After three years being planted in the Western hemisphere, I have finally taken the long eastward journey back once again to my beloved Thailand. This time, I’m visiting the Land of Smiles with five first-time Thailand travelers; Marcie, Natalie, Anne, Morgan, and Anna. All five of the women accompanying me on this trip are my former students from Finger Lakes Community College’s Therapeutic Massage Program, where I teach as full-time faculty. Many have spent the past year working very hard to save funds to make this trip possible for them. Two of the youngwomen, Natalie and Morgan, were signed up for last year’s canceled trip and have been waiting two years for this long-awaited journey! As you can imagine, we have all been very eager for our journey to Thailand to really happen! On Saturday, May 30th, we took our long awaited flight.
The duration of our flights and layovers collectively was about 29 hours in its entirety. We originated from our small local airport in Rochester, New York, and eventually arrived in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. After our short flight on Jet Blue from Rochester to New York City’s JFK International Airport, we took the air train to check into Etihad Airways. We had a five and a half hour layover while waiting to board our thirteen hour flight to Abu Dhabi. For me, this felt like the longest part of our trip. We did our best to kill time by eating overpriced American airport food, checking e-mails and Facebook, charging our cell phones, and calling our loved ones to say our final goodbyes.
Finally, we boarded our first flight. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a thirteen hour flight. It didn’t take long, however, for me to remember some of the most important things I need to remember about being on a flight for this long; dress in layers, bring a pair of warm socks, hope the airline will include at least one moderately good television show or movie, buy lots of tasty snacks from Trader Joe’s, bring a good book to get lost in, and cross my fingers that I’m not seated next to, in front of, or behind any nose-pickers, fingernail clippers, crying babies (don’t get me wrong – babies are adorable, but not while crying on a long flight), or un-showered travelers dressed in clothing so rank that even the lice have fled.
Fortunately for me, I had the pleasure of being seated in a row with Marcie, Natalie, and Morgan. We quickly got comfortable. Marcie was ready to sleep almost immediately.
It was one of the most pleasant and seemingly shortest long flights I’ve ever had. I slept nearly the entire time. It helped that it was almost 11:00pm in our EST time zone before we took off.
When we landed in Abu Dhabi to transfer to our next flight, it began to feel for me like this journey to Thailand is real. Up until that moment, it still felt like this Thailand trip was more of a dream than a reality. The Abu Dhabi Airport is definitely one of the cleanest and classiest airport I’ve ever been in. The gates were lined with very healthy and large live jade plants, and the pristine bathrooms included showers, which I have never seen in an airport before. Each toilet had a bidet. When I stopped at a little café to purchase a mocha latte, I received my first dirham in exchange for my American dollars when I paid. Indeed, we were not in America anymore!
Our layover in Abu Dhabi was less than two hours long, and time moved very quickly. We managed to find someone to take our first group photo right before we boarded our flight to Bangkok.
The next flight was only about six hours long. Given that it was only half the length of time from our previous flight, this one went very quickly, even though I was wide awake the entire time from sleeping for several hours on our last flight. Perhaps some of it was also the adrenaline rush of knowing that the next step I take on planet earth will be on Thai soil….or perhaps more accurately, Thai concrete, since we spent our first night in Bangkok.
We had just one night in Bangkok to begin this exciting adventure. Of all of the cities in the world where one can find adventure, Bangkok must undoubtedly be listed in the world’s list of top ten.
We have now been in Thailand for five days already. Between recouping from my jetlag, limited internet access, and our very busy schedule of wonderful visits here, I haven’t begun blogging until now. I promise that I will be catching up quickly to share our adventures. Please come back to visit daily as I share the places we visit, some fun Thai cultural facts we’re learning, and also introduce each of the five amazing women who are accompanying me on this journey!
Until next time, Saw-at-dee-kaa from Thailand!