Thursday, 8 May 2008

Travel Journal #1 (2 May): AKL-BKK-CMB

Today I left for my first ever trip to Asia. First a long and what turned out to be not-so-painful flight from Auckland to Bangkok. A brand new Airbus from Thai Airways with a personal screen and remote control for each passenger which allowed me to watch three movies throughout the entire trip made it all mush less painful.

I had 90 minutes to kill in Bangkok which seemed plenty until I saw the size of the airport. The transit area is simply huge. It took me 30 minutes to walk from the departure gate to my boarding gate doing a lot of window shopping at the duty free shops. I figured since I was in Bangkok I might as well have some Thai food before my second flight.

Lots of restaurants, delis, and cafes to choose from, many of which serving Thai food. I settled for a nice-ish one close to my boarding gate so I wouldn't risk losing the flight. I ordered Pad Thai Goong and some Thai Iced Tea which is like iced tea but with coconut milk. Very yummy indeed. I need to remember to have some more once I'm in Bangkok next week. I had heard that sugar is a key ingredient in Thai dishes (even the savoury ones) but I was still quite amused to see a tiny bowl of sugar brought along with the traditional salt and pepper. The entire meal cost me 300 baht which is about NZ$12. Given that this was at the airport I figure it will cost me about half as much in the city. A similar meal at the Auckland airport wouldn't cost less than NZ$20.

You can certainly appreciate the fact that the Bangkok airport is the main hub for exploring southeast Asia. Bangkok is after all strategically located. And the airport is, I'm told the second largest in the world. While walking through the transit area I must have heard at least a dozen different languages and saw people of every ethnicity and nationality I could think of.

The flight to Sri Lanka was an endless three hours. But then it would be, since I had been on a plane for 13 hours before that. I was amused to see that they served curry for dinner, something I had never seen before on a plane. It just goes to prove how little I know about the world around me!

Brazilians apparently are very scarce in Sri Lanka. Even the immigration officer seemed amused to see me ("Oh, you are from Brazil?") Given that tourism isn't what it used to be around here I wouldn't be surprised if I was the only Brazilian in the entire country at the moment.

Sasanka was of course late to pick me up (I wasn't surprised by this as you wouldn't be either if you knew Sasanka well.) This gave room for taxi drivers and tour guides coming up to me every 30 seconds and asking whether they could arrange a hotel or a tour around the country I felt like going "It's past midnight! I don't want to go on a blimming tour!" Oh well. Everyone is a bit edgy after a long flight. They thought I was a poor lost whitey, which I was until Sasanka and his friend Gihanta showed up.

They took me to a very simple restaurant on the way to Colombo to get some food. My first Sri Lankan meal within one hour of being in the country, not bad! We had Kottu Rotti which apparently is a very traditional dish and a must have while in Sri Lanka. Well I can tick this baby right off my list! To drink we had tea with milk, very hot and very sweet, just as they drink it here. I insisted on eating with my fingers even though the waiter brought some forks (which they probably only did because I was there.) A meal and drinks for two (Sasanka didn't eat) came out at 320 rupees which is about NZ$4. And I thought the Pad Thai was cheap. After leaving the place Gihanta told me that as he was paying the bill he was told I was the first foreigner they ever had eating there.

The traffic on the way to Colombo was very chaotic which is saying a lot because it was close to 2 AM. I am afraid to think about what it will be like during the daytime.


Gypsy said...

Hahaha, the first foreigner of the restaurant! They should give you a medal or something. :D

A good start (with cheap meals!)! let me read the rest of your days now...

Fiona said...

I've got about 90 minutes to kill in Bangkok for refuelling - trying to figure out what to do with the time! :) eat, I guess :p