Another travel day, due to my being an early to the airport girl I had arranged for the taxi through my accommodation to pick me up at 9 am on Sunday, even though my flight check in wasn’t until 11.30 am. I had been told traffic would be hectic being a Sunday. It had cost 200 bht more by going through the accommodation but when I spoke to the drivers on the street they were less but couldn’t quite understand me so I opted for the safest path. On Saturday I was having a lay in about to have a shower when the inhouse phone rang, I answered it , my taxi was there!!What I exclaimed thinking I was sleeping beauty and had slept through a day which meant I had totally forgotten my sons birthday, I said hopefully ‘but its Sunday I wanted it for’ , they checked and yes the driver had the day wrong as they had indeed requested Sunday pick up. I exhaled and went about my day ,packing. I went in and checked at reception that it was all good for tomorrow and the driver knew I was going to Utapao airport, Yes yes they said all good madam.
I set off walking to the awesome mall just because I could, walking back so I would sleep well . Emailed my son, we don’t do talking on the phone , this is my youngest son not the one that visited me in Kampot, he is always too busy to chat and I ask too many questions . So Sunday dawned and I went to check out at 8.45 and wait for the car but he was already there and eager to get going . Off we went after lovely goodbyes to the sweetest ladies that worked there. Its amazing how a friendship can build in a short time.
We hit the road and as we exited sin city I saw the signage for Bangkok, now I knew from my road trip with Rob that the airport was in the direction of the Cambodian border not Bangkok. I said to my driver are you taking me to Utapao, yes yes , airport he replied , it was only then did I realise he spoke not a scrap of English, as he was nodding and smiling at the hotel I assumed he could speak a little bit of English. We were on a very fast new freeway by this stage and I saw the turn off for Rayong which I knew was the right direction, so I said Rayong , we turn off , yes yes airport so I sat back and relaxed a bit until we zoomed past the turn off. “Not Bangkok, no not me Utapao airport” Yes yes he said. He was speeding very fast and still highway signs were overhead saying Bangkok. I said’ No NO Bangkok, Pattaya Utapao’ which was starting to sound like and be as elusive as Utopia to my ears. I demanded he pull over and call the hotel but we were on a freeway , after another 10 minutes, by now we had been travelling for 45 minutes, there was a parking bay . My phone data wasn’t working so I couldn’t use google for anything plus my ticket was an eticket and on my phone and I couldn’t bring it up normally I would have written it down but I trusted in the hotel . Finally he rings his boss , the boss speaks to me , checks the travel order from the hotel and sure enough it says Utapao!!!! So now we had to drive until we could get to the otherside, we couldn’t chuck a uee as the barricades between lanes were concrete. An hour into my journey , one little bit of cursing and raised voices we were heading in the right direction with the help of his gps. I saw a plane in the sky and said follow that plane. We laughed, we both understood the hilarity of the situation, laughter is the only way out .
This airport is a military and civilian airport. It is close to the Royal Thai Naval base and is owned by the navy. We stopped at the first terminal , he got my bags out then people across the road started yelling waving their arms about , we were at the military entrance !! So we drove a bit further and he unloaded my bags. This is not a busy airport but they had coffee and I was still an hour before check in. Sometimes it is worth being anal about time. Finally I checked in, proceeded through to immigration but there was no one there, an officer waved to me and gestured he would be there soon. So I waited then he came, he had to turn on his PC but I was through quickly and easily. On my flight I was wedged between 2 Sumo wrestlers, man these 2 Chinese guys were huge , I slept once I knew the plane was heading to Kuala Lumpur at least the pilot said we were. My bodyguards didn’t move the whole trip , I don’t think they could. The distance between the international airport and domestic airport in KL must be at least 2 kms, my case was checked all the way through to Penang thank goodness. This is the moment when you love travelators you can rest whilst you still make some miles.Going through Immigration was a breeze. I had shuddered when I saw the line after I exited my Thailand flight , I only had 1.3 hours until my connecting flight. Because I was changing to a domestic ,the immigration counter was in a separate area, it was empty again as it was only for international to domestic transfers and I zoomed through. While reading and waiting for my flight a youngish girl sat beside me asked a few questions , she was doing her masters in Malaysian and Chinese Literature and was heading home to Penang for the mid semester break, crazy things happen and we were sitting next to each other on the hour flight. Life is funny sometimes.
I arrived in Penang , my case arrived, I caught a taxi to my one nights accommodation. On Monday I moved to Red Inn Heritage Guesthouse on Love Lane . I had arranged a monthly rate before I left.( $13.50 US per night). Years ago I stayed here with the man of my dreams before we got our apartment. Why have I returned to the scene of happy days you may ask?? It doesn’t make me sad anymore , I am not wallowing in memories or picturing the past, I have outgrown the emotional turmoil that I went through with him plus I have got a cute room with no view, but my own bathroom, its downstairs plus there is a fridge, a microwave ,crockery and cutlery, a toaster and a great long table to eat at plus outside there are tables were I am now watching people wander up and down Love Lane. The story goes it was where the rich Chinese merchants housed their concubines, mistresses now it is a world heritage street filled with shop houses, long houses , a couple small Taoist temples and lots of bars/ restaurants where at night tourists crowd outside on outdoor tables sipping chilled white wine and eating dinner. there is always some one playing acoustic music and often foreign travellers doing street performances to get a bit of money.
On Monday it was Hari Ra public holiday as well as school midterm so there are many Malay families here on holiday . Yesterday I caught the bus to the supermarket and of course a man moving house sat next to me he had 3 large garbage bags full of his belongings, I was cramped against the window on the crowded bus ,a garbage bag stuffed against me but he was a nice guy starting a new job in Batu Ferringhi and happily moved his bags when I got off.
Hungry Ghost month begins officially tomorrow. It is the month when the restless spirits come down from the heavens and roam the earth, mortals present offerings to their ancestors and other deceased spirits. You often see roadside offerings , multiple incense being burnt and fires being set alight in the middle of the road burning joss paper , these are for the spirits that can no longer find their home , last night as I went for a walk here in Love Lane in the middle of this narrow one way street the Taoist followers of the local temple were doing just that, by the time I came back from the walk all evidence of this ritual had disappeared.
I believe that here in Penang except for beer things are a little cheaper than Thailand. With the ever rising Baht imports are more expensive. An example of this I saw aust lamb in Pattaya for around $40 per kg where as yesterday in Penang I saw NZ lamb for $30. per kg.
I will tell you more of hungry ghost goings on next week and the dos and don’ts of this month which I didn’t know when I lived here during it 6 years ago , I wish I had.
Until next week.