June 13, 2006 - Tuesday
Pattaya Thailand to Rockford Illinois U.S.A.

OK - this is a travel "day". Lots of distance to cover. Several vehicles to be used. Here we go!

Noon van ride from Pattaya to Bangkok airport (Don Nuang) - 500 Baht ($13.33 US) - about 2.5 hours. The driver, me in front, a couple from Bombay India in back. I got to see how a wide vehicle navigates the roadways. The A/C was on full blast - trying to keep the van comfortable and as soon as we reached shade from the overhead tollway the A/C was notched down to half blow - and the temps in the van stayed the same. This driver makes the trip daily and has things down to a routine. He even pointed out a particular truck that was stuck on an off-ramp "Jersey barrier". He said that it'll be stuck there again in a couple days - the driver always seems to miss the exit, run late, and ride up on the barrier. When it slides to a halt the right side wheels are off the ground and that's it until a tow arrives.

I had the GPS with me but didn't pull it out to record this segment but when the overhead tollway disappeared I decided to pull it out to see how well his speedometer matched the GPS. The driver and the other couple found it to be of interest - mainly due to the fact that it had the major Bangkok roads visible on the screen (Thanks to Addrew loading them in back at the first Chiang Mai stop). The three of them spoke English well enough that we could get some points across. The couple from India were particularly interested and wanted to know more so I wrote the Garmin and Magellan website addresses on a contact card for them.

Up at the airport the driver delivered each of us to our respective airlines - the first of six legs of the trip is now done (van, airplane, airplane, airplane, bus, car). The next hop will be from Bangkok Thailand to Taipei Taiwan.

Customs, Immigration (I remembered to have 500 Baht ($13.30 US) for the exit fee), and Security process quickly and I have a couple spare hours at hand (it was nice - there was a HUGE line at check-in but they were in the "group" section and the counter for me had only one person in line - CHA-CHING!). I walked the terminal scouting things out. On the return pass I grabbed a snack, some water and found a spot to watch people. There was a currency exchange so I worked at exchanging out the little remaining Baht (most had been exchanged at a standard bank - better rates). The plane would be an Airbus 330 which was running at 99% capacity. I ended up in the last row but had a window spot - fine by me. Just as I sat down the guy next to me asked if I wouldn't mind switching with his wife who had an inside isle seat a couple rows up. I really wanted the window but figured they might like to be together - I switched.

The sunset that evening looked fantastic. I wish I kept the window seat. Photos would be appreciated. [note: Sunrise #2 happening now isn't that spectacular so I'm not bothering to break out the camera - I'm on an outside isle seat but could still get a shot or so. Hmmm - seems like we just started the decent. Broken or thin clouds and it's light enough that some of the city lights are hard to make out].

Flight time for #1 plane - 3.5 hours.

The transition at Taipei went smoothly enough and the wait for the second flight was only 30 minutes - short. The big jump was about to take place - flight time about 12 hours. The plane was packed. No luxury of having a full row available to lay down. I had a seat - windowish - near the rear of the plane. It's a bit odd, when taxiing, to have the plane take a "right turn" and the rear of the plane really feels the swing out to the left. I say "windowish" as I was the second or third row from the back of the plane - this is where the plane thins down and the standard seating width changes - slimming down. Instead of having seats aligned near the windows my row was aligned with some space between the seat and the window and some isle space at the other seat. This was nice as I had open floor space to stick stuff - my carry on bag or my feet. Any view out the window would have me leaning over to get closer to the window.

Land, familiar land, "I'm home" type of land. Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. About 6 pm - "70's and sunny". As I pushed the bags between terminals I noted that I wasn't getting drenched in sweat - bonus - things are dryer (if not certainly cooler) here.

American Airlines had "a new and improved" security procedure and the line was long and moved slowly. The guy behind kept complaining though it didn't make the line move any faster. Down in the terminal I had a leisurely hour to pass so I found something to eat - a Burger King. Not many of those where I was traveling so it was somewhat a novelty.

The employees would talk to customers in English but between themselves in Spanish. Dang it. English is the accepted language of the U.S. Get with the plan! I had NO issue ordering my food, in Taiwan or Thailand, by pointing to pictures or pointing to the food. I was visiting their country and had NO expectation of them to cater to my language. Should I travel to a different country (for whatever reason - a better job / life perhaps) I should think I would want to embrace the local language so that I could "fit in" and make the most of the "better life opportunity".

Folks in countries that are multi-language might find my comment on this a bit odd. The U.S.A. is currently (for the past several years) having an influx of Spanish speaking folks. We're having areas where civic signage is dual language and written government forms moving to dual language. English is the de-facto standard and the unity that comes from that helps the "melting pot" of the country work. We don't have multi-language signs and forms for the multitudes of other groups that have immigrated to the U.S.A. If ya can't talk to another person (it is like this) there is little opportunity for the unity in the pot.

