167 hours to go

I got up at six and went straight to the airport, sneaking out without a shower to avoid waking anyone up. The ride to the airport was in an electric car, near silently swooshing past darkened housing blocks all the way to Changi Terminal 2, which seems to be a madhouse on Sunday mornings. Crowds of people wandering around, sluggishly getting in the way at every point like they’d never flown before. I’m not sure if that is because there are certain flights that are only scheduled on Sundays, or everyone is just too knackered to think straight this early.
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Avoiding responsibilities

I had forgotten that La Serpiente’s school was closed for the half term break, so when I prised myself off her floor at 7:45 I immediately panicked about needing to get washed, dressed and fed before sprinting out the door with her at 8:15. My wife saw me rush around in scatter-brained, eyes-wide-shut mode for a moment or two before giving me the glad news that I had no parental responsibilities to discharge this morning, and then sent me off to work, and on to Thailand, with a small backpack stuffed tightly with all my clothes.

At least, I think it has all my clothes. I packed on Sunday when I was also quite out of it, and now I’m wondering if I packed any underpants.

Or shirts.

Or socks.

Or … oh, never mind. It means I have more to look forward to on Tuesday.
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The Quick Route Out Of Bangkok

Unusually dirty windows at BKK today
Unusually dirty windows at BKK today

I was in Bangkok for a meeting yesterday, and after staying overnight and inadvertently blocking the toilet in the hotel room, I went back to the airport with my colleagues. We took a taxi rather than the train, so we arrived only an hour before our flight was scheduled to depart. I was surprised that this entitled us to a free priority pass to get through customs quicker, but why complain?
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Nocturnal manoeuvres

As San Francisco is not my favourite city in all of America, after work today I didn’t stick around in Palo Alto but went off to the airport to catch a flight to Seattle. Consistent with the last time I did this, Alaska’s plane was an hour late taking off, because of rain. Which is a dreadful excuse given they have a big hub in Seattle, and so should be accustomed to precipitation. Maybe it was the wrong sort of rain. 

In the waiting area, there were a very few electrical outlets, monopolised by the kind of prick who uses one to charge their laptop and the other to charge their phone, when they could just as easily plug their phone into the laptop and charge it that way. But I imagine they enjoy having a diffident Englishman hover in their peripheral vision, trying to work out how to politely broach this subject. 

Still, when I boarded the plane (full of people with crap tattoos, because Seattle, and also grumpy middle-aged businessmen who didn’t seem to want to let me get to my seat without actually clambering over them, again, because Seattle) I could plug my phone into the power in the seat, and because it’s a Samsung, enjoy watching it charge incredibly slowly. I think the best it does right now is an hour’s worth of battery if you charge it for three hours. Is this the best Korea can do, or am I at fault here?

Wondrous to discover though, Alaska Airlines have a deal with Gogo Internet right now where you get free access to the internet as long as you’re only using Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp or Apple’s iMessage. (And through some loophole, you can also update your status on Facebook from 30,000 feet.) So I could not only stream movies to my phone, I could chat with my wife as she perambulated around the Botanic Gardens with the kids in tow. 

The flight was delayed, and then we were slow getting on the runway and queued up behind other flights on the way into SeaTac, so my 930 arrival became 1055, and rather than wait up, my friends went to bed, letting me know to call them when I got to their place (another half hour from the airport) to let me in. After all, I may be the conquering hero of social media, skipping blithely from continent to continent, but people need to get up to work in the mornings, not wait for some mug to roll out of a Lyft at midnight. 

The weather was atrocious driving over; the Lyft driver deposited me at my destination, and then I called my friends. 

No answer. 

I called again. 

No answer. 

One persistent worry when travelling internationally is whether you’re calling the right number or if you need to add/remove the country prefix. If I don’t put +1 at the start, would I be calling somebody back in Singapore? Or would adding the +1 while dialling locally just confuse things?

I tried both. 

No answer. No answer. 

