London to Bangkok and a Winter Wonderland

Winter in my wonderland has once again dealt me a spoonful of sugar laced with cough syrup and finely crushed paracetamol. Last year my Christmas vacation in Thailand was partly spoiled by a severe bout of influenza, but luckily this time around whatever virus I have is not too harsh. Today I’m feeling so much better after four days of aches and pains which left my energy levels reading ‘zapped’. However, things could have been much worse.

In the days leading up to my Heathrow flight, England’s bitter winter weather had wreaked havoc on the country’s transport system. The snow had all but shut down Heathrow airport, and my thoughts of an inevitable flight delay had turned from a wait of hours to one of days. Frosty the Snowman had ruined thousands of British holidaymakers hopes of a welcome sunshine escape from the sub-zero temperatures with a thick layer of snow. I very much doubt Bing Crosby would have signed many autographs if he could have waltzed into Heathrow’s Terminal 4 singing his ‘White Christmas’ song at the same time as I had. Hundreds of prospective passengers hopes of a sunshine getaway were about as low as the Terminal 4 tiles they were sleeping on.

Amazingly my flight was scheduled to take off on time. After enjoying two hours of excellent business lounge hospitality courtesy of Etihad, I boarded my plane with the welcome bonus of an upgrade to business class. It was goodbye to Frosty and hello to a flight menu I thought had been written in a foreign language. I had always assumed Gratin Dauphinois was an Argentine centre half.

To my horror, the connecting flight from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok was delayed by one hour. Maybe Frosty had an Arabian cousin called the Sand Man. My enquiries revealed no freak sand storm had hit Abu Dhabi but disrupted flight times from Northern Europe were causing the delay. I then knew I had no chance of making my flight from Suvarnabhumi to Udon Thani. Long queues and Thai immigration would put an end to that.

My suitcase must have contained one massive slice of luck because having landed at eight in the morning, just one hour later I’d tackled immigration, checked in for my 10 o’clock Udon Thani flight and cashed some traveller’s cheques. I landed at Udon Thani’s airport just minutes after midday. Wonderful Wi was there to greet me in my winter wonderland.

We relaxed in the city for two days and nights before heading off to our village home. Udon Thani has a noticeable presence of festive tourists but by no means as many as a few years back. Baht Man and Frosty may have a lot to do with that.

Village life started with a ‘zap’ but it sure as hell beat a Heathrow airport tiled floor. I guess my heavy cold/virus was a way of life saying you’ve had more than your share of luck this Yuletide season.

My apologies for taking one week to post and this is a rushed affair too, but my energy levels are only now returning.  My alternative medicine mix of 40 cigarettes a day and plenty of alcohol took a few days to kick in. At least now, I feel strong enough to increase the dosage.

Wilai and I are now in the middle of a three-day trip to the mountains of Loei to visit the Annual Phu Rua Flower Festival. Also, to enjoy the delights of a fantastic region of Thailand. Lots of flowers and pollen are just what a chain-smoking asthmatic like myself needs right now. I guess tonight I really will have to up my dosage of Jack Daniels and Wonder Red filter tips.

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year whichever way you choose to enjoy it. Best seasonal wishes from myself, Wilai and Beyond The Mango Juice.


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

10 Responses

  1. Great to hear from you Martyn, you are lucky to have made it to Thailand without too many delays. I feel sorry for those who had their holidays spoilt. I’m a bit doubtful about your flu remedy, but who am I to judge 🙂 I’m looking forward to some pictures of this Phu Rua Flower Festival. All the best for 2011.

  2. Malcolm says:

    Sorry to hear about the cold , but a little cold in Thailand for a week or two is better than a clean slate back in the the cold and snowy England, Glad you’re feeling better it takes a while to thaw out the old bones, but the LOS will get the job done , I know Wilia and all the doggies were glad to see you back and all the neighbors too. Take care and enjoy another trip to your dream home , “It want be long now “. Happy New Year to You and Wilia. Malcolm and Ciejay

  3. Lawrence says:

    Welcome back to Thailand, Martyn. I know the Phu Rua Flower festival well, having spent several New Years there with Pensri’s older sisters. But it’s a long drive with some very bad traffic around Khon Khaen so we’ve cried off this year. I’m asthmatic too and don’t go far without lots of anti-histamine pills and an inhaler.

    Anyway, I hope the Jack Daniels works, and you have a wonderful time. Happy New Year!

  4. Catherine says:

    Martyn, so sorry to hear that you are sick again. My son put me on VC tabs that work for the stress of travel. In Thailand the brand is called Berocca and you should be able to get it at most large pharmacies. Try Boots (Thailand) if you are having difficulties locating them.

    I start taking Berocca about ten days to a week before trips and it generally does the job. Nov/Dec I was around my kids, who were all sick. I didn’t catch anything, even though I had them cuddling in my lap the entire time.

    I came through Heathrow on the way back too. Isn’t terminal 4’s new business class lounge fabulous? I’ve been flying Qatar out of Gatwick but this time they swapped around on the return flight. Not sure why. Gatwick was a blessing going in though, as Heathrow was closed when I arrived in the UK mid December. Heathrow was responsible for something like 20,000 ruined holidays from what I read. Sad.

  5. Mike says:

    Martyn great to hear from you. Glad you beat the big freeze. I have to laugh every time it snows back home. But not fun when travelling.

    BTW I always though Gratin Dauphinois was a cheesy Greek goalkeeper….but then again.

  6. Snap says:

    Hi Martyn, it must feel good to be back in sunny Thailand 🙂 with WW and away from all of that snow. Stray and I enjoyed Loei, dispite the sore butts and wet weather.

    Happy New Year!

  7. Talen says:

    Martyn, I can sympathize with your sickness I think I have the same. You made it though which is a feat many didn’t accomplish. Have a great New Year.

  8. Emm in London says:

    Oh wow, you were lucky to make it out of Heathrow and how awesome to be upgraded to business class! What a pity you had the flu! I was truly ucky and flu-free this past season.

  9. Hoo Don says:

    Emm I think that’s three Christmas’ on the trot I’ve been upgraded to business class, it really is luxury but one hell of a come down when I return to the economy seats.

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