Arriving in Bangkok
“This is your captain speaking, we are now starting our descent into Bangkok.” The voice sounded as if he’d said it a hundred times. 10 minutes later a quick announcement came on the loudspeaker regarding the prohibition of drugs
into Thailand and how it carries the death penalty. How I wish some of those penalties were actually enforced by the people that do bring them in. Unfortunately, as is most of Asia, Thailand is plagued with corruption. From the local cab driver,
to the food vendor, to the hotel staff to the policeman, to the politician. It's corrupt to the bone and it always has been – it’s something that will never change.
The plane is full of passengers, all nationalities. It looks like the Valium I took before the flight has finally worn off and I’m glad were coming down to the final stages of the flight. I never really liked flying, but these days who can avoid it? I look out the window, it’s beginning to get dark but can see the swamp lands of Bangkok. Water, rice fields or whatever it is, it looks poor and shabby.
The plane lands and comes to a stop. I get up and slowly walk out through the shuttle. The 3-hour flight from Manila hasn’t done my back or legs any favours, that’s for sure. I look out the window from the airport. Night is settling in. The air looks polluted and humid. Bangkok – the centre of Asia, it’s been 2 years & 11 months since I set foot in my favourite city in the world. Not sure what it is about the city – the pollution, the sex tourism, the corruption, it’s the general buzz the city gives off which has it all. This is Bangkok. It has all those things plus more.
The line at Immigration is long and extremely slow. Standing there waiting for my passport to be stamped I barely move. I look around me; mainly Koreans and Japanese standing in line with their passports. As I finally get to the front counter I hand my passport to the immigration officer. “Sawadee krap” I say. Not a response from the officer who’s wearing a mask. Not even a flinch to acknowledge I even exist. Yes, I think, welcome to Thailand. He grabs my passport and stamps and signs it, like clockwork, a routine he’s done over a thousand times. He hands it back to me, still not even looking at me – “Kop kun krap” I say. Once again, no response from the masked man.
I walk over to the carousel. It’s always a nervous walk to a carousel in Asia. I know I’ve done it many times but there’s something about picking your luggage up at a third world Asian country. You just hope to God your bag has not been tampered with… Maybe I’m being paranoid, or maybe seen the movie ‘Bangkok Hilton’ and just thinking irrational thoughts… I pick up my luggage and meet Mr. Somchai, my driver, at the pickup area. He looks like an old man, looks around 50 but is probably only about 40 years old. Most likely from one of the provinces of Isaan. His body looks like he’s had a hard life. His hands look as though he’s done many hours in the rice and crop fields. As with most Thais, it’s not easy living life here. He probably even has a daughter working in the ‘industry’. Who knows but if I was a betting man I’d be saying his daughter is the breadwinner in his family. I’m really guessing here but she is the one who sends the money back to the homeland every month saying – “I work hard in factory in Bangkok, Daddy” Yes; work hard – lies, lies and more lies. If you substitute the words ‘factory’ with ‘bar’ and the word ‘hard’ to ‘dancing on a pole staring at customers' eyes’ it would be half way to the real truth. But it’s all about saving face in Thailand. That counts for more than anything in this country.
We walk outside of Bangkok Airport, it’s a Wednesday night. The humidity hits me like a tonne of bricks. People screaming out in the local lingo, pollution, traffic, the general hustle and bustle of Bangkok airport. Anywhere else in the world you’d think there’s a big event on, but this is just the standard amount of people at any given time at Bangkok airport. Mr. Somchai opens the door for me. ‘Kop kun krap’ I say.
I ask in my amateur Thai to the driver, “Bpai Rayong mai?"
“Yes, yes we go”. He answers. Half interested. Probably thinking, here’s another foreigner – a farang – an alien in his country probably up to no good. It’s going to be a long drive to Rayong. In a way I don’t mind the long drive because the last week in the Philippines really has worn me out so a few hours of sleep in the car before checking in the hotel will do me some good.
As he starts the vehicle we start our long journey to Rayong. Pictures of HM King are everywhere. I smile. Yes, now it hits me. I am in Thailand now. How I miss this country.
We slowly make out journey from the airport and onto the highway. Shabby houses, poverty, we are now entering the outskirts of Bangkok. The writing is now no longer written in English except for the highway signs. We pass the first toll way, a few policeman have a quick glance at the vehicle, they let us go through.
Whether they are patrolling the area or trying their luck on extra ‘tea money’ for anything they can find, who knows. This is Thailand. Regardless of what it is or how bad the corruption is, I miss this country so much. It’s so good to be back in the land I love. I close my eyes and doze off to sleep happy on the long drive to Rayong.
It's always exciting arriving at the airport, from watching the looks on the faces of the first-time visitors, to reacquainting yourself with the sounds and smells, to the Thai script everywhere to officious bureaucracy to the taxi drivers and their driving styles. The fun starts from the moment you arrive!