24:00:00 – The Road to Thailand Continues

December 22, 2009

11:30am

From The Nation:

Virgo: Be generous with your time and you will make someone who needs help happy. You positive and helpful demeanor will bring you plenty of joy now and in the new year.

I’ve made it on the place. In truth, as most anyone would have expect (I’m sure), by the time I finally exited the night bus I wasn’t quite as enamored with it as in the beginning. I got maybe 5 hours of sleep, but it was interrupted. One night into this trip, and it’s evident that I can’t sleep just anywhere – the other million night buses/trains I have to take will be fun!

Once at Osaka Station, the driver so kind: he found a man who speaks a little English to help me find where I need to be. I wonder if it was the clueless expression or the repeated, “Is this my stop?” that clued the driver to how lost I am. The man directed me to the Osaka Hilton, where I caught the airport bus. Of course, it was only that easy in words…

I found the Hilton without too much trouble (I count only asking 1 additional person for directions as a major success!). When I saw the Hilton, I saw a bus labeled, “Airport Limousine.” Jackpot. I sprinted to the stop to make it before the bus got there, bought a ticket, stepped onto the bus when it arrived and then, in a miraculously well-thought-out, unlike-myself act, I stepped back off the bus and double checked where it was heading. I turned to the driver, having a quick smoke on the edge of the sidewalk.

“Kansai ku-ko desu ka?” Literally, “Is this the Kansai airport?” but he understood my meaning.

“Iye. Osaka ku-ko. Kansai ku-ko?” “No, this bus goes to Osaka Airport. You need Kansai airport?”

“Hai. Gomen nesai!” “Yes, I’m sorry.”

A second man kindly refunded my money and drew a map for me with his finger in the air – in Japanese, of course – for the Kansai airport bus stop.

I understood “hidari” (left) and the circle he drew. Go around to the other side of the Hilton.

I thanked him and walked in the direction he pointed. At the crosswalk, I looked all directions, weighing my options. A complete circle or a semi-circle and the stop is on the right? I couldn’t remember… or discern… what he had said. I looked around again and noticed that directly in front of me, across the street, waiting at a red light, was a bus labeled airport. On the bottom, in tiny romaji print, read, “Kansai.” Score.

I did the most reasonable thing and began flailing my arms and jumping to catch the drivers attention. I continued this nearly until the light changed, and right as it flicked from green to yellow, and I thought I’d lost my chance forever, as I still had no idea where the bus stop was, he noticed me. As did the throngs of morning commuters passing through this busy Osaka intersection. He made an “X” with his arms – I can’t get on the bus here. I did the next logical thing (hint: not asking a person on the street for directions) and continued to wildly gesticulate my confusion. I asked with my motions which way to go; he pointed right (so did his turn signal, but let’s not talk about my obliviousness, too).

The light changed, and I sprinted across the street and turned right with the bus. I ran down teh street as the bus drove the same direction on the opposite side of hte median. I kept the driver’s attention, and at the next corner pointed in all directions and gave my best, “Now which way?” shrug. He pointed left, and I took off.

I found the bus stop, which is not a stop so much as an entire bus station, with English messages, no less! I got there well before he arrived, a fortunate thing considering how long it took to figure out how and which ticket to buy. When he did, I smiled smugly and went to board. As I stepped on, the location sign on the side of the bus promptly changed from “Kansai Airport” to “Out of Service.” And I was out of luck.

Oh well, I thought, out of breath. At least I found the station.

I caught the 7:48 bus to the airport. The first (and only) stop we made was at Osaka Station.

….Oh well, at least I was on the bus.

I napped most of the hour long trip to the airport. I awoke to sunlight and ocean out my window and the window across from me. Kansai is on its own small island. It’s a perfect area for an airport: out of the main flow of city traffic and terrifically difficult to access for foreigners. Truly, it’s a sensational idea for an insular country šŸ˜‰ I (only half) joke, but really – It’s gorgeous, and so is the drive to it.

Totally wasn't exaggerating - its own island!

I arrived at 9, and my flight was scheduled to take off at 11. Perfect.

