Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Traveling Solo: Sawad-dee-kaa, Thailand

Solo flight. That was me, some days back. I had to fly to Bangkok alone to be with hubby in the next couple of weeks.  It's not my first time to fly solo, but hey, it's my first time to fly solo out of the country. And having been used to traveling this far only when hubby takes me along with him, oh, boy, was I so scared. Scared to be alone in the crowd. Scared of making mistakes and making a fool of myself big time.  

But, y' know, once you've put your one foot forward, there's no backing out.  Your next steps are easy. Of course, the jitters are there, but they do fade away.  Your nerves calm down. You learn to just go with the flow. Because that's exactly what you do. Follow the crowd, go with the flow. Just make sure that it's the right queue you're getting into.  And don't be afraid to inquire from the right people (people with airline IDs) if you get confused with the signs.

It was actually exciting, trudging along inside the airport, looking for the right counter to check into.  I arrived too early, was among the first few to check in, and so had the privilege to be asked if I would like a window seat. Yeah, sure, I'd like one.  Clouds are a great sight to behold when you're up there. Great distraction, if you couldn't sleep.  Well, I did fall asleep. I had to close the window as the sun was streaming in too brightly for comfort. I woke up when food came. Yummy PAL food.  Yey, there was ube ice cream!

When the plane hovered low over Suvarnabhumi Airport, I peered through the small window and marveled at how organized the landscape looked, and wondered why back home it's way different.  And how beautiful the airport structure is. Once inside the airport I was again impressed at the immensity that greeted me.   The immensity that again awakened the jitters in my stomach. 

I made sure I didn't  lose sight of the passengers who were in my plane.  Where they go, I go, and I'm sure to get out of the airport smoothly.  But at one point I lost them. I followed the arrows that led to the Immigration.  Got distracted by the sign that said something about visa upon arrival.  Should I proceed to that area? I continued to walk along, then realized, hey, I'm here on temporary visit, have a passport, and  I wasn't told about securing any visa.  

So I turned around and realized I lost those familiar faces!  They went the other way! Have to find them, nooooo!  Tracing my way back, I was kicking myself in the butt for being so stupid! Oh, dear, there are so many gates to choose from, now which one is the right one?  I came to a familiar vast hall where there are lots of beelines. Now which line should I choose? Hey, there they are, the Pinoy group! Haha, you could tell because they are a bit noisy, giggly, and of course, the language! Rushed up to join the queue, and was greeted by smiling faces. I smiled back. Feeling relieved, thank God for friendly people!

Pinoy will always be Pinoy. Everytime a new line is announced open, they would  rush to it excitedly to be the first in the line. I followed them three times and decided to stay put. My shoulder was aching from the heavy bag I had with me. Goodness, why did I have to bring my whole dresser with me?!? Next time I'll bring with me a smaller, lighter bag bearing just my purse, passport, airline tickets, and some gum! (Crossing my fingers on that!)

At the immigration counter, I had this silly thought of what ifs, like what if this guy inside the booth decides that there is something wrong with my passport, and calls security and they throw me in jail? Silly thoughts, didn't I just say so? It's just my wild imagination.  After going through my passport, the guy in his late fifties,  (I assumed his age basing on how gray his mop of hair was and how plenty his wrinkles were. :-P )...throws me a cursory glance, stamps away at my passport, and sends me off with a wave of his hand.  

At the baggage carousel 9, spotted my luggage immediately. It was the only one there with a pink ribbon tied around the handle.  Grabbed it and headed to the gate where I'm supposed to meet my hubby.  Saw Cel's smiling face first, then hubby follows.  Oh, familiar faces, now am afraid  no more.  Sawad-dee-kaa, Thailand! :-)

1 comment:

Espie said...

Laa-gorn, Thailand!
I have recently said goodbye to Hua Hin, Thailand. Re-assignment back home, as in back to where we had lived some 15 years of our young life. It had been an enlightening experience having stayed longer than two weeks in a foreign country, as some sort of a resident rather than a tourist. I have seen its people's unique characteristics, as well as those quite similar to my own. Filipinos and Thai could be mistaken for each other in looks until one starts to speak. I had been mistaken for a Thai lady several times. But in my opinion, Thais generally have more gentle manner of speaking. Or perhaps I just haven't heard it all. But really, I think the Thais are generally soft-spoken and polite. They punctuate their sentences with "kaa" which is a form of politeness roughly equivalent to our own "po". Their language seemed to me like difficult to learn, but I didn't really try learning except for a few very basic words like sawatdeeka (hello), kapkun kaa (thank you), mai pet (not spicy), tao rai (how much) and peng (expensive). Given more time and more exposure to more Thais, I would probably have taken more interest to learn, but the situation proved otherwise.

One thing, too, I believe the Thais are not lazy people. They have handicraft, flower, and food businesses, among others, to busy their hands with. I've sat a long time watching (despite not being able to understand the dialogue) TV shows that showed foreign language tutorials, classroom lectures in math and sciences, and DIY projects that the Thais could learn and earn from. This means that the government is assertive on enriching the lives of its people, reaching out to many of them using the advantage of technology. These programs run whole day and night on several government-run channels.

The Thai people's reverence to the Royal Family, especially to the King and Queen, is something that awes me. And I wonder if this would work in my country where people are generally headstrong against the authorities. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I really believe we are more emboldened due to democracy that we tend to cite human rights, animal rights and other rights to our defense even if some of us were wrong.

Anyway, yeah, while I am happy to be back home, I can't help but miss the kind of life I experienced back there. Easy, languid, laid-back, ironically despite the progressive development going on...and more importantly, safe...like you don't have to look behind your back furtively lest some harm is waiting to happen. I would really like to have the same easy feeling in my own country, not that it is a totally dangerous country. I envy them the transportation system, the road network, the very good quality farm produce that are available to everyone.

Since Thailand and the Philippines are both Asian countries, we certainly share some common juncture in history and culture, not to mention the weather and topology. Hence, our people and theirs have common practices, atmosphere, etc. that give that easy and fraternal feeling when one is there to stay for some time. And I am grateful for the short period of time that I had been there, living with the Thais. Sawatdee-kaa!