My travel to Koh Pha Ngan island in the Gulf of Thailand has just begun. It started well: I got a vacant right row on the plane. All three seats to myself! The next sixteen hours I will spend sitting on my ass, so having two empty seats next to me feels like extra comfort. Aside from an utilitarian function of a possible bed it’s also an empty space, which means air, and I need some air. The feeling of getting lucky at the very beginning of a journey is a bit unnerving: unconsciously superstitious, now I am afraid of luck to run away when I’ll need it most. Not that I believe in luck, of course. But having a bit of it won’t hurt.
After ten hours on the bench I feel like I got some perverse corporal punishment: the next half a year will be spent on the plane. I immediately find a consolation in that I got more space to myself than my fellow inmates! The passengers around me look inanimate, so tranquil they are in their sleep. Don’t know how do they do it and what dreams they see — I can’t lull myself into a nap no matter which melody I mutter. Five hundreds passengers and I am the only one awake? No one moves.
Last time I was making such a long trip I was reading 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Talking about a descent to an alternative reality: every time I take my eyes off a laptop I see a large communal TV screen on the wall playing a cannabis advertisement on repeat. In the new world I’m gradually arriving to BBC shows flicks luring the audience into some private dope club whose members are getting exclusive deals on weed. And I haven’t even landed yet.
Fourteen hours of the flight: sheer bliss of Chinese domestic films. Never heard any of the titles before. “The sorcerer and the white snake” — not a bad fairy tale, highly recommend, well, aside from clumsy 3D effects, which, in retrospect, make the whole thing even more bizarre. “Sleepless fashion” — I didn’t even know a movie could be that shallow. Very Soviet looking film called “The Return Ticket”: British social realism staged in Shanghai. Funny enough, while I am watching the emerging auteur production from China, the guy next to me is watching a Russian film. Both China and Russia aspire to so-called West while having plenty of cultural similarities amongst themselves.
First stop is Tokyo. It’s a very short connection, less than an hour. I pass by ubiquitous vending machines in the tangled corridors and then I see an on-line station. I rush up and plug in. So, no toilet visiting or looking around: I drink Internet after I have been thirsty for 16 hours. Not a droplet of spam for that long, it almost feels like it’s 1996 again. May be that will be my alternative year of existence: 1996, this time in Asia.
Taipei is next. The flight is uneventful: I look at the map and the distance between Tokyo and Taipei seems like a quarter of a globe, so I curl myself up for mindless hibernation. Before long I’m in Taiwan, being under the impression that I have 8 hours to kill at the airport. Yes, it will turn to be a wrong impression. But I had my reasons: concierge at the check-in stand in NY asked me if I’d like to get out in Taipei since I have plenty of time. On arrival a stuart at the door told me that yes, take a sky-train for the morning flight to Bangkok.
Meekly I follow the crowd of fellow passengers I got used to during the first two legs of the trip. I play sudoku on iPod. And then the odor of two days cloth evaporates and there no familiar faces around left. I am riding alone on the flat elevator and the only flight I see a crowd around is on Amsterdam. By the way, flat elevator is called travelator. An impossible name, it will be pronounced as “tralevator” by anyone who’ll try to utter it.
Very slowly I walk back towards the information beaurau. I show my ticket and I say that hell, I have eight hours to kill, but I’d like to know the gates to sleep in front of. Funny looking lady wearing grey-and-orange hat checks my ticket, and calmly states that my flight is in thirty minutes.
Silly serendepities: the flight is on Amsterdam indeed but it stops at Bangkok. I guess the friendly NY concierge changed my ticket, to speed me up, so to speak. Unfortunately, Bangkok is not my final destination, I go to Koh Pha Ngan with Koh Samui in-between. Strictly speaking, Koh means island in Thai, but people keep adding it to he names of the islands, so I’ll tag along. Anyway, looks like I got myself a night at the City of Angels. That was not a part of the plan, I swear.
I am in Bangkok. It’s 2:30 in the morning. Landed, got my luggage, went through the customs. My visa is stamped and it is valid up to the 30th of June! That complies perfectly with my initial estimate. All is well, and so far I feel like despite the hardship of the route it was one of the easiest flights. Funky euphoria of a jail breaker.
My next plane is in the afternoon but I’ll try to get on standby for the earliest, which is at 6am. Then ferry and then I’m at my new home for the next three month. But meanwhile I am marooned at the airport with no free WiFi. I hope I’ll get on the 6am flight, it’d be a drag to stay here for another twelve hours. And I’m in! 6 am, no issues aside of waving goodbye to low gluten meal. Works for me — I’m gonna get to the destination before the rumors of my arrival will reach the locals.
I am at Koh Samui. It feels immediately relaxed with a dash of downshifting. Curvy baggage belt adds up to the impression of a tropical paradise. I am watching people at the airport: they all look conscious. I have not been sleeping for past 48 hours.
350 bhats later I’m sitting on a boat to Koh Pha Ngan. Last time it was some drugdealers superfast delivery boat converted to a passenger rocket. She flew around 50 knots being the size of a one bedroom apartment. This time it’s a regular ship, ferry-like. It goes fast but without leaving police patrol behind asking on the radio was it a whale or have they slept too little?
Or have I slept too little? Quick self-test: if I were given a choice between a million dollars, passionate sex or a shower right now, what’d be my choice? I would have chosen a million dollars. Because it makes sense in a long run. Well, I am aright, after all.