Greetings from the Land of Smiles

Bangkok to be precise.

I had it in my head for some reason that my flight was scheduled to depart at 1800.  Had a busy morning at work, and then we had a staff cookout to welcome the wonderful fall weather to Korea.

It was a nice day for a little team building. And eating!

It was a nice day for a little team building. And eating!

After lunch I had a brief meeting with my Deputy to discuss the “way ahead” during my absence and then I rushed off to Seoul Station to catch the airport railroad express train to Incheon.  On the way down the escalator to the platform I realized that in the rush of things I had forgotten to go by the credit union to grab some cash for my trip.  Damn, I hate when that happens!

Nothing to be done but go the ATM route.  I withdrew W500,000 then exchanged it for Thai Baht.  So I got screwed on the exchange by converting dollars from my bank account to Won (with the added expense of the ATM fee), and then again when I traded Won for Baht (dollars exchange at a higher rate).  And when my initial funds run dry I’ll be hitting ATMs here which is the worst possible way to obtain local currency.  Ah well, who says you can’t put a price on stupidity?

Arriving at Incheon I checked the flight information board and saw that my scheduled departure was 1830, exactly four hours from the moment I was standing there.  Except that the flight had been delayed until 1930.  I like to get to the airport with time to spare, but five hours is a bit much.  So I did my daily 15,000 steps by circumnavigating the terminal a few times, did some vaping in the smoking lounge, and got in the spirit of things by reading some tales from Thailand.

Good reading!

Good reading!

Boarded my flight a little after 1900.  It was my first time flying an Airbus 380, the world’s largest commercial airliner.  I was very pleased to discover that at least the way Asiana configures the cabin I had plenty of leg room.  The kind of leg room you pay extra for on a U.S. flag carrier.  And when the cabin door closed I was delighted to see that I was the only person sitting in my row of seats.  It was after 2130 before we were wheels up, and not long after that I was stretched out and soundly sleeping across three seats.  Quite comfortably in fact, and it made the flight go by like a dream.  Ahem.

We landed in Bangkok just before midnight local time (two hours earlier than Seoul).  The airport is modern and efficient and huge.  After a long hike I made it to immigration and got through the line in about 20 minutes with no issues.  Claimed my bag and went downstairs to catch a cab.

They have a pretty nice system in the cab queue.  All the cabs wait in numbered spaces in the parking area.  You get a ticket from a kiosk with the associated space number for your ride and then you just hook up with your cabbie.  I had a female driver who made me feel right at home by not speaking any English (and my Thai is non-existent at this point). I showed her the address of my hotel from my booking receipt and we were off.

It took about 40 minutes and two expressway tolls to reach my part of town (Nana). One thing I thought about during the ride is the feeling you get on your first visit to a new city.  I mean, it’s a little discomfiting to be completely clueless but also exciting to be experiencing something completely new and different.  That only happens once and I’m really embracing the moment.  Good stuff!

So my hotel is the iCheck Inn.  It is at the end of a narrow alley and my cabbie dropped me off on the main street.  I walked up the road hoping she had indeed left me at the right Soi (street), after after passing several beer bars and massage joints (and being enticed to come in by several lovely ladies) I made it to the entrance of my lodging.  It’s a 3 star venue, but is modern, clean and comfortable.  So far, so good.

By the time I completed check in (at the Check Inn, ha!) and got the room organized, it was after 2 a.m. (4 a.m. in Seoul).  That’s late for me in either country, but given my sound sleep on the flight I had enough energy to explore the neighborhood.  In my alley I found a place to enjoy a beer without being harassed by juicy girls.  I moved a bit further up the alley and had a beer at a bar featuring a live band.  Not my style of music (a Thai version of hip-hop) so it was one and out.  Walked a little up the main drag but everything was pretty much closed down for the night.  Except for the street walkers.  And I ignored their entreaties for company.

Returned to the room and had a very good morning’s sleep.  Up around 0900 and went downstairs for my free breakfast.

I've had better coffee, but never a better coffee mug. The breakfast was cooked to order, which I much prefer to buffet style.

I’ve had better coffee, but never a better coffee mug. The breakfast was cooked to order, which I much prefer to buffet style.

Here’s my “alley” by day.

It's a whole different look when the sun goes down.

It’s a whole different look when the sun goes down.

And the entrance to my comfortable boutique hotel.

And the entrance to my comfortable boutique hotel.

Time now to get on with the adventure.  I’m fixin’ to put on my walking shoes and explore the mean streets of Bangkok by day.  And reconnoiter where I might be spending the nighttime hours.  I’ve actually already hooked up on Facebook with the owner of a dart bar.  Back in the days before my time he played in the Seoul dart league.  Should be fun to meet up and share stories while chucking the arrows.

Stay tuned!


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