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Little Wi-Fi, ‘Big Times’ On 24-Hour Bangkok Journey

December 19th, 2011 · Tags:Airports · Cities

Sawasdee!

If you were to visit the headquarters of PingWi-Fi, you would find an eclectic setting — a tale of two reality TV shows … a hybrid somewhere between “Pickers” and “Horders.” We collect it. We stack it. We do funny things with it.

The first sign of this condition is a tiny scale model of a Thai Airways 747 dangling in the air on a piece of translucent fishing string, near the door, above the banister between the first and second floors. It is a memento of an old PR assignment. When Thai airways moved its North American headquarters from the Seattle area to Los Angeles, I did PR.

At that time, the airline was so happy with the media hits that they sent one TV reporter on an all-expense-paid trip to Thailand. And me … I got a 3-inch version of a jetliner and some memories.

Well … karma is a mysterious thing. After all these years, I now find myself in Thailand.

How did I get here? For starters, I owe The Dirty Gig. Just a few week ago i was told the position was evolving into more of a logistical role in the States. Then all hell broke loose on the other side of the planet — and I find myself ankle-deep in some really nasty stuff on a daily basis. “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

To be more literal, Thai Airways brought me here. Or at least they did the honors on the final 5 hours of 24 hours in the air total. To get to Thailand, first it was a three+ hour flight from DFW to LAX on a dreadfully crowded United Airlines flight … with no Wi-Fi. Really!?! How can this be, in this day, on a long-haul domestic flight? (No points awarded to United …)

Next up, some layover time, then a 15-hour jaunt from LAX to Incheon in Seoul, Korea on Korean Air. This phase of the journey was on an 800 series 747 double decker. Nice to know there was plenty of leg room elsewhere in the cabin. As for the Ping, I was sandwiched in a middle seat, riding 4 across in the middle section … one of the few blond-ish types on an aircraft filled with Korean-speaking brunettes … although Thailand was this traveler’s final destination. My buddies n the flight were scattered elsewhere in this winged monster.

Boeing 747
Not to be overdramatic … but it was miserable … no room, no ability to get out of my seat … no ability to communicate with the flight attendants … no nothing. (“Boohoo you big baby. You’re on your way to Bangkok,” I told my self for the first 12 hours.)

Finally, I gave up trying to sleep and starting going through the inflight movie selection. I am embarrassed to say that at one time I thought “Cowboys & Aliens” looked like a good idea, mixing two of my favorite genres. I was wrong. There, I said it. It stunk up the place, as if the flight wasn’t already suffering enough from day-old hygiene gone bad. What a stupid movie, and so poorly done.

It got worse. Unknowingly, I started what may be the poster child for chick flicks, “Crazy, Stupid Love,” with Steve Carrel. Steve, what were you thinking? Another dud … the highlight for me — an unlikely selection of music in the film’s score (although not on the soundtrack) … a Sparklehorse/Flaming Lips song I have heard nowhere else other than my iTunes. Score one for the sound team of the film.

Ha … I even fired up a Korean film with subtitles thinking that would put me to sleep. No luck. And you probably guessed the two guys on either side of me were sleeping machines. Rather than wake them, I resorted to a trick I learned on Quantas last year on the way to New Zealand. I climbed out of my seat on to the armrests, and seat hopped in that manner to the exit row.

To quote an old travel joke from Redd Foxx, “But how the hell are you going to get back …”

Eventually I would have to wake one of the guys and slide back in my seat. I don’t know why I was worried about waking and offending. I mean, one of these guys had been waging arm rest war for about 10 hours of the flight … overflowing into my territory like he was invading across The 38th Parallel. Maybe I am just polite …. or maybe it occurred to me just how outnumbered I was …

Once I was up, I hung out in the back of the plane, near the stairwell to business class, striking a few yoga poses, stretching, avoiding deep vein thrombosis and chilling with five or six of the Korean Air flight attendants … who had no idea what I was saying.

