Airports

Funny old places airports.

If you want to see the full spectrum of human emotion I can heartily suggest hanging around an airport for a few hours.
Which is exactly what I’m doing today.
I’m ‘hanging around’ because I’m not really going anywhere, well I am, but not ‘really’.
I have come to from Chiang Mai to Bangkok to meet my folks who are coming over for Christmas (squeeee). And in a few hours time I will be going back to Chiang Mai. I’m sure that if needs be they could easily have made the transition form place to place without my presence, but the opportunity to see them even just a few hours earlier than could have was just to good to miss. It’s only hours flight each way and the less cost is than I’ve done some similarly timed rail journeys in Europe so I thought, why not?

So here I am in Suvarnanbhumi airport or BKK as I prefer, for obvious reasons, to call it. ( The locals affectionately call it ‘swampy’ as it was built on reclaimed swamp land, but for the sake of clarity I’ll just call it BKK ).

I arrived here stupidly early. I blame my husband, I was always the kind of person who used to screech up at the last minute, usually sweating and swearing, but his traveling habits have finally rubbed off it seems and I have allowed plenty of time for unexpected delays and mishaps. Today so far there have been none.

The upshot is that I’m in no particular hurry, and with no particular destination or deadline I’ve spent the last hour ambling around the airport. And what a fine airport it is. As a passenger I have always appreciated the layout of the airport as it is easy to navigate, well signposted and well provisioned with coffee. I have spent many, many, (many), hours here before when transiting between flights or waiting for connections, but it’s always been with an invariably tired and grouchy small person in tow who wants to do nothing more than find a chair then complain to me how bored she is for how ever many hours we need to sit there.

This time I found myself just mooching about and I discovered the observation deck which I have never noticed before tucked away above international departures. What a find. It’s not that there is anything all that amazing to observe as it doesn’t even look out onto the runway, but it has something which, to me, is airport gold.
It has very few people in it. There was no real noise, there were benches, there was a wide open space. THIS is where I will be bringing small person the next time we have to do any waiting here, this is like an airport paradise. I mean sure it has no coffee, but I can supply that without too much of an issue, so this is where we will be.

The only interruption to my near solitude was a large group of sunburned drunken Russians who had taken the wrong escalator and were frantically searching for international departures. I pointed them in the right direction and once again it was just me and a few airport staff enjoying a quiet lunch.

As I have said the view you are intended to observe is on the mediocre side, but it’s the unintended view that captured my interest more. From high in the roof of BKK you can look down on the entire departures floor and the order it makes from the chaos of bodies that are filling it. From way up here you can’t hear the bustle but watching the snaking lines of passengers overburdened with luggage desperate to be first in like when check in opens, or sitting disconsolately behind a mass of suitcases waiting for news of the flight that cancelled, is a fascinating distraction.

The need for caffeine drew me down from the sky into the madness of departures. Mad, but still beautiful. BKK have done a great job of interior decorating with plenty to keep the eye entertained while you wait. From the impressively large statues that stand guard over the hall to the enshrined relics of lord Buddha with its gloriously scented orchid garden ( with its very own pond don’t you know) it is one of the more interesting airports to wait in. Even the exterior is ordained with 10 metre high portraits of His Majesty the King for you to gaze upon (if you happen to be sneaking out for a crafty cigarette ).
And what better way is there to while a way the time than to watch the whole world ticking by on the departures board in front of your eyes , and dream and scheme of adventures yet to come. But it’s almost time to go to my favourite place. Arrivals.

I find the arrivals hall of any airport to be a joyous place. Not the bored couriers holding up name tags for unknown business men, but the palpable sense of expectation and excitement anticipation as you see people’s eyes constantly flickering to the flight status displays, waiting for the moment of reunion. And when the people begin to trickle through the doors laden with baggage freshly whisked from the conveyer belt, those moments of bleary, sometimes teary eyed reconciliation, of homecoming, of excitement for the unknown, those are moments to treasure.

