Early evening time out in Bangkok, November 2016 (and June 2017)

Visiting Bangkok in November, it’s cooler than the usual summer weather highs, definitely a weaker winter sun. It’s time to join the city folk for a bit of late afternoon time out in Benchasiri Park, a complete oasis off the sometimes manic Sukhumvit Road. Green, lush green, manicured and obviously much loved by all the people enjoying its restorative calm. Toddlers, weary looking executive types, teenagers skipping and using the outdoor gym equipment, a  cluster  of smartly uniformed  school children welded to their phones, a cat, squirrels chasing one another up palm trees, some swings, a lake, joggers. The smaller kids are all playing quietly, which only becomes obvious when one toddler has a tantrum.

Every city needs green space to let us escape, even if just for ten minutes. A calm prevails, people smile at one another in a way that just doesn’t happen in a mall, along a pavement, waiting for the BTS sky train etc. Those ten minutes in a nice green city probably reduce your city blood pressure too. 

And, lucky enough to have another holiday to Bangkok six months later, we fight our way to Benchasiri Park during the late morning. Fighting our way with flu – it has knocked us for six, and the walk there was a bit of an effort, even though we were staying only a few sois away. As an incentive, the sun is stronger and hotter than November.

We are approached by some teenage schoolboys pointing their phones in our directions, as if they are wanting us to be their selfie friends. No thank you to that. 

I sit it out on a park bench as walking around the lake is really too much for my flu raddled body. My mum doesn’t surrender though and goes off, looking at all the park sculptures on her way.

As we are about to leave, two teenage schoolgirls approach and ask whether I will answer some questions for their school project about visitors to their city. They are superpolite and their spoken English is top notch – they ask whether it is okay to record the interview. Yes, and I answer away; randomly, they have found someone who has visited their city frequently and knows a fair bit about the country. They have hit school project gold! Girls one, boys zero. 

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Going home

Most people look at the movie options, but Bag Lady is a map addict for her inflight entertainment, not that she actually finds flying entertaining. She is a nervous flyer – every bump and lump brings the possibility of a huge storm ahead that even a few gins can’t really assuage.

But, the maps provide detail of an unknown world out there, or 40,000 feet down there. Where exactly is Cox’s Bazaar and why is it important enough to be flagged shortly after leaving Bangkok, even though it looks as if it somewhere over the Bay of Bengal. Chittagong, fair enough, but Cox’s Bazaar? Yangon, or Rangoon as it should be called, is flagged, but no mention of Scott’s Bazaar – believe me when I say that it was just about the highlight of Rangoon on a wet Sunday a few months ago. If I was an airline mapper, I’d emphasise Scott’s Bazaar rather than Rangoon. Rangoon did not cut Bag Lady’s mustard.

And the Nicobar Islands, the Ten Degree Channel and the Andaman Sea all sound so exotic when compared to Hayling Island and the English Channel. But I expect Hayling Island may sound exotic if you live in the Nicobars. If you meet any Nicobarians, let’s not disillusion them about Hayling or Canvey Islands. Bag Lady wonders whether Port Blair was named for Tony?

And some music playing too. Rubbish headphones, but too rocky to dive into my bag to get out the Bose NR luxury listening. Barbra Streisand, Encore, very Streisand, and I am loving it, especially ‘At The Ballet’. Bag Lady has always loved ‘A Chorus Line’. Plus Regina Spektor, really pleased to listen to this one and I shall be buying as soon as I get home, if I get home, as it is bumpy and the imagination is running into overdrive. About 15 months ago, someone in Hua Hin was explaining the nuances of the 787 Dreamliner and how it is designed to overcome turbulence, how great it is: not this one. Bumpety bump. Seat belt signs are on, about fifteen minutes too late in my view. 2106 miles to go. Will this one match the storm between Hong Kong and Saigon 15 months ago, the one where overhead lockers flew open and lighter weight items like jackets and plastic carrier bags escaped, reminding Bag Lady of the scene from Speilberg’s Poltergeist where the nursery toys flew around?

Approaching India always gives Bag Lady a glow. It is a favourite place and is the next trip in three weeks time. But this bounce bounce approach over the Bay of Bengal is not giving the glow. At least there is still some gin, almost 7pm at transit destination and therefore a respectable time for gin. Reverse time travel going on here as we left Bangkok at 8pm. Plus a bit of very unacceptable sexism before takeoff – an Omani national, male, did not want to sit next between two western women, one of whom was yours truly. Seething with rage does not begin to explain it. But, I don’t actually want to sit next to such a mysogynistic pig at any point in my life so I was pleased that he swapped seats with a younger chap from Oman, who seems not to be offended by females. But he did say that he was sitting here because the other man did not want to sit next to women. Dark frigging ages. Bag Lady is quite a feisty old bird, but I suppose this moment was salutory in that it has reminded her that her independence and definition is not acceptable to some, or many. Pity the women in Oman, and elsewhere, who have to put up with this subordination. What must the other woman, much younger, have thought of this dark ages throwback passenger?

And we get to India, and the turbulence subsides. I bloody love India, even if I have never heard of Vishakhapatnam, just 56km away. Mother India. Mother India calms the path.

And Bag Lady wonders whether her two bunches of pink orchids and some tropical greenery, bought earlier at Gourmet Market, will survive the journey in their makeshift cardboard packaging, upcycled from a discarded cardboard box from Boots The Chemist at Exchange Tower?

And if the pot of raw Thai honey will have leaked? And how about the specially packaged green veggies and mushrooms from Gourmet Market at EM Quartier? The veggies and mushrooms really deserve to make the journey unscathed as the grocery manager treated their packaging as if the contents were the finest Scotch smoked salmon, rather than 55 bahts worth of veggies. About £1.30. I just hope that a branch of Tesco or Waitrose goes out of their way in return for a foreigner wanting some turnips or potatoes.

And I see Hubli on the map and wonder if it the same Hubli that we travelled through to reach Hampi almost two years ago? I think it must be. It was the place we didn’t get breakfast after an early start at stupid o’clock.

And later, the senior cabin officer, an Omani national, said it is not unusual for Omanis (male) not to want to sit next to western females. He most definitely did not condone it. I guess it is life and reality there. It makes me so grateful that I do not have to live in such a society. And I would never do so.

It’s time for a snooze before the race from one aircraft to another at Muscat, then another sleepier seven hours to Heathrow. Zzzzzz.