Did Korean Air provide a side of hot-buttered Wi-Fi to go with the weak movie selection? Well …. no. But, I found it quite curious that you CAN buy a bottle of blended scotch … an Armani wristwatch … or various kinds of perfumes in a little store in the tail section … back where I do yoga. (No points awarded …)

“Red-eyed” does not begin to describe the way I looked when we landed in Seoul. I have heard zombies are even more fashionable than vampires in pop culture these days … so I was pretty darned cool I suppose … definitely all “walking dead” like. I digress.

Geek -- Universal Language

Geek -- Universal Language

BTW, Incheon is a new, really cool, attractive, clean, modern facility. I can’t think of a better place to collapse from exhaustion. It is a really And yes, it provided a quick hit of Wi-Fi before the final stage of the journey.

Incheon Airport in Seoul — Free Wi-Fi, great shopping … and great facilities in the Asiana Air Lounge – 6 pings.

Incheon

Oh wait … I know I mentioned the layovers and the transfers to various airlines, but I haven’t mentioned that although my bags were checked direct from DFW to Bangkok, my companions and I had to grab more boarding passes at the appropriate ticket counters along the way.

In Seoul, that is when karma gave me a double whammy … in a good way.

Not only was I finally getting to fly Thai, somehow, somewhere, someone apparently made a mistake. The final leg of my journey was in business class. Ha … works for me. i offered apologies to my buddies and made a beeline to the Asiana lounge. (Don’t ask me how it works, but Asiana was coordinating our Thai flight out of Seoul.)

Asiana
I confess … it is somewhat of a waste for me to get free-drink privileges in an exclusive airport lounge. I don’t drink, and I have yet to figure out how to sneak out drinks to my friends … so I do all the damage I can to the buffet back there. Ha … how many snacks, appetizers, sandwiches, deserts, soft drinks, juices and breath mints can one passenger consume in a few hours of layover nirvana? Ha … I don’t know. I gave it my shot … and it looked like several of the other guests had the same goal.

When I could ingest no more, I explored. Woohoo … after the hours and hours in a torture device of an airline seat, I tried out a an electronic/pneumatic massage in an easy chair. Oh what a sight … all that jiggling … and squeezing (Isn’t that a Journey song?) … sort of like getting your blood pressure checked from head to toe, as he chair tightens up on you. I had my fill of that too.

Here’s that part where I do what I say I will never do — I describe the events in the bathroom.

Let’s just say, I don’t fly business class much and apparently I “don’t get out much” either. AND … I have never been to Asia before. I had heard of, but had never seen an electric commode before this story. It was tucked away in a nice, private, luxurious little cubicle of a stall. The privacy made me feel a bit adventurous. “Let’s try this thing out.” I said to myself. First problem. The instructions or button labels were not in English. I looked at the diagram, or icon, or whatever, and I swear one control looked as if it were to raise the entire fixture. Cool! I thought the thing was going to raise, to the liking of a person my height. I pressed the button.

Bad mistake.

Although I was relatively sure (I double checked on the way out too) i was in the men’s room, this unit was equipped with a powerful jetstream of warm water for the extra cleaning some people require. The trouble was, I hadn’t sat down yet. So, I am standing there in the stall and a stream of water that might put a horse to shame is fountaining up and out of the commode, hitting the door, soaking the floor and threatening to drench my laptop and the backpack I tucked in the corner.

You bet your arse, I was pushing and poking every button on the thing as fast as I could. The water just kept on keeping on. It would not stop. i grabbed my backpack to rescue the computer from my own little flooding disaster. I thought about just running and leaving the thing spraying out of control … I thought of running regardless of the outcome, sort of like the time my cousin and I burned down a neighbor’s fence back in Lubbock, Texas, when we caught the grass on fire in the alley, throwing paper airplanes we had lit … I digress.

This time I didn’t run. I had to get control of the situation. I decided to make a stand … er … rather I did the only thing i could do. I dropped trousers and sat on the fountain of water. It worked. But at that point, I didn’t get too excited. The water had no auto shut off. I was stuck there … like the legend of the little boy in Holland who stopped the leak in the dike with his finger. Stuck.

