Spend 17 hours at 40,000 feet and you begin to feel in the company of Mars, Venus, the stars or even better Heaven. That’s the altitude Thai pilots took us to yesterday and last night to get us within range of Nepal. I’ve had heaven on my mind a lot recently, how people interpret it and how it brings a light and joy to death, and most of us need heaven to aim for when things are low or painful. But an endless day flying on purple and berry colored Thai Airways over the pole to the other side of the world, gave me a chance to think high, very high. It has always amazed me that on a normal crossing in the USA most of the time, we are told proudly by pilots when we’ve reached the altitude of 30,000 ft. Did you realize that’s the same altitude as the summit of Mt. Everest? But cutting across the North Pole from Los Angeles, Thai jets travel as high as 40,000 feet! Deep breathe, for heaven’s sake, and watch their pilots land on the clouds.
|View of boarding area|
There was a brief stop in Seoul where we had to get off the plane, march through security (where the very young attractive security person took away my needlepoint scissors) and back onto the plane. Finally, a few hours later, we landed at nighttime in Bangkok. Most airline personnel and security folk are young, thin, not very tall Asians, not the huge, older guards and agents working Memphis and other USA airports. It’s a youth’s world here in Southeast Asia. They all look fit and smiley-faced.
|Royal Family Fotos|
I had to spend half a night at Bangkok on a layover. It has the most amazing airport I’ve ever been through. The Thai Royal Family is glorified with giant blown up photographs of their activities and interest across the long entrances. Not only does the building’s wave-like architecture lay out across a huge measure of land, but there is a half mile of Duty Free shops - from Hermes and Tiffany to Thai sweets counters. You have to pass by them to get to the gates. No, I didn’t stop to buy anything.
And across the way, accessed by bus, sits the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel. I was too late to access their Dim Sum and Sushi menus but did get some green tea ice cream at 1:30 a.m. The hotel’s massive lobby is centered with giant flower arrangements, a modern temple design for a check-in area and a rambling breakfast area in the lobby where I tried Thai omelet, strange fruits, chocolate croissant and a piece of butter cake. What shocked me was that broccoli and cauliflower were part of the morning offerings along with green guava juice. But BBC and CNN (always better when you are outside the USA) gave no clues to how the NBA playoffs are going, nor who won the Preakness.........It’s hard to let go.
|Honeycomb for breakfast|
Returning to the airport again at 8 a.m. after a restless few hours and after a long walk to the gate, we departed for Kathmandu, a disturbing, sweltering city which, on our arrival, was locked down in a political strike. I don’t know what they are striking about, but this one has been going on for a few days (there was also a strike when I was here in 2008 en route to Everest’s base camp) and so there was no traffic but tourist buses (really a God send) and people had to walk to their destinations or stay locked in their homes. Nothing was open anyway. Commercialism was thwarted.
Hope we get the Tibet visa tomorrow morning at the China Embassy, if it’s open. Visas have been approved but most be stamped in the passports.
One learns quickly that one can not control destiny in Nepal, or make firm plans.
Kathmandu is the next blog.