We’re sitting in a Thai Airlines A330 Airbus, about to fly from Phuket back to Bangkok. A member of the cabin crew is walking up and down the aisles with a clicker device in his hand, counting the occupied seats. I’d say the plane is 90% full, so if I could pass on one piece of advice learnt from my days as a tour guide it’s that it is much quicker to count the empty seats and subtract that number from the total capacity.
But I’m not going to do that, obviously. Can you imagine?
‘Back to your seat, please, sir’
‘The empty seats! Click on the empty seats!’
‘We’re cleared for take-off. Please return to your seat.’
‘Fine. Go on then. Do your clicky-clicky on all the FULL seats. See how long it takes you.’
90 minutes later we’re once again in Bangkok’s sprawling airport, Suvarnabhumi. We’re getting to know it quite well. The wavelike, multi-panelled glass roof, the endless walkways and travelators, and the odd sight of shops selling Leicester City FC kit and souvenirs, explained by the club’s sponsor being Thailand’s duty-free retailer King Power. A moderately interesting observation I make while in Thailand is that posters advertising football matches all feature footballers with their mouths closed. In the UK, we like to show our soccer stars in gaping hippo mode, preferably bearing teeth and with a clenched fist aloft. Over here, the players look just as resolute and professional, but not as if they’re about to start a pub fight.
We never really leave the airport for our last night in Thailand. Because of the early departure of our flight back to LHR, we thought it prudent to book a room in one of the on-site chain hotels. After a lengthy stroll, we plonk our bags down at the check-in desk of a Novotel. Pretty soon, we’re once again talking about allergies. It appears they haven’t got the room ready, despite Carol having warned them about her duck-feather allergy months ago. ‘Are you really allergic to them?’ asks the disbelieving receptionist. ‘We’ll have to change the bedding.’ Well, duh. There’s the inevitable delay before it’s established that the hotel doesn’t have any feather pillows anyway.
Our room is fine, our evening meal is fine, everything is… fine. It’s about what you’d expect from one of the big, soulless corporates – grudging service, conveyor-belt food, impossibly bad croissants – but there again we weren’t expecting Claridge’s.
The final stretch
As mentioned, the Novotel is located within the airport grounds so it’s only a five-minute walk to the airport building followed by an eight-minute walk to the BA check-in desk, then a mere 10-minute walk to the BA/Thai airport lounge. By the time we sit down – having chosen a pair of seats for comfort, proximity to other people, availability of power points etc etc ad infinitum – we have covered three kilometres and could do with a cuppa. But a look at the scene outside shows it’s past sunrise, so we have Moët.
At the risk of coming across all over-privileged and with an uncharacteristic sense of entitlement, the Club World service on our flight home falls far below BA’s usual standards. Requests for drinks are ignored, there’s little eye or verbal contact from any of the cabin crew, the gap between starter and main course spans most of Nepal, and when my main course of beef finally arrives it turns out to be inedible (other passengers, I notice, came quickly come to the same conclusion).
But you know what? I don’t care. I don’t even care when someone asks if he can ‘literally’ take my food tray away. I don’t care because my mind is buzzing with memories of sights, smells and sounds. Of temples and tat markets; rice whisky, river cruises and rooftop swims; longboats, speedboats and top-heavy fishing boats; Buddhas, beaches, too-big breakfasts… It’s been an amazing experience. And once again I owe it all to my lovely and resourceful wife, Carol. Give us a wave, Carol!
Things I Didn’t Need To Take On Holiday
- A power pack for my iPhone. I didn’t need it once. There are charging points everywhere. And to make it even more of an unwanted burden, some airports ask you to remove battery power packs from your luggage, along with any shaver or torch batteries. The first time this happened I became the Bloke at the Airport Who Doesn’t Know How to Pack Properly
- Camkix 4 in 1 Phone Lens Kit. It arrived just in time for the holiday! Yay! Four fiddly lenses that screw into your iPhone to give you telephoto, wide-angle, macro or fish-eye photographs. Times I used any of them: one.
- Three separate mosquito killer systems. Why three? No idea. We didn’t need any as they’re provided free at every location, along with mosquito nets. We didn’t get bitten once
- Mosquito bite relief ointment. See above
- MOVO 120-minute timelapse tripod head. We were never in one place long enough to do a time-lapse film, and in any case, I refer you to my earlier comment about photography being a solitary hobby
- Spare camera lens cap. After losing one on the first day of our Canadian holiday, I always take a spare. Consequently, I never need one
- Remote control for Nikon DSLR. There were precisely zero opportunities to use this
- Game & Watch. I thought this little device would come in handy for all those times when I didn’t have my phone, a book or my wife with me, but there were no times like that
- A hand-held fan. I mean, come on
- A spare toothbrush. Why? What did I expect to happen?
- Spare batteries. AA, AAA, the powerpack already mentioned, a Lithium-Ion battery for the camera… I didn’t need any of them
- The bag of toiletries handed out in Club World. OK, so I didn’t pack these to start with, but it took me until Day 19 to realise I’d never need any of the balms and unguents I’d been carting around. I left them in a hotel room. Two days later, I’m handed another bag for the return flight
- Sunglass clip-ons. I packed these despite owning a pair of Reactolite reading glasses. They stayed in my suitcase for the duration
- Selfie stick. I’m not as vain as that suggests. Selfie sticks are useful for things like taking photos over walls. Times when I wanted to see over a wall: 0
That’s all! Or nạ̀n khụ̄x thậngh̄md thī̀, as they say in Thailand. Thanks for sticking with this seemingly endless series of blogs. Until next time…