I found Thai Airways easily, went inside and stared at the single longest line I’ve ever seen – for anything – including when the Batman ride opened at Six Flags in Atlanta. It. was. epic. (and I don’t mean that in the good epic way – like Avatar – but the bad epic way – like the Illiad). An hour and 10 minutes later, I handed my passport and credit card to an agent.

Maybe itw as the lack of sleep or, nowt his would be crazy – maybe I’m becoming Japanese – but i never once felt impatient or annoyed. Come to think of it, the only time those feelings entered my mind even as an objective thought is right now, writing about it. That’s so… very unlike me and maybe a little refreshing. But don’t worry – 20 minutes later and ten minutes after caffeine in my system and a run-in with abrupt, rude Americans, and I felt back to myself.

I hadn’t peed since leaving my apartment alst night at 10pm. I had to go. I swept through security, had a bit of a hiccup at immigration when they deemed me an illegal alient a terrorist my paperwork insufficient. I had to leave the line to fill out a form and go back to the end, but eventually – finally – I made it to the “Now Boarding” side of the airport. This side has some real perks – like bathrooms and Starbucks and bookstores.

This is my favorite part of any airport experience. It’s that 15-20 minute block of time whenever I fly when my bladder is empty and it’s just me, a tea latte and all the books in the world (or the 20 bestsellers that will fit at the bookstand at any given airport). Truly, this is my zen.

I made it to the gate by 10:27. We were supposed to board at 10:20 for our 11:00am flight, but given that the entire airport was coming to Bangkok – things were running a little behind. I sent off last minute emails.

To Callie: “If I die, tell Jamie to stop popping his collar.”

Important things like that.

And now, here I am – 20,000 (?) feet over Japan and endless miles of ocean. My hair is greasy, my face is greasier and my teeth are waering a fuzzy overcoat, but I did it. The first hurdle of my journey – making it by myself to a far-away airport in a foreign country – complete.

This is Cyndi’s plane, train and automobile’s story. Part 2 – in Thailand – begins in 4.5 hours. Wish me luck!

—–

On the Plane a Few Hours Later

I am bent over laughing silently in my seat. I’ve got my face to the window, and I am in hysterics.

Who am I right now?!

I just devoured my plane lunch of red curry pork, rice and vegetables. Then as the Thai flight attendant served tea, I, without thinking asked, “Atsui mocha desu ka?” “Is this hot green tea?”

“Yes,” she smiled at me, her English perfect.

Right, I’m American.

Catching myself this time, I held up my tea cup – please – thank you, and I sipped. And now I’m doubled over laughing, looking down at a sea of perfect clouds on a perfect day.

This is the kid that wouldn’t eat macaroni’n’cheese she was so picky!

This is the kid brought up by a single mom and who worked her way through high school and college.

And here I am – at this moment a kid, sitting in the lap of privilege – taking a 10 day backpacking trip/vacation to Thailand. I know I wrote about this last night, too, but it’s going to take me a long time to reconcile my perceived identity with my reality. But man – I can’t stop laughing. It’s so amazing how far life can take you in 24 years. Heck, in one.

———–

Off the Plane

Hello, Thailand. I love you.

The whole country smells like a delicious restaurant, or at least the inside of the airport does (WHICH IS HUGE). And holy crap – it’s SUMMER! It feels so awesome. Even the humidity – I’m literally soaking it up. Taking off my winter jacket was in every way my perfect shedding of cold cold Japan for the next 10 glorious days.

Things I can’t wait to do:

1) Shower
2) Put on summer clothess
3) Eat
…not necessarily in that order

Goals on this trip:

1) Never, ever miss a meal (additional meals are preferable)
2) Nope, that’s it.

I’m in THAILAND!!! Adventure awaits šŸ™‚

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~ by C on January 15, 2010.

One Response to “24:00:00 – The Road to Thailand Continues”

  1. love love love your blog about Thailand. I leave on Friday.. alone! I mayb be hitting up the Cabbage and Condom restaurant I think. So excited!
    I love Thai food. I’ve had pad thai and some spicy soup so far.. cant wait to try the street food

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