The people of Thailand love their king. Even without the stringent laws against defamation of His Majesty King Bhumibol, no Thai person could think of a bad word to say about him. He has spent his 60 year reign working hard to help his people; the epitome of the enlightened ruler. His accomplishments are many and varied, having familiarized himself with the intricacies of everything from aquaculture to economics.
Having said that, the Thai people despise their Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. He said in April he was stepping down, but he has not done so. People are losing hope that he will ever go away. I have rarely heard Thai people wish ill of anyone. When a rumor spread that he had prostate cancer, however, I heard several women hoping he would die. This sort of thing is not said lightly by practicing Buddhists. His government has been so corrupt, in their estimation, that it is better for the world that he no longer exist in it.
International air traffic is still moving through the over-capacity Don Muang Airport. Its replacement, The Suvanabhumi Airport, was supposed to have been finished in 2004. This state-of-the-art facility has been plagued by scandalous delays and construction errors. The new runways developed potholes before they were used as shady contractors scrimped on materials. The airport building developed cracks and holes, and the concession area was swept by fire last year. They say it will open in September. Most lay the blame squarely on the corrupt Shinawatra Administration, and shake their heads, saying he is a friend of Bush and will never leave.
My first flight left Bangkok airport at 1815 Monday, Bangkok time, or 0215 west coast time. We boarded a bus that took us to our waiting plane, and ascended the roll-away stairs with our carry-on luggage in hand. I was out of breath from the exertion and mingled diesel and jet fuel fumes, along with the general Bangkok pollution. The steward was concerned. miladycarol
, my trusty travelling companion, explained to him that it was asthma from the climb and that I would be alright if left to recover or a few minutes. The Don Muang Airport is not asthma friendly.
Fortunately, Thai Airways is very nice. They feed you very well. The veggie menu was delectable! Lots of fruits and vegetables. The plane was nearly empty, and we each had a row of our own to lay and sleep on. Little did I know this would be all the sleep I would get... the 8.5 hour flight was pleasant.
I bid a sniffly goodbye to Miladycarol in Sidney. Twice. There was some confusion about whether I had to go through the customs quarantine area, so we said our goodbyes before then. Maybe she didn't tear-up, but my water-sign was hanging out and I started leaking. I met her again in the customs line, and bid her another goodbye.
4 hours of layover in the Sydney Airport was good. I had a chance to eat breakfast and shop for AU t-shirts - something I hadn't gotten before. The Sydney Airport is a lovely facility in contrast to the airport in Bangkok. Having flown out to Thailand a week or so earlier, I was surprised, however, to find an additional security checkpoint after the x-ray. This was at the entrance to the gate itself, and clearly was intended for our gate only. I realized it was for security for US only. Swell. My fellow passengers and I murmured, "Is this for 06/06/06?" For pity's sake, when will we stop being afraid of dates?
The Qantas flight was nearly full. I counted 4 empty seats on the 747. I was in a back, side row on the aisle, which meant I was near the restroom. There were people going by all the time. Since mine was the back row, they would stand behind my seat, often grabbing it or accidentally kicking it as they stretched in the open space behind me.The man in front of me kept his seat reclined the whole trip. The seats were very close together. I had to swing my leg over the arm of my seat to get out. I could not use my laptop - there was no way to open it. The fellow next to me was nice, but first he got drunk on red wine the first four hours of the flight and spilled it on himself (and a bit on me), and then he spent the last three hours of flight time jiggling his leg jonesing for a cigarette. 18.5 hours of fun.
From this idyllic journey, in the worst of moods, not having slept nor having changed my clothes for some 23 hours, I emerged into my least favorite airport, LAX. It seems LA and BKK have much in common. Rather than send a bus, however, we had to walk the length of a football field from the plane to Passport control. At the end of this trek on the wall above us were the smiling visages of none other than George W. and his pal Dick.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the monumental restraint I exercised at that moment is worthy of a medal. No less than half a dozen snide remarks came to mind, but I lowered my head and pressed on, knowing that there were cameras and microphones everywhere.
My plane was late coming in. I had to collect my luggage, go through customs and get to my next flight in an hour. I had been in the last row. I was last off the plane. I could not run up the causeway. I then had to wait for my dijeridoo in oversize luggage, which put me last in the customs line. I got through it at 0830. My flight was supposed to board at 0840. I walked up the ramp and found that I had to join another cueue for another TSA search. Tears began to roll down my cheeks. I'd finally had it. I was licked. A TSA agent said, "Why is that woman crying?"
I showed them my boarding pass, and explained that it had been 23 hours since I'd slept or changed clothes (okay, so I laid it on thick). She said, "You're not going to make it, take your bags to your carrier," and turned away. Then I really lost it. "Where?" I asked. There were no signs anywhere. I had no clue where to go. I had no idea which terminal I was in. "Where do you want me to go?" The supervisor came over, checked my flight number, and decided they could check my bags after all, and gave me directions to the other terminal.
The LA airport is ridiculous. TSA agents should not be left to give instructions to passengers. There should be signs. After all of that, I had to walk outside in the smog to the next terminal. I went through another TSA screening because I had been outside. I then found the gate I was looking for closed and deserted. I found an agent at the next gate, who informed me that the flight had been moved to another gate in the next room.
I made my flight. Prop jets are still very cool if you have noise-cancelling headphones.
Isn't it sad that we live in what is supposed to be the most free country in the world, yet I had to censor myself in the causeway for fear of being put on a secret list somewhere that would at worst prevent me from flying again, at best subject me to search each time I pass through an airport? There are no laws against defaming King George, but I was gagged as severely as if there had been. Why have we given our hard-won freedom to this man? He has not protected us, he has only made us afraid of our neighbors, and given those who were once allies reason to hate us. He has made a simple trip into a nightmare with half-measures that do not protect, but only inconvenience. We are living in a police state. Take a trip outside and see.
The Thai people love their King because he does not act like a King. We hate our President because he acts like a despot. Wake up! We did not elect a King!