Tag Archives: Bangkok Air

Bangkok, Thailand to Osaka, Japan to Kyoto, Japan

5/9 – Time to boogie out of Bangkok. Bangkok is an airport hub, with less-expensive flights than can be had out of northern Thailand, which is why we traveled here. Today we fly to Osaka, Japan, for our long-awaited Kumano Kodo pilgrimage hike. We had originally planned this hike for earlier in the spring, but delayed it as we waited for my broken arm to heal. Happy to say, after two weeks of daily swim therapy in Pai, my shoulder is almost good as new, and I’m ready to hike. Japan had a cold, wet spring, so it is just as well that we waited to travel.

After our wonderful experience with Bangkok Air, I had an expectation that we would be given a meal on our 5 hour Air Asia flight – no such luck. We had to purchase our entree (the size of a cell phone) and water, accepting what was left when the meals we wanted were sold out. No movie, no nothing. image Chicken with one carrot and one potato.

We arrived at Osaka at 10:30pm, and queued to have our fingerprints and photos taken, then again for baggage inspection. The two guys in front of us had their baggage opened and spread out for all to see, but they let us walk on through (guess we don’t fit the drug smuggler profile). There were lots of nervous, agitated people in line, as the last bus and metro train leave at 11:30pm, and then all mass transportation shuts down until morning. We cleared the last queue just at 11:30, and congratulated ourselves for booking a room at the airport hotel, although the cost for one night is what we usually spend for a week’s lodging…

All the airport restaurants were closed, but we found a 24 hour Burger King, so we chowed down on our first Whoppers in over a year. It was served at table, with complimentary water and much bowing. After we finished every bite, we weren’t hungry anymore.

Our room was tiny, but the bed was soft, and we slept like the dead. We didn’t wake up until after 9am – very unusual for us. The shower was strong and hot. What do I love about Japan? You can drink the tap water, and plug your chargers right into the wall without an adapter! I usually have to rotate charging my iPad, phone and camera batteries, but here I can charge them all at the same time!

We found a restaurant full of folks eating breakfast, so figured this would be a good place to eat. The woman behind the counter motioned us over to a machine in the corner, where we could select what we wanted to eat by pressing a button, pay, then receive a ticket to present for our food. We couldn’t figure out how the machine worked, but a man came in, and we watched him navigate it, then followed suit.  (Put in money first, and available selections will light up.)image

Not sure what I ordered, but I ate it all – after using spoon and fork in Thailand, we are back to using chopsticks here.

After checking out at noon, we walked to the train station for our ride to Kyoto. Once again, there was a machine with only Japanese characters that had to be navigated to give us our tickets. Luckily, the nice man in front of us helped us, and showed us which track was ours. 90 minutes later, we were in Kyoto!image

We settled in at a nice apartment with a kitchen and a washing machine, so we are getting all our clothes clean while we are here. Know what else I love about Japan? Not only does the toilet seat heat up for your comfort, and make the sound of a babbling brook for those with shy bladders, and a refreshing warm rinse available when your business is complete (separate buttons aimed for ladies #1, or #2), along with a discreet fan feature, but after flushing, the clean water filling the tank is presented so you do not waste water turning on the sink to wash your hands! I’m definitely getting one of these babies when I get home!image

We met Jim’s friend and fellow college professor Carl for supper, for lovely food and to catch up on old times. A long and wonderful day!image

Vientiane, Laos to Udon Thani to Chiang Mai, Thailand

4/12 – As we prepared to move from Laos to Thailand, we researched our options. From Vientiane, we could get to Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand on a 15 hour bus ride, or we could take a short bus ride over the Friendship Bridge to Udon Thani and catch a $50.00 flight to arrive in Chiang Mai in an hour. We’re kind of over the long, bumpy bus experience at this point, so we opted to fly for a change.

Our hotel offered to sell us a bus ticket for 60000 kip, but they were only 22000 if purchased directly from the bus station, so we tuk-tukked over to catch the 11:30am bus. By 11:40, I was starting to fret, but a friendly Vietnamese man told me not to worry, as all schedules in Laos are only approximate suggestions. Waiting around gave us time to talk with a young Korean, and a male nurse from France on a mountain holiday. Sure enough, the bus came eventually, and we all got on it. Here is the very crowded bus station – you can see a manicurist painting the fingernails of a woman waiting for her bus. She got a pedicure too! image

The bus took us to the border so we could process out of Laos, then the short drive to where we processed into Thailand. Remembering our experience in China when the bus left without us, we were at the front of the customs line and never let the bus out of our sight! No worries – the driver’s assistant counted noses each time before the bus closed its doors.

As soon as we crossed the border, things looked a lot more westernized, with paved roads, gas stations, car lots, billboards and 7 Elevens on every corner. I wonder if they have Slurpees here?

In less than two hours we arrived at the Udon Thani bus station. As most of us were going to the airport, Jim asked if we could all share a taxi, and the Vietnamese man took charge and bargained for a tuk-tuk that would take four of us and our bags for 30 baht each. New currency again – 1 baht is worth three cents, 100 baht about three dollars. As he spoke Thai, he was a much better bargainer than we would have been – I thought the driver’s original offer of 50 baht ($1.50) each was very reasonable for a five mile ride across town! image

As we rode down the road in the open vehicle, I was suddenly drenched from behind with a bucket of cold water! I gasped in shock, and our Vietnamese friend remarked that tomorrow was the start of the Thai New Year celebration of Songkran, and we should wrap our valuables in plastic and prepare to get wet for the next three days. He said we would be doused repeatedly with water to wash away the old year and wish us luck and prosperity in the new year. Oh boy!

At the Udon Thani airport, there was a small Buddha shrine, and we watched as passengers approached to pray and pour water over the Buddha. image

This ritual is the basis for the Songkran celebration – large statues of the Buddha were once carried in procession down the street, and people poured water on the statues. At some point, the statues became less important than the water, and now people just pour water on each other.

Before long, our flight was called, and we walked out to board.image

Our flight on Bangkok Air was less than one hour, so I was surprised when the flight attendants came down the aisle with beverages, and astounded when they came down again with a meal! That’s just something Americans aren’t used to! Excellent meal too!

Once we landed in Chiang Mai, a metered taxi (no negotiating needed) took us to the historic part of town where our Western House hotel is located next to a wat and a block from the bustle of the Main Street. Tomorrow we’ll explore!