My most recent adventures! I was in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore from March 7 to April 15, 1996. This is the start of the travelogue, and I'll be adding pictures later...

Escape from Tokyo and Arrival in Thailand

March 7 - Tokyo to Bangkok: After rushing around with last minute packing and errands, I head out to the airport. My plane leaves at the convenient hour of 6.30 pm, so that it can arrive at the more convenient hour of 12.30 am in Bangkok. Gotta love Northwest Airlines. Now, the airport in Tokyo is not actually in Tokyo. It's about 60km east of the city, and I happen to live in the west part of town, so I usually give myself about 2 hours or so to reach the airport from home. Take two trains to the Airport Limousine stand (Japanese think the word "limousine" sounds fancy, but it's really just a bus). The bus takes about 90 minutes to get to the airport, check in OK. Didn't buy any duty free, figuring everything would be cheaper where I'm heading anyway.

Plane ride uneventful, had a few drinks and dozed off until the film came on. I can't remember the name but it was about some high school kids who are Internet hackers and some FBI agents on their tails. Went right back to sleep after about 2 minutes of that rubbish. The flight arrived early as do all Northwest flights. They want you to feel grateful to them for this, but in fact it is entirely due to the fact that they exaggerate the flight time by about an hour. Even when I've been held up for ages before departure, the plane still arrived early! So much for their boast of "the most on-time airline.." Sure all airlines would be on-time if they told you it would take 7 hours when it really takes about 6 to get there. They do this for US domestic flights as well, so check the flight times when comparing airlines.

Now for the immigration line. I got a tourist visa for Thailand before I left Japan, for which I had to stand on line already, supposedly so I could avoid hassles on arrival. This is not the case. I had to wait for about an hour to get through immigration. Even though it was the middle of the night, most of the desks were staffed, but they all had very long lines. Just as I got near the desk, some bearded men waltzed up and got into line behind me, in front of two Japanese girls. I knew that these men had not waited one hour like we had, and that these girls would be too shy to say anything. So I did. I had quite an argument with them, but finally they got out of the line. They were Afghans and they told me I was not a real woman if I could speak to gentlemen like that. I told them they were not gentlemen if they could just walk in front of about 50 people who had been waiting patiently for an hour. Several people later came up to me and said they were glad I spoke up. The two Japanese girls said nothing, not even thank you!

Got the backpack with no problem and headed for the taxi stand. After midnight taxis at the airport refuse to use their meters and charge everyone a whopping 400 baht (about US$16) to ride into town. Usually the charge with the meter is about 150 baht (US$6) so it is literally highway robbery. Despite the fact that I had the address of my hotel printed in Thai, the driver had trouble finding it, but eventually I got there. Had a quick snack of pad thai (fried noodles with egg, shrimp and peanuts) and fell asleep about 2.30 am.

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All text and photographs Copyright (c) 2001 Naomi S. Smith

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