I hope you are seeing the humor … Yes … picturing me laughing aloud, stranded on the old porcelain throne, getting the cleaning of a life time with no end in sight, so to speak.

Finally, I must have punched in the right code or whatever. The water stopped. I had already unleashed about three rolls of tissue on the reservoir I made on the tile floor, trying to soak up the mess and avoid someone’s death by hydroplaning on the clear liquid. I did the right thing and grabbed up the soggy paper … disposed of it .. and ran out of the lounge, feeling quite refreshed I might add, and boarded my final flight.

Madhuwasah

OH … remember the best was yet to come. No one but you and I know the little bathroom mishap story, so no one escorted me off the plane or out of the airport or anything. Somehow, this bathroom impaired loser that I am, was allowed to fly business class …

On Thai Airways, it is called The Royal Silk treatment. And yes, the experience may be better than rock star treatment … they treated me and my really clean arse like royalty.

Royal Orchid

I think i had already washed my hands with two steaming towels even before we took off. In no time I was making selections for various courses of the meal. Finally! PingWi-Fi had arrived … or it felt that way anyway. Some 19 or so hours into my flying time, I was basking in luxury. Again, part of the luxury was wasted on me because I don’t drink … but i did order a special wine glass so I would feel all pampered and special as I drank my juice. It’s all about the presentation … and I ate all of the smoke salmon and roast pork and whatever else they brought me … despite my gorging back on land. You only go round once … and what better way to bring on much needed sleep, if not a coma, than over eating.

I did my best to ensure some restful sleep.

But wait … one last thing. I told the flight attendant about my stint doing PR for Thai Airways so many years ago, when she saw me taking a photo of the two tiny wine glasses that were branded with the Thai logo.

A few minutes later she appeared beside the little bed compartment thing I was so enjoying in business class, and she had more of the Thai wine glasses, wrapped and packaged for me to take along on the rest of my journey.

Instant friend!

How cool. I envisioned building some sort of little Thai Airways shrine with my new collection of Thai glasses and the miniature Thai jet, back in my office … remember the little Thai jet I mentioned?

In fact, we so bonded, as the jumbo jet cruised thought the night! A few minutes later she motioned for me to join her on the other side of the curtain that separated business class from the cockpit. No silly. Nothing like that. She motioned me over to the tiny window in the escape door. In a heavy accent, she invited me to get on the floor and look out the window.

“What? Is this a trick?,” I thought, all sleep deprived. Did they find out about my bathroom mishap? Was she going to kick my really clean arse off the plane midair? Ha … it occurred to me for a second … but I knew they couldn’t do that to a travel writer … Ha!

She joined me there on the floor and pointed out and said something about the moon. I could see nothing but what appeared to be a faint star. Again, I am thinking “is this a joke?” She motioned again for me to look and again with some language barrier between us, we tried to talk through this thing. I couldn’t see the moon … just this weird star. She gave up. Aboiut that time, the curtain parted and another passenger walked in on what must have looked really awkward.

Back to seat. At long last … I planted in the chair … did the full recline, curled my 6-3 frame to fit 5-10 little bed … and I was happy to do so.

For the next four hours, I slept like I had invented sleep myself. Perfection. Wild dreams … I am sure I yelled out in my sleep several time to the alarm of all the other passengers in business class … and I just kept on sleeping until the pilot’s voice announced that the other passengers, me and my clean arse would land in Bangkok in 20 minutes.

OH … After landing, I learned why I could not see the moon. The Royal Orchid treatment — the experience I waited on for so long — did not include Wi-Fi on the flight … but, this is cool … it DID include a lunar eclipse somewhere near the point in the flight at which we crossed the International Date Line.

Royal Silk treatment on Thai Airways — well worth the wait. A great meal; very personable flight attendants who go the extra mile; a pretty darned comfortable place to lay my head; an unexplained bump up to business class … Thai made me feel quite special (and we all know by this tale and many others like it that I am really not) — 6 pings.

Know what I sayin?