[Note: This entry ended up being sent from Chiang Mai, but it was written on the flight from New York to Hong Kong.]
Well, I send this update on my journey from Hong Kong, rather than Chiang Mai as was my intention at this particular time. Nonetheless, sometimes delay gets the best of us all, and my trip was delayed from the very beginning.
So far I am safe and sound, even though this trip has been a bit more filled with uncertainty than I would prefer. It would be best to explain it as clearly as I can. It did not take long for the trip to show the ominous threat of drama. Indeed, from the very beginning of my trip, when I checked into the JetBlue counter in Tampa, I knew that the flight schedules to the New York area were considerably delayed as a result of a brief period of bad weather earlier in the day. I was moderately concerned, but I hoped tht the delays were even -handed and sought not to alarm myself unnecessarily given that there was not that much that could be done about it. After finally leaving Tampa after 10PM and arriving at 1AM, I picked up my suitcase and hoofed it to Terminal 7, where Cathay Pacific has its flights. As it happened, I had just missed my flight, and the entire terminal was no closed for the night. At this moment, I realized that my journey was about to get considerably more dicey (perhaps providing only three hour layovers in both New York City and Hong Kong was scheduling it just a bit too ambitiously).
Meanwhile, since Terminal 7 was closed I spent the night with a group of friendly Colombians who were stranded in Kennedy Airport for the night themselves (two separate groups of them) because their airline, flying to Cali, had cancelled about half their flights, leaving a lot of of people stuck in the airport overnight trying to sleep or keep occupied however they might. A fellow nicknamed Uncle Arnie, a forty-something confirmed bachelor type with a love of spoiling his neices with expensive quincinera parties and partying himself, was a particularly intriguing person to talk to. As their airline opened at 3:30AM, I chatted with them until they were ready to do business and then I went off back to Terminal 7 when it opened at 4AM to do my business. Of course, Cathay Pacafic was the last of the airlines to open within the One World family—at 6:30AM. And though I was the first person in line when it finally did open (one good thing about bringing a lot of books with you while traveling is that one is able to keep one’s mind occupied so as not to get bored), it was typical that the customer service was unable to help me and sent me to another place—the ticket sales agent for Cathay Pacific, which was at the other entrance of the terminal. Once I got there I explained what had happened and got a “standby ticket” to Hong Kong and then Bangkok, and was told that if I had not heard my name by 9:20AM (the flight was to leave at 10AM), to go to the check-in area again. I headed downstairs to the Starbucks for a couple of butter crossiants and some iced tea, and hearing a mumbled version of my name at 9:15AM, got my boarding passes, checked in, and then had to go through security. By the time I got to my gate it was final boarding call, but I got in, though I was unable to send any news out before that time.
Once I got on the flight, of course, If found I was a pretty rare bird flying to Eastern parts (though there were some Indian-Americans going off to Saigon (as they called it) and making fun of the teary mascara and bad fake nails job on the model in the HSBC bank advertisement. I found their sleep-deprived conversation amusing and joined in. Once I was on the flight, I was between some a friendly Chinese woman scared of turbulence (who, like me, had never been to Hong Kong before we landed) and who was particularly interested in Hong Kong and Chinese romance movies and a Japanese man (also in his thirties or forties, it seemed) who liked to drink wine with his meals and watch action films. I listened to music (they had an awesome selection of cds to listen to, so I mixed in everything from Broken Bells to Justin Flowers to Fleetwood Mac) and watched Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows (Part One) and The King’s Speech, along with a little bit of napping and relaxing to Handel’s Messiah.
Now, as we approach Hong Kong, I am seeking to “get the message out” about my trip, with the realization I don’t know when I will arrive in Chiang Mai, and no way to sort it out until at least Hong Kong, if not Bangkok. Hopefully they have a Bangkok Airlines ticketing booth in the Hong Kong airport (which I have never been to before) and someone there who speaks English. It is impossible for travel to simply be something we can take for granted, but always throws its own curveballs to our well-laid plans. Update—the rest of the trip went smoothly, though I was so tired I slept through most of both flights (from Hong Kong to Bangkok and from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Overall—I was supposed to land at 1:20PM and I got there at just shy of 10PM. Considering the beginning of the trip, it didn’t work out badly at all, though it was exhausting.