And speaking of which, it’s my own eyes that are flickering now. In a few short minutes my parents flight will land and we will be having our own magical moment.

Jer Gan Mai

*pictures will be added when I get home and have non stupid internet!!

Part the second….Almost there, really this time.

I think is fair to say that the last 4 weeks have been a whirlwind.

Rather akin to Dorothy and Toto, small person and I have been swept up from our familiar surroundings and travelled to a land of wonder and excitement. It’s been a slightly longer process than they had to endure, but far more comfortable along the way I’m sure ( although if you had asked me when I had just disembarked from a sleepless night flight from London for a 3 hour stop at New Delhi, I may not entirely agree with myself ).

The multi-stage journey ran as smoothly as I could have wished with only one 20 minute delay on the very last bit. And no tricky ‘3rd seat passengers’ to deal with this time round which is always a blessing. Having a first stage night flight was a bonus, as when traveling with a small person even a little sleep is a gift.

I would like to take a moment here to commend air India for their service; priority boarding even when your small person isn’t that small anymore, good on board entertainments ( the films epic (and for me 500 days of Summer) helped to pass almost half the flight in companionable silence), and the food was both recognisable and tasty. The lay-over in New Delhi went as all lay-overs in India go, once we had passed through the very strict security checks of course.
The last time we had to change flights in India we almost missed our connection as my bags were torn apart by the ‘flying monkeys’ at the security checkpoint as I was caught in possession of a dangerous weapon. It was as much a surprise to me as anyone else when the dangerous weapon was confiscated and chastisements handed out, but as ever with Indian security, no protests were made and apologies were profuse. I had to console small person as it turned out that the dangerous weapon belonged to her and she really didn’t want to give it up, but I assured her that when we had reached our final destination we would be able to buy her a new ‘Ben 10’ pencil sharpener.

I was fully prepared this time and no dangerous stationary items were to be found in our hand luggage. I was also prepared for the very long queues for security screening. All items ( including a stuffed toy giraffe ) had their own tags to be stamped as ‘passed’ ready to be checked again when we boarded our connecting flight, we even remembered to get into same gender lines as females have to be screened separately behind a special curtain. I remembered to wait until instructed to place my items into trays and never place an item on the conveyer until instructed. Sadly the person who instructed me hadn’t consulted the soldier doing the screening and he wasn’t ready yet so simply pushed the trays and all their contents off the end of the belt onto the floor. Of course I didn’t complain, its only a tiny crack in my I-pad screen and he had a really big gun. One thing I have learned is never to argue with or otherwise antagonise airport security in India. Not if you want to see your connecting flight anyway.

Another top tip I have is that if you are tempted by a can of ‘sugar free Pepsi Atom’ be warned, it tastes of curry. So many levels of wrong. Thankfully the chocolate muffins did not have a similar addition.

After our small sojourn in New Delhi airport we were up in the air again for a few unremarkable hours to Bangkok, our last port of call on travel day one.

A very brief wait at immigration this time and our passports and visas were stamped by a very smiley border control lady who welcomed us to Thailand. Our new home.

One terrifying taxi ride through the airport suburb and we were deposited for a welcome nights sleep followed all too swiftly by a delicious breakfast, then it’s off to the airport once more for the ‘last bit’. A tiny 1 hr hop to Chiang Mai, with a big nod to the check-in staff for overlooking the extra kilo or 10 on our hand luggage. Despite the numerous re-packs, it’s not east to fit your life into a couple of suitcases.

The imagined running straight into hubby’s arms at arrivals was reduced to a scarecrow-esque limp wave, through the door as we waited …. And waited …. And waited for the aforementioned luggage to appear, but after what seemed like a very long wait for a very small airport I was able to load up my trolly and stagger through the gate and into his waiting arms. And without the aid of ruby slippers, we were finally home. And there’s no place like it.

A Bientôt.