Dec 7, 2015

the long goodbye

To help ourselves make the l-o-n-g trip home as easy as it could be, we arrived back in Bangkok the night before we traveled. A taxi drove us from the Mairood back to Trat, which has a truly extraordinary little airport owned by Bangkok Airlines:

no disrespecting of the king allowed -- even if one of your baht bills flies out of your hand, you are not to
step on it to hold it when you catch it. Long Live the King! 
elephant topiaries throughout the landscaping
they drive you out to the plane in these little carts that reminded us of golf carts
here's the waiting area! tables scattered all around in a beautifully landscaped yard 
i had a coffee while we waited
The flight from Trat to Bangkok is only an hour, and since it was the King's birthday, there were fireworks going off all over Bangkok:

I saw them all over town, but you can even spot that one on the horizon, to the left
of the big highway! 
We stayed at a hotel by the airport, and they picked us up, as promised. The whole transfer in Bangkok was so easy; our luggage arrived quickly, the driver was there waiting, and the room was.... well, it was worth what we paid, and that was just fine. Marc had a couple of spots identified within walking distance of the hotel so we could head out and get a quick dinner. Unfortunately, it was a bust. "Walk over the little footbridge" -- OK, there's the footbridge -- "and see the food stalls." Nope! No food stalls. But we did see a wat and its associated buildings, including one vast hangar-style storage building that held standing, sitting, and reclining Buddhas, plus a skeleton sitting at a desk wearing a hat and sunglasses. You might need to click to enlarge the photo to spot it.

There, at the brown desk. 
So back over the footbridge we went, and toward a busy road where we found a few food trucks making fried noodles. We ordered shrimp and fried noodles from this guy, and sat at a little plastic table one last time:

it's nicer to see it from the front, than from the business side, where you see all the things you wish you didn't see. :)
A relatively short night of sleep and the alarm went off at 5:10 am (Sunday) for the long, long, long trip.

Sunrise in Bangkok. By the time we were seeing sunrise at the gate, we'd checked our bags, gone through
immigration/customs, and through security. 
The flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong was a piece of cake, ~5 hours I think, and we had a couple of hours at the Narita/Tokyo airport before we began the long ~13-hour flight. The plane was only half full, so we had space to spare and that makes such a difference on these long haul flights.

And then, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, everything went so smoothly. It was the shortest line at US customs/immigration ever, and we were through there in no time. Our suitcases both arrived (something I never take for granted after what happened when we arrived in Norway), and we were "lucky" and got the random extra inspection by the food/agriculture inspectors but that didn't take too long, either. Into a cab for the drive to Teaneck, to pick up our car which we left parked at my friend Craig's house, then into the city and finally home, Sunday night, around 6:30. It was a fabulous, fabulous, fabulous trip.

We found two new favorite places -- Tam Coc Gardens, in Vietnam, and Mairood Resort, in Mai Rut, Thailand. We rode in boats, which we always must do, and soaked up that gorgeous karst landscape around Ninh Binh. We ate pho and banh xeo and xoi ngo in Hanoi, and were cold and soaked in rain much of the time. We had a great time in Can Tho eating like locals and riding in a boat on the Mekong River once again. We both had a very miserable flu, and mine came on our hardest travel day, not fun for either of us, but when we think about the trip, those are little blips, and nothing more. SO much good food. So much beauty. So many lovely people of so many different kinds. New friends, new spots in the world, and the pleasure of old familiar ones, too. It's always hard to leave SEAsia, but we're always pretty sure that -- God willing and the creek don't rise -- we'll be back.

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