Where am I?


February 26, 2007 at 11:11 PM | categories: Thailand, travel | View Comments

I'm off to Thailand. But what am I doing with a four-stop itinerary? One that leaves SFO at o'dark-thirty? One that arrives at 20:30? Short answer: miles.

This trip is burning gobs of UA miles, for a first-class seat over the Pacific. But it was hard to find a first-class seat for SFO-NRT-BKK, or even SFO-LAX-BKK, so I ended up with the SEA routing.

The trip to SEA and beyond is uneventful. The SEA leg is a domestic 757, so my seat is really a business seat, but it's a short flight. The NRT flight is a 777, and seat 3J has a lie-flat powered bed. It's quiet, and there's a good view of the Pacific, but I took melatonin in SEA, so I'm more interested in the bed. The food is pretty good, and there is a Japanese option - something like a bento box. The wine is disappointing, though: borderline Champagne, and all the reds are made from Bordeaux grapes. I was hoping for something fancy in a Pinot Noir, but at least there's a decent French Chablis.

windmills on NRT approach

This is my first time in Japan, sitting in Narita until the NRT-BKK flight boards. It'll be on Thai, which should be interesting. Thai doesn't have a first-class lounge in NRT, so I'm in a ghostly-empty ANA lounge (my flight is a code-share for ANA). It's delayed twice, for an hour each time. The ANA lounge has some red Burgundy, lots of idle staff, and some scary-looking toilets.

My flight on Thai is scary too, but for a good reason. The seats are a bit older and less high-tech than UA equipment, but they recline farther and take up a lot more cabin space. There are 18 first-class seats on the plane, and only five are occupied. There are at least three cabin staff: by the end of the five-hour flight, each of them has come by to thank me for flying and ask about my travel plans. The business-class purser offers some advice, too. "Watch out in Krabi - very big mosquitoes".

Sadly, the wine is plonk. I try a Gewürztraminer (from Alsace), but it displays all the crispness and refreshing mouth-feel of a boiled slug. It might be better chilled, but the wine itself is probably cooked. The food is great, though. There's a pork curry with plenty of chilis in it, and the condiments included extra chilis in an easily-pocketed bottle. That will come in handy on future UA flights.

At the arrival gate, no one is allowed to exit until we five first-class passengers gather our chattels and receive the wais of the cabin staff. We are escorted to a waiting fleet of electric carts. These speed us through the huge new terminal to our own dedicated customs agent, who whisks us through with a smile and another wai. I could get used to this.

I'm in Thailand.

Well, I'm in BKK. It's only 20:30, and John's flight doesn't arrive until 11:30. Despite the first-class flights, I'm tired. I get some cash from an ATM. I get some water, and a coke. John is delayed half an hour.

Finally we manage to meet up, get a taxi, and go to the hotel near Thanon Khao Sahn. The neighborhood reminds me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and I wonder if we'll sleep. But it's past midnight - we can look for a better place tomorrow.

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