Category Archives: Captain’s Log

Travelogue

On our way

So, the PAD is leaving the airports.  (Thanks Bangkok Pundit for all the info you’ve given me these 2 weeks!)

The day after the “Smiling Moon”, a sign of good things to come.

Hours after I have been told that we are confirmed for Monday to leave Bangkok, hell or high water, from U-tapao or Suvarnabhumi.

Yes, kids.  We are finally going home!  That doesn’t mean I will stop blogging about the situation.  It might not be live like the past few days but i will drop in as much of the news that I can going forward.

However, as a responsible blogger that I am, I will not post anything of substance tonight.

Because I’m buzzed.

Blissfully. Happily. Buzzed.

Brandon and I went with my 3 BFFs to Platinum, a giant wholesale/retail mall, this afternoon.  Joy and Lily converged at my house.  We fetched some street lunch then caught a cab to Platinum over on Rama IV Road where Tong joined us not a half hour later.

We shopped for 3 hours. I spent less than $100 and I got a rolling, soft “luggage” that people use to drag along in these huge malls, a hippy dress, 3 tops, leather bangle, phone charms for friends, and 3 bead bracelets.

Take THAT American malls!

While we were out there, my Aunty Connection called to inform me that my name is on the flight from U-tapao tomorrow or both of us can leave on Monday.  For some stupid reasons, that seat is not transferable to Brandon, so we decided to leave together on Monday.  The lady guaranteed that we will be out of here on Monday but from U-tapao or Suvarnabhumi isn’t clear just yet.

We took an ice cream therapy break after 2 hours of shopping and 2 hours later we came back to my house.  Then we landed once again at my friend Note’s restaurant, Kinnaree Gourmet Thai, completing my annual pilgrimage.  (Food blog with picture will follow–see link on the right.)

Note, as always, provided AWESOME food and she kept the booze flowing.  Her new bartender has a LOT of tricks so including 5 bottles of wine consumed there were numerous flaming cocktails thrown back with the 10 of us.

Now you know why I’m buzzed.  And you will also know why I will not be objective in reporting the situation tonight.  Hehe.

Tomorrow, my friends, I will resume my responsibility to the blogosphere.

As of tonight, with my celebratory drinkS, I bid you adieu.

Stranded in BKK – Live blog

Well, as live as I can make it.  I will update with any info I hear.

Our situation:

12/2 – 12:30 : Waiting to hear if we are able to get on an EVA flight out of U-tapao tomorrow or not.  What we got from them yesterday was a “waiting list” for the “possible flight” tomorrow and a confirmed for Dec. 8 out of Suvarnabhumi.  I looked at the paper work and started laughing.

Our other option which we really doesn’t want to take is to get on a bus to Kuala Lumpur then board a plane to Taipei then Taipei to LAX.  The South is being hit by massive rain. It’s flooded everywhere.  And the trecherous conditions already claimed at least 4 lives of the tourists trying to get out through the south.

My Auntie Network is doing its thing.  And Brandon has now contacted his friends at the office to see if there is something they could help with.  Because US Embassy was absolutely useless.

General Movements – What I’ve heard so far (Bangkok time):

12/2 – 12:30 – Thai Constitution Court dissolves PPP as predicted.  Now we wait…

12/1 – 14:25 – THAI Airways told us that there will be no new tickets issued for anyone.  They are currently working with tourists with THAI tickets.  Say, if I want to buy a ticket on THAI to go to Singapore from Phuket, that will not be possible, accordingly to what we have been told.

12/1 – Lunchtime

Rumors abound that tomorrow (Tuesday) the court will dissolve the current majority political party and therefore sack the PM.  Then a coup will follow to mop up the mess, disperse the airport crowd.  Then an interim governement. Then election.  The Red Shirts aren’t going to like it but that’s the only way to solve the stand off, in my opinion.

Another thing Westerners have to understand about our coups as of late is that our military has turned into the Cleaner.   The political scenes cause major disturbances and mess with our country in a way that there is nothing anyone could do.  Last time, Thaksin was entrenched and unrest was at hand. We had coup. We started over.  Now we have yet again arrived at an impass.  The military will have to wipe the slate clean and once again, start us over.

It’s not very democratic of us, but that seems to be the only thing left to do.

12/1 – a.m.

The Minister of Sports and Tourism announced on the morning news for travelers to stay put with their airlines in regards to their flights out.  He said to update your airlines on your whereabouts so that they will be able to contact you when they have further information about the next available flight.

From both the Aunties Network and the news, THAI Airways does not have direct flights to the U.S. because of U.S. strict safety policy which the humble U-tapao cannot provide.  Back to the drawing board of going from U-tapao to another destination then to the U.S.  Still waiting on another THAI connection through the Aunties Network.  She might be able to provide more information and help.

