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.