11 January, 2013

Thailand: The Journey Begins (Friday)

The map shows us as being perhaps 100 miles southeast of the southern tip of South Korea. That’s a lot of souths. Phase One of the horizon-expanding adventure is well underway. We’re on board ANA flight 1077, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner flying to Tokyo, en route to Bangkok. There are about three hours left on this flight, followed by a 3 hour layover in Narita, and then another 7 hour flight on United 837 to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. I chose the flights quite carefully, not solely based on price and schedule. I wanted this experience to cover several “firsts” for my mild aviation enthusiasm. The Dreamliner is a big one, not only because it’s the newest aircraft in the world, but also because there’s a bit of a mystique and bragging right around flying on one, as few as there are presently in service. So far it is everything it was cracked up to be. The seats are more comfortable. The plane smells new. The interior design is pleasing and efficient. The environment is quieter. The air seems less dry. The restroom is large enough to do Crescent Lunge, with room to spare (for those of us for whom that’s “a thing”). As a Japanese airline, the atmosphere is far more stoic and demure than what you experience on an American flight. There is very little talking over the intercom. Everything is done quietly and politely. It’s one of those big giant flags that remind me of how much more peaceful the energy is in many other cultures.

After this week of travel, we’ll meet another “aviation first” for me; one that I have been looking forward to for half my life: flying on a 747. I don’t even expect it to be comfortable, from what I have heard from others. But just the idea of a plane that huge, with its majestic shape, so emblematic of the commercial airline industry as a whole, excites me. Every time one flies over my house, which is typically just a couple of times a day, I am awed by the size. So, there’s that to look forward to as well. And then, on the return trip from Tokyo, a final notch for my fuselage will be the Boeing 777, also a huge jet. I don’t really have any expectations or attachments around that experience, other than I figure it will be cool, as it’s a newer model.

The time difference, and flight durations don’t play well with any illusion of maintaining a normal circadian clock. I started thinking about the optimum “plan” of how to combat it, and land in Bangkok Ticking like the Thai. But that’s absurd to think possible. We departed Seattle at noon. We fly for 11 hours to Tokyo, touching down at 3pm Tokyo time, which will be around 10pm Seattle time. Bed time. But instead of bed, we have a 3 hour layover in Narita, during which there will be no sleep, obviously. Then we have 7 more hours of travel to Bangkok, departing Narita at 1am Seattle time, arriving in Bangkok at the equivalent of 8am Seattle time. So, you’d think the logical thing would be to sleep the entire flight from Tokyo to Bangkok and be fully rested. Perfect. Because we’ll be getting to Bangkok at midnight. Fully rested.

I am just going to stay up as long as I possibly can, perhaps pulling the equivalent of an all-nighter, and then have the sleep happen at the hotel in Bangkok. But we’ll see if that actually happens.

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