According to the U-tapao is packed. Traffic is backed up.  Tourists are spilled all over the parking lot, lugging their luggage in from the streets.  This 1960-built former U.S. airforce base during Vietnam War has only one luggage scanner.  A Thai-blog reader contacted me to said that he tried to “drop in” on U-tapao and it was a total nightmare.

Anyone heading out should allow themselves a LOT of time to get there and to go through the maze of lines and put up with lots of characters.

11/30 – late night

Stranded aircrafts were being flown out of Suvarnabhumi airport to U-tapao and other regional airports.  At least now there are planes to fly people.  More than the concern over the availability of aircrafts are the fact that nobody was really watching those parked planes.  To quote the local news, “the Sissy Government” is now finally worried that a third party might be tampering with those jets to cause even more chaos.

Um yeah…yer didn’t think of that when you let the PAD stormed the airports in the first place?  Jack ass…

11/30 – 15:04

The Aunties Network (friends of my late mom’s) called to let me know that there are buses (not public buses) available by some travel agencies to take people to Kuala Lumpur for 2,000 Baht.  Most stranded tourists so far have employed this method.  You can also rent a car or charter a van to do this 10-12 hour trek to our southern neighbor.  KL is an international hub so there are many flights available to all sorts of destination.

Old News

U-tapao still has flights to Phuket…I think…which is a springboard point to other international locations.

Backlash

This was the day Brandon was supposed to go back to America.  Obviously, he’s still here.

I just found out that EVA had canceled more flights through Dec. 4, however neither of our flights showed up in that list. Not yet.  Monday will be another struggle to find us a flight out.  At this point, I don’t care how but we have to get out.  Brandon can’t be gone another week and I sure as hell can’t afford to be gone either.

Almost officially, we are stranded.  And what are a couple of stranded “tourists” to do but stroll the malls.

The country’s mood definitely had changed as we experienced from our afternoon stroll.  The vendors of Thai souvenirs in Amarin Plaza (previously in Narayabhand before they closed down) was hit hard.  I made a meager bargaining attempt and they went for it.

“A little business is better than no business,” the lady said.  Sure, I could drive the price down cheaper but judging by the mood on this floor, usually bustling with tourists, I didn’t have the heart.  She said overnight everyone was gone.

“They said ‘we didn’t close the airport’.  They said ‘we’re doing this to save our country’.  How is this saving the country?” the lady continued.  “How could they do this to us?  Because of them, we are losing our businesses.  And look at those guys in tourism business!”

The sentiment was the same as we visited Health Land, traditional Thai massage therapy center, for a rub down…well, a knead and stretch down.

“Your husband is the only tourist we have in here right now,” one of our torturers therapists said.  “Don’t they know their action affect all of us and not just the government?”

Forget the argument over the Yellow Shirt vs. the Red Shirt.  The only thing on a lot of people’s mind is “How am I going to feed my kids tomorrow?”

Then again, you wouldn’t know our country is in a crisis if you saunter down the Rajadamri walk way.

Giant, and I mean 7 storey high, Christmas tree is fully lit and the entire Central World complex is decorated.  Shining like a beacon, an excessive one, no less, for the rest of the wearied souls.  The stranded travelers.  The tourism industry workers about to lose their jobs.  The general public unsure of the economic impact this will have on them.

For a moment, gazing upon that marvelous sight of the tree, we all can forget about the uncertainy of tomorrow’s possible journey home and about what terrible future lies ahead for this countr.

Stalled

Brandon’s flight has indeed been canceled.

EVA Airlines phone is so tied up that my dad’s assistant had to send a messenger over to the ticketing office to find out what to do next.  They said there will be a flight to Taipei from U-thapao airport tomorrow and that is what we are aiming for.  5 hours since the ticketing office opened, we still have no words.

The rumor of a coup last night was just a rumor after all.  Nothing happened.  The “cheeky analysis” at The Nation, comparing Thailand’s political stand-off to a poker match is dead on.

Well, as a very poor amateurish poker player, that’s as close as I can get to explaining the current situation. It appears to have come down to who blinks first between Somchai [the current Prime Minister] and Anupong [the Army Chief], after a suicidal PAD [those yellow-shirted buggers at the airport] threw in all its stakes and thus turned what should have been a normal round into one that will decide who goes home with all the money or empty-handed.

Seriously. Can SOMEBODY please do SOMETHING?

Not your typical Thanksgiving post

Yesterday we had lunch with my mom’s group of friends aka The Aunties.  They treated us to German brats and sausages and potatoes and saurkraut and pork legs at the Goethe Institute.  It was always a pleasure to hang out with them.

All the jetting around got me a little bit sick.  Having felt very poorly last night, we canceled our river boat dinner cruise so I would be well enough for this morning’s road trip.

Brandon and I started the day with the tour of the Damnuen Saduak Floating Market.  Having not eaten much of anything the night before, the moment I set foot on the market, I went looking for food.

