Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… wait, yeah, it’s a plane.
Like the ones I just spent a really, really long time in.
I suppose the best thing to write my first true, topical post about is getting over here. I’m not all the way to Mandalay yet, but as I write this I’m chilling in my Bangkok hotel room where I’m spending two nights before tackling the last short leg to Myanmar. It turns out that spending 19.5 hours on a plane seems just as long as you think it would, but overall my experience in international aviation has been extremely positive.
On the Evening of Sunday the 23rd, my folks were kind enough to drive me the few hours from Appleton to Chicago, where I’d be departing on a straight shot to Taipei. The drive itself wasn’t as emotional as I’d expected, but we were all pretty watery-eyed in the O’Hare Terminal 5 lobby as we said our goodbyes in person for the last time until we see each other again. Despite a few phone calls and Skype conversations already since then, I do miss all of my family dearly.
Flight 1: Chicago to Taipei, Taiwan
In an effort to avoid all possibilities of being late, as well as making extraordinary time
down to Chi Town, I ended up getting to the airport a good 3.5 hours or so early. Once I got there, there was no line at all for check in, and security took less than 15 minutes.
Fast forward a few hours and I’m able to board my plane. I’d like to take at least a little bit of time here and give some props to EVA, the airline that I flew for the first two legs of my travels. Absolutely everything was top notch. The staff was all bi-lingual and incredibly friendly. We were fed two full meals, both of which were delightful (see pictures of my dinner meal below). The seats were spacious and comfortable. Everything was on time, and I didn’t have any trouble with my checked baggage. We made better time than anticipated. Even better was that I ended up, through pure chance, to be on one of their few special Hello Kitty edition aircraft. It wasn’t just a matter of a few pictures here and there, it was like being in the Disney World of Hello Kitty. Check out some of the pictures below to get an idea of the kinds of things I’m talking about. It was the most stereotypically Asian thing I’ve ever seen, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Flight 2: Taipei to Bangkok, Thailand
My second flight was much shorter at 4 hours but went similarly well. But first, before entering the Taipei terminal, everyone coming in had to re-go through security. I was ready to internally groan, but then I remembered that not every country has such a slow, picky security detail at their airports, and was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t have to remove my shoes, empty my pocket, or take electronics out of their bags. I just removed my hat, threw my full duffel bag and computer bag on the conveyor belt, and barely slowed my walking pace from start to finish.
One of the stranger things was due to the fact that we arrived in Taipei from Chicago just before 4 am local time, and our terminal of the airport was completely dead. I don’t mean just a few people, I mean that for a good 20 minutes or so I was literally the only person there, and after that, it was an hour or so before there were any sorts of crowds.
Not much to report on the flight itself. The plane was decorated on the outside with Hello Kitty art, but not on the inside this time. The four-hour flight was broken up by another delicious meal, this time pork with noodles and sides.
Arriving in Bangkok
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a small bit nervous about my arrival in Bangkok. There were just so many things that could go wrong that could become huge headaches due to the language barrier. Would my checked bag get through three countries and a flight transfer on time? Was my baggage searched for some reason and thrown back in as a big heaping mess? Did I fill out my arrival card for immigration correctly? Did I have all the paperwork I needed for immigration? Would the hotel that I hadn’t spoken with in weeks be there to pick me up when they were supposed to? Fortunately, the answers to all of these questions were in my favor, and besides a lengthy wait in the immigration line due to big crowds, it went smoothly.
Look for a brief update on my two night in Bangkok and my last flight from Bangkok to Mandalay, Myanmar soon.