A Journey to Thailand: The Day that Wouldn’t End – Part I

“AH AHM DA KING OF KHAOSAN! NOW BRING ME MORE KETCHUP!”

As the echoes of this magnificent declamation faded away, I could hear clapping from the group of Australians behind us. The Thai waitress was slowly backing behind the counter and I could see the three Chinese girls in the corner looking on in apprehension. Intrepid traveler and linguist that I have become I still couldn’t make heads or tails of their sing-song whispers to each other, but their meaning was clear: “Who’s the crazy Lithuanian dude in the tank-top, what’s he yelling on about, and why did he steal Jinjing’s crown?”

The rest of us sitting around the table, at that point expecting if not quite accustomed to Franz’s antics, just looked at each other. Nobody said it, but we were all thinking the same thing: “That guy needs more ketchup like King Tut needs another roll of toilet paper.”

-Bangkok, a random Burger King, 55.5 hours without sleep-

Will you take a look at that. Pretty pathetic, huh? Well, you’ll never believe this, but that llama you’re looking at was once a human being. And not just any human being. That guy was an emp-

Wait. Wrong narrator again. Sorry guys. But as long as I got that far I might as well skip a bit.

Look, I tell you what, you go back a ways, you know, before I was a llama, and this will all make sense…

Tuesday, Feb 9th – Silver Spring MD – 8am 

Brrrring! Brrring! Brrring!

Well, actually it was more like a ” bzz bzz bzz.” I use an app called Sleep Time for my alarm that wakes you up by a specified time based on your sleep rhythms, and starts with a very soft buzzing before getting more annoying. Thankfully I tend to sleep about as deeply as a ferret with a cocaine problem so the buzzing’s all I ever get.

But anyway.

I woke up feeling… excited. Odd, I know, for the day I was leaving to Thailand. But for me it actually was a strange feeling. I almost never get excited. I’ve been on tons of great trips in the last year, and I certainly looked forward to all of them, but for none could I truly have described myself as “excited.” Especially not enough to at all impact my sleep the night before.

In fact the last time I can really think of that I felt a similar way was right before I left to study abroad in Israel for a year. Right after high school. When I had just turned 17. Over 9 years ago.

So what makes this trip special? I’ve thought about it, and settled on the “?”.

“?,” you ask?

?. The Unknown. I’m going all by myself, have made almost no plans, and as such have almost no expectations. I have no idea what could happen, and therefore anything could. For every other trip, I knew that it would be fun. I could anticipate the fun. But fun is fun. For this, who knows?

But back to the narrative.

I’ll do a more detailed post about my packing / preparation adventures later, but for now suffice to say that I managed to fit all the manner of clothes, food, electronics, and a small kitchen sink into my brand spanking new (why is that even a phrase?) 40L Tortuga travel backpack. All packed up it weighed in just under 30lb. Not too bad I thought.

Note to self #1: trusting “thinking” is dangerous.

Tuesday, Feb 9th – Dulles Airport – 6:30PM – 10.5 hours since sleep

All right! My flight was scheduled for 9:10 PM.  Plenty of time. And not a single person in the security line. Go me! Now let me just mosey on down and show them- wait, what’s that? You want me to weigh my innocent little backpack?? But… it’s a backpack! This never happens to me flying Southwest:( Goodbye cool American startup airline. Hellooo Emirates, official airline of the United Arab Emirates.

Apparently there’s a 7kg weight limit on your main carry-on, with an added 5kg personal item allowed. Let’s see, 7 + 5, carry the 1, multiply by that number… that’s something like 26, 27 pounds? And I had weighted in at almost 30? So much for my awesome packing job.

Note to self #2: find out how to procure a proper Bag of Holding (how many of you had to google that? Prove your nerd-cred!).

Soo. I could either leave half my stuff behind, ooor…

Repacking

Hurray for the little drawstring bag I brought for day-excursions! After stuffing all of my heaviest compact electronics + foodstuffs (I blame you Mr. Soylent) into it, as well as loading up my pockets a bit, I managed to bring my big backpack down to 7kg on the dot, and the small one a precise 5kg. Whew.