And boy did we ate!  Hot off the pan spring rolls. “Coconut Pancake” or Kanom Jak. Coconut juice. A bowl of pork noodles. And finally, “Thai tacos” or Kanom Buang.

Oh yeah. I didn’t care what I was paying for them. They’re all under $1 each order so I went a little bit bonkers.

We returned to the city for a bit more high end shopping and scouting out the stuff I can get for cheaper price elsewhere.

When we got home, we worried some more about Brandon’s impending flight.  I found out just now that we might be able to ship him out of U-Thapao airport, just like everybody else is doing.  But we will find out more in the morning.  We also registered ourselves with the US Embassy.

Lily picked us up later this evening to have dinner with Joy, her husband Ruj, and their todler Jett.

A Thanksgiving dinner not with turkey and gravy but a typical Thai meal of rice and other things, sitting on custom made chairs made out of stumps and salvaged pieces from traditional Thai homes, enjoying the company of old friends.

For a while, we forgot about all that is going on in this country…or in Mumbai.  For a while, we were really thankful for the opportunity to see Jett terrorizing his nanny and to be titled “aunty”.  For a while, everything was right with the world.

Of Bliss…and being pissed off

*Warning! This entry contains Thai political rant at the very end.*

Here we are, another airport, another day.  It’s Phuket International now, waiting to head  back home to Bangkok from a 3-day of bliss.

So far it’s been a whirlwind trip.  We landed in Bangkok on Saturday around 11:30.  Later that evening, I went to Homecoming at my school, Mater Dei Institute.  I met my friends at the gate while I was waiting for Tong.  We went in, and all was good.  Our class of 1995 had the most attendance and apparently we won an award for that.  I’m sure that has a little bit to do with the fact that our class has a Yahoo! Group to spread the word.

It was like school all over again.  Food was mainly being sold in the cafeteria from the counter just like old times.  Our class took up 2 tables in the back of the cafeteria, a familiar practice.  We actually had a table assigned to us at the basketball court, so we eventually migrated back out.

Kitty came to see me too!  Apparently she was the only one from her class, but she was there with her mother.  And by the way, when Kitty said her mom is really fit and looks really young, she ain’t kidding.  Kitty’s mom looked as if she could be her sister.

Joy finally made her way in from the wedding she was attending at the hotel around the corner.  A few miscommunications left her without her school pink shirt and her ticket.  Wiley Tong and I sneaked her in.  She DID pay, just didn’t have her stuff at the time.

More of our girls continue to show up.  Many group pictures later, our class dispersed…before the award for best attendance was announced.  Haha.

The next morning Brandon and I found ourselves on the plane to Phuket.  We stayed at Sheraton Grande Laguna, one of my dad’s handy works.  The next morning, we were off on the boat to explore sea caves in a canoe.

Oh yes, my friends.  A canoe for two, paddled by a seasoned guide, in and out of these beautiful lagoons on these itty bitty islands.  Then the usual tourist pit stop at Koh Tapoo or “James Bond Island”.  Man with a Golden Gun?  Yep, that island.  One more stop on a beach to relax, however, it’s been drizzly, cloudy, and rainy all day.  The hour at the beach was a bit pointless.  Overall, we had a great time.

I haven’t even changed one shade of color so we ran outside when the patch of sunshine appeared this morning.   We greeted the hotel baby elephants along the way.

So far, life’s been a beach.

ETA: We’ve landed safely at Suvannabhumi airport and left the joint before the PAD brought their chaos to embarrass the country in the world’s eyes once again.

*/rant on Thai political situation*

Seriously.  What. The. Fuck.

It’s the beginning of peak tourism season in a downward economy and you guys decided to fuck this up for the entire country?  I don’t care what your political stances are, but NOBODY should fuck with the future and the livelihood of the entire nation so that you can be right.

Folks in Phuket I’ve talked to said that they noticed as much as a 50% drop in their business.  The van drivers haven’t picked up that many people.  The sea cave canoe crew said their client lists thin out considerably.  Even the hotel said the rooms have been somewhat emptied.

PAD’s move to the airport is hitting the country where it really hurts.  And it’s going to continue to hurt for a long, long time.

Our cabby took this opportunity to try to cheat us on our ride home too.  He turned off his meter, claiming the traffic…but there was none.  (Thank god my brother helped me bluff him by reading off the guy’s license and plate number out loud to him on the phone.)  But at the same token, he did report to us that at least 3 cabbies trying to get to the airport had been shot at.

He was talking to me in Thai but with his hand gesture of the gun and “bang, bang, bang!”, I had to translate to Brandon of what had happened.  He did tell me he wouldn’t come over if the political madness was still going on.  It wasn’t THIS crazy when we left, obviously.  And now we pray that we can get Brandon back on the plane on Saturday with no problem.

Thanks a lot, PAD.  I can’t believe I used to be on your side.

*/rant*