I knocked on the door. No answer. The rain continued. I began to worry that a public spirited neighbour would see a suspicious black-clad individual standing on my friends’ porch and ring the cops. A spider began to descend from the brim of the hood of my coat. The rain intensified. Was it now sleet?

I called again. 

No answer. 

I knocked again. 

No answer. 

I thought about tapping on their bedroom window but it is round the back of the house and since December they’d put up a seven foot fence to dissuade black clad ne’er-do-wells from getting in the garden, so no go there. I was still cosy and dry, thanks to a waterproof coat and my hoodie and the overhang on the porch, but the rain and wind were both picking up and, after an aggravating dream this morning about having to run from Cornwall to Gatwick to catch a flight, trapped behind slow-walking ladies with iPhones, I was hankering for more than zero hours sleep. (ok, I got four this morning and a micro snooze just after takeoff, but still…)

I advised my wife of my predicament and she pointed out they’d given us the code for their garage door when we stayed in December. 

Which she could no longer remember. 

Thanks, love. 

Happily, a bit of sleuthing through messages and social networks reminded me, and somehow I figured out how to use the control on their garage door, and after more time I managed to get the door to shut again, and then all I had to do was go into the basement and up into the kitchen and not be mistaken for a burglar (housebreakers and people trying to avoid waking small children are often functionally indistinguishable) and then go up to their spare room where the bed was already made for me to collapse into and write this screed. 

And now I can relax. 

Lost in transit once more

I got a taxi to the airport with plenty of time to spare, assuming there’d be all kinds of extra hassle getting through security. I was wrong; from arriving curbside to dropping off my bags took less than five minutes. Of course, if I’d left a bit later I might have remembered to pack my jacket, or my power meter, or one of the other things I’m going to discover I forgot when I disembark at the end of my travels. Ah well, there are always credit cards.
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Getting out of Bangkok again

I had two beers last night, woke up today feeling dreadful. Maybe I should lay off the booze until after the marathon.

The Westin in Bangkok is admirably soulless, so I had a vaguely disappointing, transactional breakfast (when the doughnuts aren’t a source of infinite joy, something is very slightly wrong with the world and perhaps will never be right) then took the train to the airport.
If I can, I will never take a taxi to and from the airport ever again. Driving is at least an hour stuck in traffic, growing slowly nauseous and frustrated that your vehicle moves no faster than walking pace, or else is being driven at near lightspeed by a man who is intent on the sports pages of his newspaper. The train is a tenth of the price (or less than a twentieth of a limo service from the airport) and moves swiftly and smoothly above the traffic-snarled streets like a transport of delight.

Of course, it helped that Asoke station is right outside the Westin. I suppose that means there’s only one hotel I’ll ever stay in from now on, but travelling like this made Bangkok suddenly feel like a viable living option. Or perhaps I was still drunk on those Changs.

I had my boarding pass printed when I checked in at Changi so I breezed through departures. I had my computer in my amazing backpack and my belt in a plastic basket so I flowed through the security line, and then things ground to a halt at passport control. The officer on my line stopped processing passports and called over a Chinese woman, to spend ten minutes telling her not to take photos with her phone. It all seemed quite amicable though utter incomprehensible, until the third or fourth time that somebody pointed at the big "no mobile phone" sign on the wall, and then she went back to the end of the line and we started moving again.

Then all that was left for me was to prowl the halls of Suvarbharmi looking for homecoming presents for the girls (since December, all the Peppa Pig merchandise in the airport has inexplicably evaporated) and then go to the gate, where a ten minute delay in our departure was prodigiously apologised for. Ah, you don’t need to be so polite…

Further travels

I took a flight to Bangkok this afternoon. Our office in Singapore is only 15 minutes’ drive from the airport, so you can leave pretty late and still catch the flight. I’m staying at the Westin and that’s also close to the airport, just 12 miles away down the freeway. Which would be a nice quick journey if it weren’t for the snarled up traffic for the last 2 miles – it took me 2 and a half hours to fly to Bangkok, and an hour to get to the hotel from the airport. And the last 2 miles of that journey took me half an hour. Something isn’t quite right about that.
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