I love it when a plan comes together…in the aftermath of the Full Moon Party, the day of our departure had finally come around. N’s tour was up. He was a short timer and he was scheduled to catch the boat back to Koh Samui, a flight to Bangkok and then to rotate back to the world via Dubai. E and I were on a ferry the next day. We were going to play it by ear on Koh Samui and maybe stay there for a night before shipping off for Bangkok.
We tried to talk N into ditching work, staying an extra day and skipping his flight back to America, but it was to no avail. He had gone so far as to call United, but as this was during the week right after the United/Continental merger, it was next to impossible to get an agent on the phone, and even more difficult to find one who had the slightest idea how to do their job.
E and I bid adieu to N as we sat with our feet in the sand, drinking beers and staring out at the blue green waters separating Koh Phangan from Koh Samui.
Perhaps 45 minutes had passed since N left us. We were having a conversation about where to stay in Bangkok, totally focused on our beers and the plans being made, when from the left of my periphery I saw a bag fall and heard it hit the sand with a thud. I wheeled around to my left to see N standing behind our beach chairs with a smile on his face.
“Fuck it. I’m staying, let’s have a crazy night in Bangkok.”
We immediately went to our laptops and began bookings flights. Due to the proximity to the Full Moon Party, just about everything was sold out. We managed to book tickets on three different Bangkok Airways flights USM-BKK, all departing at the same time.
I’m not sure how that business model works. Three flights going to the same place, from the same place all departing at exactly the same time…N and E were on two separate ATR-72’s in Economy (E who is a bad flyer would later confess that he thought he was going to die for the duration of the night flight from the island airport of USM to BKK on the loud ATR turboprop) and I was on an A319 in Business. As my flight was operated by a jet aircraft, my arrival in BKK would be about 15 minutes before the others.
We got an afternoon ferry to Koh Samui, but were left with about four hours before we had to be at the airport. We haggled a cabbie down to a reasonable rate in THB and had him drop us at a bar across the street from the airport. It was a strange Thai reggae bar with a bar shaped like a wooden ship. We started animatedly planning our night in Bangkok, and were rather drunk by the time we made for the airport.
Since I was flying business and the coach check-in line was miles long, I slid N and E along with me to the desk under the auspices of seeing if I could get all three of us together on the same flight. I knew that all three of us has snagged the last seat available on our respective flights, but it was a good way to slide everyone past the line.
I thought we had cut our arrival time rather thin, and when we got near the gates N and E’s flights were already boarding, while mine was not yet ready. I stopped into the PG lounge at USM which is actually surprisingly nice with a very large array of food and drinks, and watched a bit of Back to The Future III which was showing on the TV (what a random choice).
When my flight was ready, they called Business passengers first, and there was a separate trolley bus to drive us out to the plane for pre-boarding before the rest of the passengers (what is this Lufthansa!?).
Up the airstairs on onto our A319. The cabin was laid out in a 2-2 configuration and the seats were shockingly nice. Better than most U.S. flag carriers offer on their short-haul domestic first class (keep in mind “short haul” now often includes flights from NYC to LA). The cabin crew were very professional, I had water as a pre-departure beverage and settled into the seat to look over my printed menu (seriously!?) as the rest of the aircraft boarded.
As I mentioned, I was pretty drunk before boarding this flight as we’d spent the better part of four hours posted up at the bar before getting on the plane. It was all by design though, as we would be
landing close to midnight in Bangkok, and we only had one night together to really party. In this vein, i ordered a Singha and continued drinking along with the meal service of canapes, dessert and fresh fruit.
Once we touched down, there was (for once) no customs line to clear, as this was a domestic flight. Since I knew my friends would be arriving 15-20 minutes after me, I decided to high-tail it to the hotel and get a shower and perhaps a beer down before they arrived, so we would be ready to go ASAP.
With relative ease I found a driver willing to accept the price I offered him to Sukhumvit Soi 11 and we were on our way.
I had pre-booked the A-Loft (More about this in the next post), and quickly had my room key and was into the room for a shower. I had just cracked an Asahi from the mini-bar when I heard a banging on the door and let N in. He was the one who first informed me that E was on a DIFFERENT ATR flight and he hadn’t been able to find him at BKK. N took a quick shower, grabbed a beer and we started with the angry text msg’s to E, telling him to hurry up so we could get going.
When we were just about ready to give up on him, he made it to the hotel. We handed him a beer, told him there was no time for him to shower and made for the nightclub BED which is conveniently across the street from the A-Loft (and A-Loft guests receive free admission).
From there the night spiraled downwards quickly. We made it back after sunrise, something like 6:45am, and N had set his alarm for 7:05am so that he could catch a cab to BKK to make his flight to PEK and then his connection onwards to America. When he asked me what time it was, we all had a good laugh at his misfortune.
I woke up mid-afternoon to find an e-mail N had sent me from the lounge in PEK with some pictures from the night before (not appropriate for public consumption) and most hilariously a picture of our smiling taxi driver who we had named Mr. Chow. This guy drove us around all night after BED and eventually back to the hotel, then waited outside by his cab for N. So when N trudged out of the lobby hating life, he was greeted by a smiling Mr. Chow, ready to whisk him off to BKK. It was a night for the books, and I think N will agree it was worth burning a vacation day and splashing some United miles around.