We are on day 3 of our journey to Bhutan and the day has run pretty much like the days before; PANIC. Maybe panic is too strong a word. I’ll let you decide. Our evening in Bangkok included sleeping. We arrived at Great Residence with the idea that we would shower, change, and head to downtown Bangkok for dinner and an experience (you can look at our previous wacky experience in Bangkok here)….
With all good intentions in mind, we headed off to our rooms and immediately crashed….well, at least SOME of us did. Having not slept in 30 some odd hours, sleep grabbed me like a tiger, shook me around and left me laying there wondering what happened. With a solid five hours under my belt, I woke at 9:45PM ready for the day! Only, it was night. In Thailand. Something was definitely off….(no comments on THAT point, please).
Intrepid as always, I decided let’s go anyway! A taxi ride into Bangkok would get us there by 10:30 and then we had the night! Right? Riiiiigggghhhhhttt. In the meantime, Halle and Natascha, eager to head to town waited on me until they passed out around 8:00PM….and so it went….we woke up around 3:00AM, got ready for our flight from Suvarnabhumi airport.
I have said it before and I will say it again: the Bangkok airport is a wonder. In so many ways, this airport defines the modern world and consumer culture. An entire mall of goods is presented to you as you wander the concourses. The King Stores (in recognition of the King of Thailand) offer a variety of food items including the ubiquitous dried fruit. I am a sucker for the various versions of dried mango (freeze dried is particularly delightful). The various other shops and stores include the “duty free” expensive goods like Hermes, Gucci, Prada and the like. These places represent a kind of experience of life that few can understand (me included). Not really trying to take anything away from the place at all, it interests me that these expensive duty free shops abound in this airport. Simply put, the place is remarkable in its scope and, I imagine, is miles long.
Which brings me to the other part of this tale: running through the airport. I have experienced running through airports to make flights twice in my life. This day included one of them.
So it all started like this: we decided on a breakfast spot, a place called Volare (no singing that song!) which is a European-style café with various tasty food and coffee. I have visited this business every time I have visited the airport for any length of time. Today’s fare included a couple of shots of espresso, the ladies had some forms of coffee (of the frozen variety!), croissants and Caprese. The Illy coffee was really wonderful and I am always impressed by its flavor (and no, I am not a coffee expert….just some guy who likes espresso).
We arrived at the coffee shop at 5:10 AM. The flight left at 6:30 AM. We believed we had plenty of time. (Mistake number 1) We ate our food and leisurely wandered the mall and headed back to the gate. As we walked, I glanced up at the list of departing flights. It was raining outside, and I thought, “maybe it’s delayed”. In BRIGHT RED letters, next to the flight number were the words FINAL BOARDING CALL. WHAT?! You have to be kidding me right now. FINAL boarding??
As soon as I saw the words I yelled to Halle and Natascha “WE HAVE TO RUN”! Natascha looked at me and the panic swept across her face — and she ran. Halle matched her pace and I was behind by maybe 20 feet….we ran for 1000 M. Why do I know 1000M? Because the signs reveal how far it is to a particular concourse (A – F). Each concourse is about 300M from the other. We were lounging in concourse E. We had to run to concourse C, past the sign, down two escalators, through the hallway to the gate. 1000 M.
In past years traveling on Druk Air has been a casual affair. The staff are friendly and attentive. Things move at their own pace. This statement is NOT to say that the airlines or staff are not serious in every way; they are. The ethos of the airline, I felt, represented the ethos of the country. This year, we are traveling on Bhutan Airlines. Bhutan Airlines is a private company unlike the airline owned by the monarchy (Druk Air). The staff and way we have interacted with the company has been professional and the people exceptionally kind.
Regardless, we ran to the gate and up to the counter….we got the look (you know what I mean) from the Thai staff…I could see it, “yea we both know you are late so don’t say anything just get on the bus.” On flights to Bhutan, the planes sit on the tarmac away from the terminal. Busses transport you from the concourse to the plane and then you walk up steps to the aircraft. Needless to say, we were the last three to make it to the bus! (Are you still reading this tripe?)
And then we waited. OK, here’s the thing: I am NOT a believer in fate or chance actions that speak to a greater all knowing, all powerful entity that directs life as we know it. While there may, in fact, be a greater, all knowing, all seeing entity directing life, my experience tends to explain most human endeavors as a series of sometimes complex, sometimes not, situations that reflect a cause and effect. In most cases you can find the root cause and follow the tortuous road to the effect. AND our experiences on this trip are challenging my understanding of the world….NOT profoundly…just in an interesting way.
To continue the story, we waited on the bus for about 15 minutes….then we drove for about 5 minutes to the airplane. We climbed the stairs, were greeted warmly, found our seats. All was good with the world. WE MADE IT to the plane and were ready for our travel into Bhutan.
And. We. Waited. Past the 6:30 departure time; through the 7 o’clock hour. With a crackle, the speaker came to life and the captain said the flight computer was damaged and maintenance was called. The FLIGHT computer! At this point in our travels, we wondered aloud, Halle, Natascha and I, if we weren’t bringing the various challenges with us OR that WE were being challenged to strain our patience or otherwise got through some test. To show us (read me) that all of the best laid plans of mice and men are truly subject to the whims of chance….or some other power turning the wheel of the ship or car or whatever metaphor comes to your mind.
In reality, I gave up worrying about the conference and my place in it….I can do nothing to affect the outcome of whether or not I, TGF, can make it to Bhutan on time. I emailed the conference coordinator, let her know my difficulties, and let the rest go….I released it all. At that moment (about half way across the Pacific), peace arrived…I relaxed into what is possible on this trip and allowed the rest to just be. Am I getting too woo woo for you? OK, enough said…I tend to wander into those thoughts sometimes anyway….so la dee dah.
More ridiculous thoughts to come…..