comfortable lounge where our invitations were accepted and we were invited to enjoy the lounge. Nice furniture but maybe a bit overstuffed, wireless broadband, outlets at every table to recharge your laptop, plasma televisions, and a nice self-serve kitchen with nice sandwiches, cokes, snacks, cakes, dim-sum, and a self-serve bar, all at no charge. I gathered some food, plugged in my laptop, sat back in a chair with my feet up, and answered my email while having some pretty good food. An hour later we were quietly notified it was time to board the plane and were led past the long line waiting to board the Boeing 747 and into our 12 way power seats. While everyone else was boarding we were given hot towels, served wine or mixed drinks, and given slippers and toilet kits and made to feel comfortable and welcome. They even wheeled a cart by with LOTS of magazines and papers and paperback books. Hmmm, nice.
After the flight took off, more drinks, and then a four course dinner which included fresh deep green salads, canapés, and some very nice Swiss chocolates. After that, a nice tray was wheeled past for the main course and I selected a bacon wrapped filet mignon cooked perfectly medium rare and extremely tender. A wonderful desert followed by coffee and more drinks and I was almost sorry to make it into Taipei.
Ok, so repeat the VIP lounge experience (except it was nicer in Taipei), and the service and meals into LAX (two were served but at any time you could request another steak or whatever you wanted), lots of leg room, and into LAX we arrived tired, dirty from no showers, but very well fed (best food I’d had in months but don’t tell my wife that), but well cared for and our luggage was already removed and waiting for us in the VIP section where we quickly went through immigration, customs, and turned our luggage over to the “ongoing flights” section as it was already tagged through to Chicago.
Our fantasy flight ended there. No nice train / tram systems in LAX. Out to the big terminal, go around and a LONG WALK to the American Airlines terminal and back to coach class for a short 5 hour flight into Chicago. Going through security in Bangkok and then again in Taipei involved nothing more than passing our carry-on through the X-ray machine and walking through a metal detector. I was carrying my hard case full of expensive camera gear, a knapsack with my laptop and personal stuff, and my wife a knapsack. Now that we were in our HOME country we had to remove shoes, remove laptops from our knapsacks, take off belt buckles, watches, etc. and my wife was selected for a frisking even though her clothes left no doubt there was nothing but a nice body beneath. That’s when I saw the buffoon TSA agent trying to open my camera hard case. WTF? It went through the X-ray machine! Fortunately it required some muscle to work the latches (by design) and the brawny but not brainy agent couldn’t get them open. So I loudly said “DON’T OPEN THAT PLEASE, let me do it” and it was almost like they thought it was going to blow up. It wasn’t, but there were expensive lenses ($1500-$3500 lenses and $8000 camera bodies) in both halves of the case so if he would have just opened it we would have had broken camera stuff all over the floor. What you need to do is slightly open it, put your hand inside and hold the hard foam separator towards the side you’re going to flip and then open it. I asked to do it and was refused. I asked for a manager and was frisked. Enough of that! I pulled out my press card and said get the manager now our I’d write a nice article about their impressive service. A manager came, I explained, she looked like she wanted to beat me over the head with her night stick but relented and finally they had the case open. Then the guy takes out the two longest lenses and swabs them for explosives explaining to me they “resembled PIPE BOMBS” and put them through the X-ray machine again. Then we had to argue so I could repack my case myself. Welcome to America.
After standing in the coach line to board the plane (which was late, never had a late flight from an Asian airlines in all the 20+ years I’ve been flying them) we were shown to seats that no kidding, had my knees in my chest and my shoulders hanging over the edges. A very uncomfortable 5 hours later during which I got a 4 ounce cup of juice and the offer to BUY a $5 box of junk food they called a meal, we arrived in Chicago and went to collect our luggage only to find our TSA approved and very well marked locks were missing on my luggage. My wife’s luggage was missing, period! All the way from Bangkok to LAX and no problems, but a direct short flight from LAX to ORD and lost luggage! We checked into a hotel nearby to take our first shower in 48+ hours and my wife having no clothes had to walk around the hotel room naked, which frankly wasn’t a hardship at all. Fortunately they found her bag, but fortunately not until hours later when I’d gotten all the pleasure out of her nakedness I was going to have that night.
A great wedding later we repeated the process with her staying in the States until probably Christmas and me heading on to Bangkok. I was tired, dirty, and very glad my housekeeper waited up to make sure I arrived safely and help me with things that needed helping with. It’s going to be nice having a friendly and nice young face around the house taking care of things until the wife returns. Oh, my massage girl kept her appointment and arrived at 0400 which about the time I had taken my shower and needed the kinks worked out. Two hours later I was feeling human again.
The motto of this story. It’s very well worth the extra $480 IMO for the upgrade to Business Class. I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t have any extra First Class seats I could have used my miles to upgrade to. Oh well, maybe next time. Funny thing, when unpacking my bag I noticed it was all women’s clothes! Somehow American Airlines had mixed up our bags and my wife was in Los Angeles with my bag and I was in Bangkok with hers. China Airlines promptly took care of this problem and a few days later we had everything straightened out. Is it just me, or is traveling in America the shits? From the security hassles to the cheap service to the worn out planes to the 300 pound stewardesses that knocked you across your seat every time they walk by?
Hey, this was supposed to be about daily adventures in Bangkok right? Ok. let’s get to that.
