I swear, the flight from San Francisco to Bangkok takes at least a year. EVA Air do their best, but I honestly didn’t buy the ticket because EVA have the largest economy seats. No, I certainly didn’t. I chose EVA Air because they were the cheapest, no other reason. Thankfully when it comes to air travel, ‘cheap’ doesn’t mean ‘unsafe’, but it can mean ‘uncomfortable’. Looking on the bright side, even at half the price, EVA Air is still twice as accommodating as United or American. Travelling West to get to the East, I fly for 18 hours and arrive 36 hours after take-off. Crossing the International Date-Line, well, that really screws-up the body-clock. Compared to many airports, aiprots where Terminal really does feel like Terminal, arriving at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport is an absolute joy. Walking from the Arrival Gate to Immigration you’ll pass four ‘Smoking Rooms’, important for some but not for others, and all of the Duty Free Shops before joining the queue for Arrivals.
Several aircraft have arrived at the same time, but the line of people keeps moving. With my Arrivals Card completed, I find myself standing in front of the smiling Immigration Officer. That’s right, he’s smiling. Looking into the mushroom camera, he snaps my likeness and flicks diligently through my almost full passport. Back to front, front to back. I like what he’s doing, it shows that he cares. He could take the easy option and stamp an empty page, but what’s easy for him would be unhelpful for me. It’s almost as if he’s read Pirsig’s Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and he’s applying Quality to his task. Finally he finds what he’s looking for. He looks at me and raises a questioning eyebrow? I nod and smile my thanks. Carefully, he places the rubber stamp on a page that has just enough space for an Entry and Exit stamp. He presses down and hands back my documents - ‘Welcome to Thailand Mr Thomas’.
At Baggage Carrousel 20, my tote bag is right in front of me, no waiting required. Green Lane, nothing to declare and nobody cares to check. A hundred Taxi-Touts, smiling and shouting, easily ignored. Down to Level 1, where the Meter Taxis are waiting: ‘Wat Lak Si, Highway Kap’, I talk like a native. A forty minute journey, a little conversation and $8 exchanged, I arrive at my apartment. Nothing seems to have changed. Have I really been away for six months?