The longest day of traveling ever (for me)...

Bangkok Travel Blog

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New World Lodge - Bangkok
After spending several years working 60-100 hour work weeks I decided it was time to quit my job and go travel for a bit.  A friend was getting married in China and invited me to attend so I thought it the perfect sign that my time traveling should be spent in Asia.  For at least a portion of the trip I figured I would be able to see some familiar faces.  I'd also get the luxury of a group trip discount on my flight and a few nights free in a 4-star hotel in China.  I decided to change my flight to leave a few weeks early and start in Thailand and Cambodia and then meet up with the others for my last three weeks in China.  It wasn't the easiest flight to change though (Air China wasn't the most flexible).  The original flight was from JFK direct to Beijing where I would connect in Shanghai.  I figured I'd spend a day in Shanghai to recover from the initial flight and then catch my flight to Bangkok the following day.  At least that was the plan...

Always afraid of missing my flights I decided to leave early to avoid traffic (at around noonish nyc time it ended up only taking 45 minutes to get to the airport) at which point I was now 3 hours early for my flight.  Upon checking in I was told the flight was going to be delayed 5 hours.  So now I've got 8 hours in the airport!!  My mom waited with me for a bit and we got a meal to spend some time together before I left, and during the meal we phoned up Air China (because the people at the check-in desk were pretty useless in terms of info) and were told that I would not make my connecting flight from Beijing to Shanghai but that they would pay for a hotel for the night and get me to the airport to catch the first flight in the morning.  So after 8 hours I had finally said my goodbyes to mom and boarded my flight and settled in for another 13 hours of entertaining myself.  As usual I couldn't sleep and became increasingly jealous of those who seem to drift off on airplanes as if they were in their own bed.  I make it through the flight without too much trouble and arrive in Beijing a little after midnight their time. 

I realize as soon as I step off the plane that the airport is pretty much empty.  I look around for an Air China representative so they can tell me where the transport to the hotel is (since I've missed my connection of course) but the only people around are airport security and they have no idea where I can find a Air China rep.  So after looking for about an hour I finally just realize it's going to be easier to crawl up in a corner and try to sleep in the airport until Air China staff shows up for the first flight to Shanghai in the morning.  The departure board shows me the first one is at a little after 7am so I figure it's only a few hours and maybe I can just sleep through it - and the airport is literally empty aside from a dozen travelers like me and cleaning crew so noise definitely won't keep me awake.  I find a row of chairs to lie down on, but any way I try I still have an armrest sticking into some sort of my body so after an hour of moving around I give up and just sit in the chair with my iPod and wait. 

I notice an elderly Chinese woman sitting on the chairs across from me apparetnly also waiting for a flight in the morning.  She tries talking to me but I try as best I can to let her know I don't speak any Chinese - she keeps smiling and then pulls out of her handbag a bag of peanuts obviously from her last flight.  She walks over to me and pushes the peanuts in front of my face, i'm guessing my sleep deprivation (i'm now on about 26 hours of no sleep) make me look a little off so she is trying to get me to eat.  I politely decline several times but either she doesn't understand or doesn't want to listen to me and puts the peanuts into my hand.  I eat them to appease her and it seems to make her happy so I figure maybe that is enough.  But as soon as I finish the peanuts she is putting more food into my hand - this time airplane size break with a packet of jelly.  I don't want to offend her so I eat this too and hope that this is the last of her stash because I'm actually a really picky eater and soon she will give me something for sure I will be grossed out to eat.  Luckily I'm right, and she doesn't give me anything else to eat.  She tries talking to me a few more times I think trying to teach me a few words in Chinese.  I repeat after her and again she has a huge smile on her face obviously pleased with her student.  I have no idea what I'm saying and hopefully she isn't having me say something along the lines of "stupid american" or "idiot girl stuck in airport".  At 5am some employees start showing up and in a little bit the Air China check-in gate opens.  I say goodbye (via a wave, a point to the check-in desk, and a smile) to the woman who has been my company for the past few hours and go to wait in line at the check-in desk.  Although it's not actually a line since it comprises of only me waiting for the agent to check me in.  When she has all her systems up and running for the day I tell her about the flight delays and get booked on the 7am to Shanghai - it's actually a somewhat easy process and only takes 10 minutes. 

The flight to Shanghai is short relative to the previous days flight and only takes about a couple hours.  At this point however I've pretty much lost the entire day because I realize that I need to be back at the Shanghai airport in 5 hours to check-in for my flight to Bangkok and I'm so tired that the idea of traveling back and forth to see a few things makes me even more tired so I resign to staying at the airport yet again waiting for the next flight. However, this time it's mid-day and there are tons of people around and shops open and the time seems to pass a lot quicker then the night before.  I get to try my first Asian snacks while waiting - one of those little things I like about traveling abroad.  Seeing the common flavors they prefer and odd treats I've never seen before.  I board my flight for Bangkok and a few hours later I finally arrive.  It's now early in the night and dark outside, I wonder if I'll easily be able to find my transfer driver to my hostel (it's included in the trip I booked so I might as well use it right?)  Upon first looking I don't see anyone that stands out - there are a ton of people and drivers and none seem to be specific for me.  I've never used a transfer before so I guess that maybe they are unreliable and see if I can find some other transport.  I find a car service desk outside and as they are telling me it's going to be the equivalent of $30US I pause to think if I can find someone cheaper.  At that point my transfer driver finds me and I'm glad because he seems like a really nice local who has a huge smile and what I'm guessing is his young son with him for the drive.  We drive on the highway although it doesn't seem like we are going that fast.  It's my first time to really look around and I take my first sights of the city in looking at the lights and buildings.  I see a billboard for Tata Young and the name sounds familiar - I think she is a famous Thai singer who somebody I know at Epic was going to work with for a release in the US.  I spot some familiar company names in bright lights atop buildings with some not so familiar and after a bit we are off the highway and traveling in the city.  The energy is insane and there are people everywhere - street vendors, locals, and tourists alike.  It seems crowded and noisy and in a way dirty, but that doesn't really bother me because it's something different.  Finally I arrive at my hostel (The New World Lodge) and I realize it's alot nicer then i expected.  After seeing the gamit of hostels in Europe I assumed this would be worse then those considering the location but it's actually pretty decent and sits right on a canal with an area outside that has flowers with an overpowering pleasent scent.  I go to check-in and after 40 hours of constant travel I've finally arrived.
globalodyssey says:
it's usually not this bad
next time will be much smoother
Posted on: Apr 26, 2009
goezi says:
Nicely written Chris. I can relate to the sleeplessness.
Posted on: Sep 05, 2008
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New World Lodge - Bangkok
New World Lodge - Bangkok
365 km (227 miles) traveled
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photo by: Deats