SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — All good things must come to an end, and today, we said good bye to Australasia and hello to southeast Asia.
Our journey had a few bumps. During check-in at the Sydney airport, Torsten had to give up two empty fuel containers that hadn’t been filled in months, and he just barely kept his expensive camping stove, which “could contain residual gases.”
There was another hiccup involving the umlauts on Torsten’s last name, and we were passed to another clerk, who had a perfect Australian accent but turned out to be a German with British and Italian passports. She was so friendly she even whispered that soon she and her boyfriend would be moving to Abu Dhabi, and she showed us Facebook photos of Mama Thresi, the Austrian hotel she worked at near Salzburg, and told us to “say hi from Laurie” if we ever go there.
Luckily, Laurie also was a lot more easygoing than our original clerk, whom we heard nailing another passenger for having carry-on bags that exceeded the 7kg limit (ours are way over and we constantly worry we will get caught). Suddenly, losing a couple fuel bottles didn’t seem so bad.
An eight-hour flight on low-cost Air Asia — no entertainment, nine seats across, extra for coffee or water — brought us to Kuala Lumpur, where our cabin crew reminded us that “Malaysia has severe punishments for trying to import drugs or illegal materials.” Definitely not in Kansas anymore!
We had two hours to burn in the airport, so we went hunting for food. A “tapas” place caught our eyes, but when we saw the tapas were onion rings and potato wedges, we took a pass. Thanks to a very friendly staffer there, we ended up at Nööödles for probably the cheapest airport meal we’ll ever have: US $13.27 for two Penang curries with shrimp and two juices.
On our way through a security checkpoint, Torsten noticed an ingenious way to simplify the process: A slanted roller line that brings used bins back to people waiting to put their stuff through the X-ray machine. Why can’t the U.S. do that?
This leg of the trip was marked by a first: We left Australia with no money left over, as we spent our last $5.80 on a chocolate-raspberry muffin at the airport.
Our two-hour flight to Bangkok was like cattle transport; even Beth’s knees were touching the seat in front. But everything went smoothly in Bangkok’s small Don Muang airport. We picked up our bags, got 7,000 baht from the ATM and went to the taxi desk, where cabbies line up to meet you, a clerk passes them paperwork and they accompany you to their cab.
Communicating with our driver went less smoothly. His English wasn’t good, but it was better than our Thai, and he seemed to ask us about using “two roads, is faster,” which was OK with us. What he actually meant was “toll road,” which also was fine with us, except we only had a 1,000 bhat bill to pay for the 50 bhat fee.
So it went back and forth, all while driving at 80km/h toward a destination whose location he didn’t seem to grasp. We’ve got ourselves an adventure!
Our B&B is tiny and on an alley, and we knew it would be hard to find. Though we showed him a website map, and he called the B&B for directions, we ended up directing him from Google maps — straight, left, right, U turn (yes, he knew that English phrase). By the time we got there, we’d been traveling for 15 hours.
Outside the front door of the B&B, a chalkboard read, “Welcome, Beth & Torsten.” The shy young woman who let us in brought us a delicious lemongrass drink, taught us how to say thank you in Thai (kob kun, ka/krub) and showed us to a large, beautiful bamboo-floored room across from a garden fountain.
So far, so good. Tomorrow, we’ll see Bangkok.