[Edit: I wrote the above two paragraphs last evening - and posted the page to the website. This morning I contemplated their need to be included in the write-up and decided to remove them. I opened the web page editor, opened the page, highlighted the two paragraphs and clicked Delete. Just then, since I was listening to the radio, the announcer discussed a county that is now offering ballots / election materials in dual language. That tipped me in the other direction - it will stay and this note will be added. I can only assume the "second language" is Spanish. If we want to cater to non-English speaking languages we then should do it for all immigrant population languages - of which there are MANY. Imagine how thick those ballots will be - and the extra production costs. I'm all for education - "Learn English Here" - a more holistic solution.]

The plane from LAX to O`Scare is overbooked. I'm contemplating adding my name to the standby list. Not to happen though - I want to get this trek done. It's dark - 10:50 pm LAX local time (I think). Sunset #2 has just wrapped up. Sunrise #2 should be happening about the time we land. The flight was uneventful and smooth. In the darkness city lights would be visible here and there. Morning light was approaching near the time the plane started my final decent. An easy landing and taxi I would end up only one gate away from where I departed nearly seven weeks ago.

Typical O`Hare "wait for bags". I took it easy getting to the baggage claim, visited the washroom, rented a baggage cart (in all of the other airports the baggage carts were free - no here - two bucks), purchased a breakfast (or should it have been dinner? - the body is starting to get mixed up time wise), consumed breakfast, and wait a minute or two longer.

Bags on cart I made the move to the bus terminal - again I should have some wait before the first bus to Rockford (about 30 minutes). It's fully light out and the sun is climbing the sky. After the long trip I'm somewhat tired and that combined with the 12 hour time shift I feel like nodding off - but the daylight is prodding me to stay awake.

The fields are green with new growth - corn and soybeans. The diesel trucks don't spew thick black plumes of pollution. Air quality is nicer. About 1 hour 15 minutes for the ride to Rockford then a phone call home to kick off the final ride.

While sitting at the bus drop I spoke with a lady from Florida. She is visiting and was describing life at home - taking multi-day trips on their boat. She sought out a coffee shop so I started chatting with Terry? from the Chicago area. He was making a trip to Rockford and then would be vacationing to Niagra Falls and the Detroit area. The city bus was his next hop but we didn't see one stop and when Mom and Dad arrived with the car there was an empty seat. He accepted a ride offer and we drove him where he wanted to go. In comparison from the multi-leg, multi-hour trek I was now completing this additional routing was a pittance. I trust he would enjoy the Niagra Falls area.

Finally at home it was time for sleep. I awoke in the evening and spent about three days adjusting to Central Time (-6 GMT but now in Daylight Savings so it's -5 GMT). Bangkok / Thailand +7 GMT (no daylight savings). Taipei / Taiwan (+8 GMT).

The trip home started at the Pattaya hotel at Noon (Bangkok Thailand time) on 6/13 and ended about 8 PM on 6/14 Bangkok Thailand time. 32 hours of 'moving'. There were two sunsets and two sunrises.

Van, 2.5 hours
Plane 1, A330, 3.5 hours, sunset #1
Plane 2, B747, 12 hours, sunrise #1, nearing sunset #2
Plane 3, 3.5 hours, sunrise #2
Bus, 1.3 hours
Car, 0.3 hours

Google Earth images
I plotted a path for the travel.
Thailand to the left with Taiwan the next stop Taiwan to Los Angeles hop Los Angeles to Rockford / Chicago

Thailand "on top" and Rockford / Chicago on the bottom
pretty much on the "other side" I was
(though I didn't dip to the southern hemisphere)

Nearing Bangkok - riding under the tollway

A truck filled with barrels. Probably empty - but loaded and stacked high nonetheless

Airplane #1 - Bangkok Thailand to Taipei Taiwan

Strolling the halls at Taipei's airport. It's late night / early morning and the place is fairly empty.

The short sit down wait for plane #2 out of Taiwan.
This will be the "big hop" plane ride

Status / Flight Data screens en-route
-51 C = -59.8 F

Altitude: 37,001 Feet
Distance to LAX: 2270 miles
Distance from TPE: 4821 miles
Ground speed: 650 Miles / Hour
Tail wind: 85 Miles / Hour

On the trip the plane traveled mostly over the water. On the way TO Taiwan the plane arched up and scooted along the coastlines to the north.

Distance to Los Angeles: 345 Miles - Gett'n Close!
Distance traveled from Taipei: 6753 Miles

When we took off from Taipei, at night, I could see an orange glow inside of the engine.

Getting close to Los Angeles, California.

OK - a bit of a jump here. The far airplane is the third and last airplane of the trek. The background is Chicago. Sunrise #2 is underway.

Whoo Hoo. Mom and Dad picking me (and Terry) up at the Rockford bus drop (the Clock Tower).
Just a few more miles then done.

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