Tuesday, April 3, 2012

One more night in Bangkok

Leaving SE Asia was rough, to say the least.  Both Michelle and I found ourselves in a sort of strange depression at having to say goodbye to SE Asia.   We have gotten so comfortable there, had a bit of routine going and knew we could easily make new friends whenever desired or necessary!  Our flight out of Hanoi didn’t depart until the evening, many hours after Megan had already headed for home. We spent the majority of the day quietly and independently, rather lost in our private thoughts, moping about and grieving our impending departure.  In fact, I sat at a table by the street for perhaps four hours that day just people-watching and doing the best I could do to enjoy the final hours of that part of our trip.
Our guys at Nam Hai2 Hotel
Our taxi to the airport was scheduled to arrive at 5:45PM, approximately 24 hours before we would arrive in Kathmandu.  Shortly before that we returned to Nam Hai2 hotel on Ma May Street (the place we called home for nearly a week),  settled our bill and said goodbye to the manager/doorman/our new local friend. Much to our surprise our “taxi” was the fanciest car I had ridden in since -- well, since long before having departed on my RTW trip.  It was a little strange being in a car with air conditioning and seatbelts. But I’m not complaining.  At least we could be sad in comfort.
Getting through the airport was a fairly simple process.  No line at check in; no line at immigration, and no line at security.  Seriously, what planet are we on?!?  Needless to say, we had quite a bit of time to burn before boarding our flight… to Bankok. Yep, you would think flying straight to Kathmandu would make a little more sense.  However, in booking our plane tickets we looked only at prices, not at connections or layovers or how painful some of the days in transit would potentially be. To get to Kathmandu from Hanoi, which is a little bit north and a little bit west on the map, we first went to Bangkok – where we had already been, followed by a flight to and a connection in Delhi – where we’re not going “for real” until the end of April -- and then a final flight to Kathmandu.  Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend this route.
here you can see we're clearly going the wrong way to get to Kathandu

We had considered trying to go into to Bangkok to burn time on our eight-hour layover. But that was when our departure depression was ruling our brains, and  we didn’t think it would be doable given that we were to be on several different airlines and would likely have to claim and recheck our bags in each city.  Further, it would be the middle of the night in Bangkok, making a trip into the city a bit pointless.  Despite this, we managed to make the best of it.  Oh, yes we did!

Back in Business...
At check-in, they informed us our bags would be checked all the way through to Kathmandu. Upon learning this things were starting looking up, quickly.  After all, all we really wanted to do was go back to Khaosan Rd. for another helping of street Pad Thai, some people watching and another Chang.  The truth is things never seem to slow down on Khaosan Rd., no matter what time it is.
That flight to Bangkok was painless:  several empty seats, free drinks and inflight entertainment. A glass of wine, and three episodes of “How I Met your Mother” later we were in Bangkok.  I was a little sleepy when we landed, but quickly came to.  We got some cash out of the money machine and soon enough we were in a cab on our way back into Bangkok.

Street Pad Thai in preparation
Street Pad Thai ready to eat!
It was midnight, but the place was rockin’.  We wandered up and down the street for a time before settling into a spot where could sit, order Chang, watch crazy people, street entertainers and the little ladies try to sell us things. Best of all, we could go get a dish of street pad thai and bring it back to the table.  

Typical bar at 12AM
Little lady selling things
As Michelle and I sat there enjoying ourselves fully, we came to the realization of just how perfect our SE Asia exit had become.  Talk about “full circle,” we were finishing right we had started. 
I think even better than the street pad thai was the part where I was able to get myself a Chang beer label.  It’s no secret that I like beer, and particularly enjoy trying new beers in new places.  So I decided, one country too late, that throughout the trip I’d aim to collect the labels of all the local beers I tried along the way.  I was quite disappointed when I came up with this grand plan and realized the only place in the world to get Chang was Thailand, and I had missed my chance. Label in hand and the disappointment now dismissed, one more night in Bangkok, one more Chang, SE Asia full circle and my label collection is up to date!

Chang Label!

Look closely and you see what's happening here...

 This guy was really entertaining with his soccer ball. He said he had been practicing for 11 years...

Some more of the food on the road...

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