First trip to Thailand

After many trips and long stays in Thailand I could fill a large book with
all my experiences good, bad, and sometimes heartbreaking. But will start
with bits and pieces. It's like assembling a picture puzzle on your dining room
table. You have to wait until the final pieces are in place before you
can "get the picture", or I should say your personal viewpoint. Guess I will
start at the beginning or "the border".

First trip: Summer 2002

After a long wait at the Los Angeles International Airport, it was finally
time to check in at the Malaysia Airlines counter for the trans-pacific
flight to Bangkok, Thailand with two stops in between. One in Taipei, Taiwan,
with a four hour layover, and the second in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At the time
of booking, Malaysia Airlines had the best deal but you also had to go through
Kuala Lumpur before proceeding to other countries. I already had what I used to
consider a long flight under my belt that day, flying from Dallas, Texas, to Los Angeles,
California. So, I knew I was in for a long journey before reaching my final destination.
I decided just to make the best of it and enjoy everything and let
the trip be a good experience. After all, it was part of my vacation too. I
had never traveled to the far east before and everything would be new to me.

For starters, I was not sure of how to pack my luggage or what items I might
need over there on the other side of the world. I brought two large bags
stuffed with all kinds of "just in case" items. This turned out to be a
mistake, however, as we will discuss in another entry. It is really too
large a subject to tackle in a few sentences.

Standing in line, gripping my two large bags plus carry-on, I noticed
a subtle excitement, if there is such a thing, in the mood of the
passengers waiting in line. The Malaysia Airline employees added to
this elevated mood in their long, colorful dresses and beautiful, smiling
faces. They were not only nice to look at, they were all were eager to help
with any questions we might could think of. Security was tight,
however. since 9-11 was still fresh in everyone's mind. We were ordered to
leave the locks off our bags or to let them do the locking. Finally, luggage
care of, tickets in hand, I proceeded through security and on to the gate
area and then after another wait onto the airplane, a Boeing 747-400.

Inside the plane I had the feeling of already being in Asia. Colorful
interior themes accented by the same beautiful employee clothing worn by the
flight attendants. My seat was in economy class but was fairly
comfortable although not roomy. Each seat had it's own screen for watching movies
or playing games or observing flight information. Luckily, no one sat beside
me and I had a whole row of four seats to myself which allowed me to lay
down later on in the twelve-hour plus flight and sleep.

The time went by fast for me. I took full advantage of all
the on-board services. The meals were very good and seem to come at the
right times. Once I even had an in-between meal snack of a sandwich and
coffee. Service was impressive, reminiscent of the pre-deregulation era of
the 60's and early 70's in the States. Time went by too fast, actually. The
flight turned out to be most enjoyable for me. The only problem I had was
finding time to watch all the movies they offered. I switched from one to
the other before finishing them. Never done that before. Then again, trying
new things was going to be my motive on this vacation. Or one of them

Arriving in Taipei was an experience in itself. This was my first time on
land in that part of the world. It was late afternoon when the plane landed.
The Island is tropical and it was raining. From the air I could see Asian
style buildings. Nevertheless, most everything else looked like it could be
at home anywhere in the world with it's busy highways and bill board signs lining
them. On to Kuala Lumpur:

Kuala Lumpur International airport is a large, modern, well decorated
beauty. One thing that stood out for me was in the many shops there were
plentiful and colorfully dressed employees. A few would stand outside their
shops beckoning customers to come in a look. When I made eye contact with
then they always smiled, slightly bowed, and stretched one of their arms out
with an open hand towards their merchandise. On to Bangkok.

My plane arrived in Bangkok sometime before midnight. The city was brightly
lit and sprawling. There were hundreds if not thousands of tall buildings.
Most were beautiful and modern looking. There were some of the largest
hotels I'd had ever seen in one place before. The city itself, estimated
about six to eight million peoples, depending on what time of year or who
you ask, seemed to have multiple downtown areas. Over here there appeared to
be one but then again over there also. You just could not pin down one area
that could be the downtown. Everywhere I looked here was a grouping of large
buildings. We landed at Don Muang International airport. The new
International (Suvarnabhumi) airport had not been completed at this time.
Don Muang Airport would then be relegated to domestic flights only. After
landing I noticed planes from almost every continent and country. Too many
to list here. They were were all distinct with their special liveries
appearing proud to represent their countries. I took special notice of the
ones displaying American, Delta, and United Airline colors.

The Immigration lines were long but were moving fast and efficiently. After
getting my VISA stamp of one month, I flopped my two large bags on one of these
free baggage cart at the luggage carousel, handed in my form,and rolled right
through customs after after a glance and wave by the customs official. Next I
entered the exit hall not knowing what to expect. I was immediately pounced upon
by touts offering their taxi service or hotels or tours to Pattaya or practically
where ever you wanted to go. There were so many of these offers and with knowing
no words in Thai yet, I felt a little uncomfortable. A few were a little aggressive.
I have since discovered that services rendered here at this point are always a
little pricey if not down right expensive. I'm sure they find a few
unwitting customers to take advantage of in any case. Since the new airport
opened things have become much more subdued however and under control by the
Thai Police.

Arriving at the city for the first time I already had my Hotel room lined up
and it came with a free shuttle and guide. (On subsequent trips I just went
to the city and easily found a room. Now I have my preferred hotels and even
rooms within certain hotels). My guide somehow spotted me in the crowd and
called me by name. Her name was Nancy. Funny thing, later I found out there
were many female employees at my hotel named Nancy. Or Nan-cee. I never
encountered this name again after leaving this hotel.