You won’t get rid of me that easily Emirates! But perhaps I should hold off on such premature declarations. They’re not done with me yet.

Wednesday, Feb 10th – Somewhere – 2:46AM – 18.77 hours since sleep

Alright Emirates, you’re not too bad. They asked me about my kosher meal before we even took off, I got to plug in my various devices at my seat, watch Daniel Craig be all nice and manly-like, and now I’m doing my best caterpillar impression with the complementary fleece blanket and neck pillow while getting my กลายเป็นนักภาษาศาสตร์ on. 20 hours on the plane should be enough to learn a foreign, asian, tonal language right?

Out the window is a pretty fantastic sun-sky-thing:

Sun Sky Thing

Just a quick note: I actually had a plan for this trip. It was to start Tuesday evening and end Thursday morning, crossing 12 time zones with one 12.5 hour flight and one 7.5 hour flight. I know that I’ve always been terrible at sleeping on planes, but the quality of the flight here actually gave me some hope. I would spend the first flight learning Thai, then the 4-hour layover, then the second flight would be Wednesday evening. If I could make use of my sleep deprivation by that point to even sleep a few hours on the plane then that would get me nicely on-track for being jet-lag free. Silly, silly me.

Wednesday, Feb 10th – Abu Dhabi – 6:30 PM

Hellooo United Arab Emirates. I’m going to be trapped here for 23 hours on my way back so I better get my Dora on.

First stop:

20160210-1834

Well slap me silly and call me Ahmed. Aren’t other cultures fun?

And, speaking of other cultures, I don’t think I’ve seen any of these in any American airports:

Smoking Area 1

But at least it’s empty right?

On to the better parts of Middle-Eastern culture:

Bazaar

Don’t worry, I’ve been training for this moment for my whole life. I touched nothing but the lamp(s).

I thought about getting one, but first I need to locate some old woman willing to trade her old lamp for my new one.

Onwards!

Hmm… what’s that smell… seems like I spoke too soon.

Smoking Line

Some of them were even there with kids.

But wait- not all is lost! There is still what that is good and pure to be found in the Middle East!

Star Wars

Thursday, Feb 11th – Somewhere – 4:00AM – 35 hours without sleep

Emirates, I take back every nice thing I ever said about you.

I miss that last plane. I really do.

Did you ever play the game “sardines” when you were a kid? You know, it’s like hide and seek, but you start with only one person hiding. Then each person who finds the first guy has to squeeze in and hide alongside him. Last person to find the rest loses.

Whoever designed this airplane must have had a great childhood full of these sort of games, accompanied by a very unfortunate nostalgic streak.

BMI is a joke. Really, a totally useless metric. I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life where it didn’t deem me anorexic.

So when I can’t sit in an airplane seat and put my arms down next to me, you know there’s a problem.

Unfortunately, the larger fellow next to me found a great way to solve said problem. I’ll give you a hint: it didn’t involve putting his arms down next to (or on top of ) him. Somehow he managed to fall asleep within 2 minutes of sitting down, way before takeoff. He also turned out to be great at impressions. In this case, he spent the next 8 hours doing a fantastic one of an industrial rotary saw with a head-cold.

To top it all off, the nice stewardess Anna (actually nice- she was really the only good thing about the flight), after some back and forth with the captain, informed me that those power outlets cleverly hidden beneath most people’s seats (not mine for some reason) were actually just there for show.

And, to NOT top it all off, here’s what I got when I ordered coffee:

Plane Coffee

That was before I started drinking any of it.

You can guess how well my brilliant jet-lag avoidance plan went.

————

I know you’re all probably thinking “All this travel stuff is boring! Tell us more about Franz!!” Well, I had to spend several days going through it so I feel no remorse about making you spend 2-3 minutes. Stay tuned next week for Part II – Thailand.