This was the third (or perhaps fourth) in a series of travel mishaps involving E, that would lead to a very strange if somewhat anticlimactic finale (wait for it). Just a brief recap..on this trip, his previous gaffes had not been legion, but they had been significant.
-First, he arrived in HKG after the day we were supposed to meet, because he thought he had confirmed a JFK-HKG flight on Cathay Pacific, only to arrive at the airport and find he had not actually booked a flight at all, and his desired flight was now oversold. Whatever, write it off as a computer glitch.
-Second, despite me imploring him to book the only HKG-USM direct flight with PG, or to at least book a HKG-BKK-USM connection, he kept putting it off and putting it off, until finally there were no flights and he showed up on Koh Phangnan two days late after a 30+ hour trek via plane, train, bus and ferry.
-Third (arguably) he refused to book on either the flight I was on, or the flight N was on from USM-BKK and ended up on a third flight, arriving slightly later than even N’s ATR-72 flight and delaying our entire party. This one wasn’t so bad, but this refusal to book when it makes sense, was an ongoing issue.
This brings us to the present. The next stop on this odyssey was Phnom Penh in Cambodia, a city I had visited three years earlier and rather enjoyed. I was pleased when a very cheap 1-way fare popped up on Kayak.com for the BKK-PNH tag of the Air France CDG-BKK-PNH service. This meant I would be able to earn miles on one of my “home” airlines, and fly a widebody from BKK to PNH. I snapped my ticket up and encouraged E to do the same before fares went up. At some point, he told me he had purchased his ticket.
Fast forward. We arrive at BKK on the day of our flight. As I approach the door to enter the terminal, E says “I’ll meet you in there, I want to take some pictures.” He likes taking pictures, so whatever. I check in, get my boarding pass and go wait for the ridiculously long line to exit Thailand. 30 minutes goes by, no E, no word. I’m not about to get out of the queue and start all over again, so I exit Thailand and head to the gate. Finally I send him a bbm. It is never delivered meaning his phone is off. “Here we go again” I think to myself.
I’m not going to miss my flight due to his ridiculousness, so I head to the gate, and ask the gate agent if Mr. E has checked in yet, as we are traveling together. She informs me that no one with that name is on this flight…lovely.
I sit down by the gate and see the Air France crew wearing wacky sunglasses and hats. I get it…you had a night off in Bangkok and you guys got a little weird. That’s all well and good, but please don’t project to me and the other passengers that you’re likely all hungover as bastards. Not when we are entrusting you with our lives.
I noticed many of the other passengers had immigration forms for Cambodia, so I went back to the gate agent and grabbed the requisite forms. A woman from a French tour group was nice enough to loan me her glue stick to affix my photo to the application, and it was smooth sailing until boarding.
The seats on Air France’s Boeing 777’s are an absolute war crime. I cannot even imagine how painful it would be to endure 12 hours in Economy in one of these pieces of crap. I am not even remotely joking when I tell you that the Thai Airways 737-400 ancient economy seats that Thai sticks on routes under two hours are substantially more comfortable than these Air France torture chambers. I am sure they are new “enhanced” seats that reduce weight and save fuel at the expense of seat cushioning and the comfort of paying customers. Like I said, this was a 1-hour flight to Phnom Penh and I was uncomfortable, hats off to anyone who can endure Air France’s seats for 10+ hours…I’d rather walk to Asia.
Other than the crappy seats, the flight was completely uneventful, as most 1 hour flights are. Surprisingly we were given a snack box that was fairly ok. Since this was such a short hop, there were maybe 2-3 people combined in the Premium Voyager and Affaires cabins, and I was one of the first off the plane. With my documents in hand, I quickly made it downstairs to customs, paid my fee, laughed when the border guard asked for a bribe (really Cambodia, I thought we were past this) and shortly thereafter became the proud owner of a new Cambodian visa (this time stamped into the country by a Colonel as opposed to Capt. Mean Sam Ang who presided over my 2009 entry to Cambodia).
I negotiated with a tuk-tuk driver out in front of the terminal and got him to knock his rip-off price down to something resembling reasonable and we were off. I was shocked but how much Phnom Penh had changed in the three years since I had last been there. Paved roads everywhere, new tall buildings going up, huge hotels being developed on the river, they even have a goddamn KFC. I couldn’t help but feel that the city had lost it’s edge and more than a little of it’s soul, but you can’t begrudge people for progress I suppose.
A few hours after checking into the hotel, I got a bbm from E informing me that once again, he had not in fact booked a ticket and when he tried to purchase one at the Air France desk there was some sort of problem. His phone had then died, but he had purchased a Bangkok Airways ticket to Phnom Penh and would be arriving in two hours…more of a headache than a tuk-tuk ride over a potholed road.
Randomly I also took a snap of the Government of Bahrain’s Boeing 747SP on the tarmac at BKK, it’s an odd looking plane…