Lesson in the morning. More restaurant food ordering.
I never tire of learning about food! Especially since the teacher was Jenna, who had already been my teacher once before, so she knew I was a vegetarian. I learned a whole slug of words, including important flavors like sour, sweet, spicy. One dish was my favorite: 伤心 (shāngxīn) 凉粉 (liángfěn) = heartbreak bean-starch noodles. They’re called “heartbreak” noodles because they are so spicy that you will cry like your heart was broken!
Jenna wanted to take me out to get some “heartbreak” noodles, but I had to get ready to leave for my trip to Thailand. We set up next Wednesday to go out to lunch.
On my way back home, I noticed the ever-increasing failed sidewalk. I wonder what has to happen to get something like this fixed. It’s right in the middle of the sidewalk. I made a mental note to remember where it was, in case I was walking at night and had to pass by in the dark.
My flight to Bangkok was at 5:05 p.m. I was planning on walking to the airport bus, so I left 4 hours ahead of time, at 1:00 p.m. I knew the bus stopped near the American Consulate on “The People’s Way, South,” but I didn’t know where the bus actually stopped. I picked the side of the street that went towards the airport, walked down to city bus stop, and waited. In about 10 minutes a bus went zooming by without stopping. I figured the bus must stop at the previous bus stop, so I walked back, crossed the street, and waited another five minutes. A bus went zooming by. I asked several people, all pulling suitcases, found one that spoke English, who said I had to catch the bus at the Jinjiang Hotel stop, about a mile down the road! Another bus zoomed past. I decided I better take the subway to the Jinjiang Hotel.
In another 15 minutes I was at the Jinjiang Hotel stop. I got street-side and looked for the bus stop. I searched for another 10 minutes as two more buses zoomed past me without stopping. I finally asked a young couple pulling a suitcase. They didn’t know where to catch the bus, but the young man went to the guards at the Jinjiang Hotel and asked.
“You have to cross the street, go past the hotel, and down the little street beside the hotel,” he said.
I didn’t believe him.
“I was told the bus stopped at the Jinjiang Hotel,” I said.
“That’s not what the guards say,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
I waited for another bus, hoping to see where it stopped. After the bus zoomed past, I went into the Jinjiang Hotel. The concierge was an Indian wearing a turban. I knew he’d speak English.
“Where do I catch the Airport Shuttle?” I asked.
“Across the street, around the corner from the hotel,” he said.
He saw my confusion.
“It’s the blue bus, the direct shuttle to the airport,” he reassured me. “You’ll see the bus stop. There should be a bus waiting.”
I thanked him, decided that two different sources telling me the same information meant it was time for me to let go of my preconceptions. I crossed the street and went around the corner, down the street beside the hotel. There was the bus stop, with a bus waiting. I ran over, paid my 10 yuan at the table, and was told the bus was full. I would have to wait for the next one. It was 2:30. I had spent an hour and a half finding the bus stop. And I was still waiting for a bus.
After 10 minutes, the person waiting with me in line must have noticed my anxiety.
“When does your flight leave?” he asked in English.
“Five o’clock,” I said.
“You’ll be all right. Mine leaves at 4:45.”
But as we waited I found out he was taking a domestic flight to Shanghai, which he found out was delayed, so he had nothing to worry about. My flight was an international flight. I was supposed to be at the airport two hours ahead of takeoff.
Another bus finally pulled up, filled quickly with people, and pulled out. We passed the intersection by the American Consulate where I had started my quest for a bus. It was 2:45.
The ride to the airport was quick, just 20 minutes. And my terminal was the first terminal. So I got to the check-in counter at about 3:10 p.m. I stood in line, and waited, confused by the check-in times showing at the gate: 16:00-17:15.
At 4 o’clock the counter was opened and I checked in. I looked at my ticket. Takeoff was not at 5:05 p.m. It was at 6:05 p.m.
At that moment I remembered the e-mail I had gotten to inform me that the flight had been pushed back an hour (I think because of daylight savings time in Thailand). I had chosen not to pay attention to the change, just in case it wasn’t right. In spite of all my challenges finding the shuttle bus, I was still at the airport over two hours ahead of takeoff! I smiled, took a deep breath, and relaxed for the first time since leaving my apartment. Sometimes it pays to forget about things!
The flight left on time, and as we rose to cruising altitude, the sun set behind the Hengduan Mountains. The highest peak in Sichuan Province, Gongga Shan, is over 24,000 feet high! From our flight altitude of 30,000 feet the mountains poked high enough to seem very close, hiding the setting sun.
Got through customs and border control by 10:30 p.m. Walked the length of the airport, looking for the driver that was to pick me up. There were over a hundred signs held by drivers, but none had my name.
When I passed the last set of drivers, I asked for help, and was told I should call my driver. I was pointed to a pay phone, that I tried but could not get to work. Always considerate, a Thai airport guard came over and asked if I needed help. I had no phone, couldn’t get the pay phone to accept my credit card. I needed help. He pointed me to someone with a phone, who called the number I had. I was able to arrange a meeting place with my driver, who had been waiting for me by the baggage carousel (I had no checked luggage). I was in the car driving to my friend’s home within 10 minutes, arriving 40 minutes later.
Everywhere I looked there were tributes to the former King. Long beloved, he had reigned for over 70 years. The last time I was in Thailand I wore a yellow shirt every Friday, in tribute to his 80th birth year (2007). This trip, my shirt was black.