Today I drove down the expressway and got off at Rama IV to hit Sathorn when a motorsai driven by a man with his very young toddler and no helmets cut across in front of me and hit the FRONT of my SUV. He parked his bike, made a big show of being upset, and headed over to the drivers side of my SUV with an angry looking face. After I stepped out and was a head taller than him he cooled off and demanded 10,000 baht for damage to his tailpipe which for the life of me I couldn’t see. Aren’t new motorsais about 20,000-30,000 baht? There wasn’t any damage to my SUV either, not a scratch, so he must have bumped up against the undercarriage or whatever. But he still wanted 10,000 baht. I told him he was crazy and kept my eye on a cop who was less than 10 meters away who witnessed the entire thing. He walks over to the man, says a few words to him, and starts writing him up for no license, no helmets, unsafe passenger (2 year old on the floorboards, no insurance, etc, etc, and tells the man it was his fault and asked me what I thought the damages to my SUV would be. I looked around to see if I was on Candid Camera or not and determined I wasn’t and that this must be the first honest police officer I’ve ever met in Bangkok. So I looked over my SUV carefully to make the guy sweat a bit and suggested he pay me 50 baht to cover the cost of removing a smudge I pointed out. The police officer looks at the man and he takes out 50 baht and gives it to me and I’m on my way asking myself if I’d just had a hallucination or not. But I guess not. hmmm…
Yesterday. I decided I wanted a bank account. I got into Bangkok Bank with my housekeeper in tow and ask for a bank account with 50,000 baht to deposit. I’m informed “Farang can’t have bank account” which didn’t seem right so we asked to talk to a manager. The manager shows up and pulls out a sheet of rules in English keeping her hand over the bottom part and shows me where I must go to my embassy and get them to fill out this document totally written in Thai which I know they won’t do. So I ask, and then have to demand a copy of the page she’s holding. Looking very upset she makes me a copy and I sit down to read it. It basically says you need this OR that OR that OR that. Hmm. Forget going to the embassy and asking them to fill out and sign a Thai document. forget a work permit because I don’t need one and don’t want my work to have to vouch for me to have a bank account and then notice that a Bangkok Bank Customer can “recommend me” and that’s when I get an idea. The man I rent my condo from banks here, which is why I wanted an account there in the first place. To make paying rent easier, and of course on-line banking to pay my electric, mobile phone, television, computer, etc, etc. Did you know you could do this all on-line just like back in the States? I knew because my housekeeper told me. So I dial my landlord’s phone number and being a very wealthy man he reads the riot act to the bank manager and all I hear is Chai ka, Chai ka, Chai ka, and we start feeling out forms, the bank manager obviously knew him by name. Then she goes AH HA, we need his signature. My nice housekeeper pointed out that she was a Bangkok Bank customer and signs for me. And soon I’m out of there with a savings account, checking account, and once I opened my knapsack and deposited a million baht (I had told them 50k but I lied) I soon had a visa / debit card and a Visa account with a 300,000 baht line of credit. Damn nice of them. And they were all out of yellow “I love the king” T-shirts but gave me a receipt to get one next time! Anyway, soon my on-line banking will be activated and I’ll never have to leave home to pay a bill in Thailand again. No more standing in line at the mall to pay my AIS mobile phone bill, no more standing in line at the bank to pay rent, no more 7-11 to pay electric. Why didn’t I do this before? Easy, because my wife took care of it and it built her credit to deposit the money in her account each month, let it sit, and then use it to pay bills. That hopefully will help us buy a house later on when we find one we like. But what a hassle! For a bank account.
New security in our building! We live in a nice condo and so far we’ve had a key card we swipe through a reader, enter a four digit code, and in you go. A windshield sticker gets us a salute and a pass into the car park where we leave our car. Every time you go in / out you’re recorded on CCTV and so far no problems with security. But the Thai mind is a wonderful thing and we had to change our system. Now we get thick white plain cards with no numbers, no addresses, and no four digit codes to enter. You don’t even have to swipe it or even take it from your wallet. You just get close enough and the door buzzes open, you get your picture taken with some new cameras, and inside the building you go. I worry about someone finding these cards and getting in the building easily. The car park is the same, leave a special card in your car and it automatically is read by a scanner and the gate bar swings open and the security guard can keep reading his comic book and not even look up! Little does he know this new security system is designed to eliminate his job! Progress!
Now. I’d like to tell you about the visit I had the other day with my doctor. Remember the really cute one I should have met before my wife? I think she reads Stick's site and we had a nice conversation which will surprise a lot of you but we’ll save that for my next submission because it deserves an entire post on it’s own. But Doc, if you are reading this site and you do know who I am, will you ever let me know? Our secret way of you letting me know could be something as simple as you examining me for say, testicular cancer? Deal? I’m not easily tempted my friends. I have a very cute housekeeper who most farangs would love to know – she speaks great English, is a university grad, very nice and well-mannered. but I’m a good guy and she’s safe from me. But the Doc. she’s the
apple on the tree.
I’ll get to the next submission soon though, promise. But first I need to head back south to Pattani and write a story about why the violence is increasing and then on to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat since it’s monsoon season and I need to finish some research and pictures there and I’m hoping to visit Singapore, all within the next two weeks. Later, I’ll be looking up an old friend in K.L. but that’s a month or so away. Until then, enjoy life as I’ll be enjoying mine to the fullest!
A very nice submission.