Happy to be home, even to a grey winter's day in Istanbul
Home at last! After a gruelling two days, I finally managed to fly out of Thailand. I should have flown last Saturday but, as everyone now knows, the People's Alliance for Democracy had taken over the airports and all regular flights had ceased. I was among the lucky ones, booked on a carrier that had made a plan! Turkish Airlines telephoned me on Sunday morning to say that I had a seat on a plane on Monday and I was to report for check-in at the Radisson hotel, Bangkok at 07:00 on Monday morning. Margaret rushed me to the bus station to book a ticket for that day. Most buses were full but I found a seat on one departing at 15:00 hours. We arrived in Bangkok at 00:30 hours, and I took a taxi to the Hotel. I had phoned the hotel to book a room, but they didn't even take my name as the hotel was virtually empty of guests and I could have my pick! I finally got to bed a 01:30!
The next morning I got up at 06:00 and grabbed a quick breakfast before going down to the lobby where we were to check in. It was crowded with potential travellers, all queuing at makeshift check-in counters. I was very impressed by Turkish Air's organisation, we were checked in and given our boarding passes in the hotel and then loaded into luxurious air-conditioned buses and driven to U-Tapao military airport. Unfortunately, the chaos at the airport meant that we had to wait for hours before we were finally allowed onto the plane, which finally departed at 20:15!!!
Chaos at U-Tapao Airport! There was only one baggage scanner for all these people (plus the thousands still outside the building)!!
However, the Thais had done their best in impossible conditions; there was entertainment, free water and market stalls, giving a festive atmosphere, and there was an air of camaraderie among the passengers. I met some wonderful people; there was a delightful lady from Hungary and her Italian husband, a young Austrian couple, a charming young man from Switzerland and the lovely Ursula from Poland, who looked after me as if I was her elderly mother. We were amazed, when we finally boarded, to find we were all sitting together! Ursula, who is a Buddhist, said it was Karma!
I am so pleased this mess has come to an end; mainly for the sake of the Thai people and their economy; it has been devastated and will take a long time to recover.
A big thank-you to Turkish Airlines for getting me back to Istanbul, where the sun is shining and the weather amazingly mild...
...and thank you, Ursula, for looking after me so well