We had a fun and relaxing week In with Julia’s family before our trip. We got to spend lots of time with Daniel, Andrew, and Andrea who we don’t normally get to see! The weather was horrible when we got there (there was actually lots of really bad flooding and a *tornado warning* on Wednesday afternoon) but it was around sixty degrees and sunny for most of our trip there. Highlights include visiting several museums at Balboa Park, spending all day Saturday at the San Diego Zoo, renting bikes to ride around the city, and of course watching the Seahawks eke out a playoff victory!
Our day(s) of travel started when my alarm went off at 4am to wake us up at the house we stayed at in San Diego. After throwing on our clothes and eating a quick piece of toast for breakfast, we were out the door, driven by Julia’s parents. Our flight from San Diego to LAX left at 6:15am and was uneventful as we both struggled to get a few moments of sleep during the 25 minutes of flight time. Since we booked that flight separately from our actual flight to Bangkok, we had to exit the secure area, collect our baggage, and go back in through security.
Then came the only possible hitch of our journey – getting stopped by the airline for having a one-way ticket out of the country. The research I did online suggested that the airline would not allow us to travel outside of the country unless we had a return ticket (since apparently the airlines would be responsible for any potential visa violations). I wanted to wait until the last possible moment to book our return ticket, so that we could potentially cancel it during the federally mandated twenty-four hour free refund period. However, when I sat down with my laptop by the check-in desk, I couldn’t find any tickets home that were operated by a U.S. based airline. After a frustrating half hour of researching the refund policies of various foreign airlines, we decided to just try to check in and see if they had any issues with us. We still had over three hours before our flight had to leave, which would have been plenty of time to buy a ticket if needed (with time to spare in case they wanted to interrogate us!). We approached the ticket counter, gave them our passports and luggage … and got our boarding passes with no questions asked! Getting through security was also a breeze, so it appears that my concern was unfounded!
We got to our gate with plenty of time to spare – our flight to Tokyo didn’t leave until 11:15. However, maintenance issues with our plane caused some delays. With a two hour layover in Tokyo and our plane taking off two and a half hours late, it wasn’t looking great for us to make our connecting flight. The flight itself was about as good as an eleven hour flight could be. We flew in a Boeing 787 “Dreamliner”, which had lots of leg room, tons of free movies and tv shows, in-seat power on every seat, and very serviceable airline food. However, you can only be in relative comfort on any airplane for so long; towards the end of the flight, I was beginning to think “it wouldn’t be so bad if we had to spend a night in a Tokyo hotel instead of immediately getting on an eight hour flight”. Luckily, we didn’t have to worry about that! The airline filled our plane with extra gas and we made it with over an hour before our connecting flight to Bangkok.
Our flight to Bangkok was very easy by comparison. It took off at 4pm Bangkok time- 1am Pacific time – so Julia and I spent much of the flight asleep. Once we landed, we approached the last part of our trip that I had any anxiety about – immigration. I read many accounts online of people saying that immigration was a breeze even without a return ticket, without a visa, etc., but I was still just a little bit nervous about the possibility of them sending on a flight back out of Thailand after how long we had been traveling! But of course, there were no issues at all, and we passed through immigration without even a hint of trouble. After we picked up our luggage, we went to meet Pichai at our designated meeting spot. We had assumed that we would be staying at his house, but Pichai’s job as a travel agent offers him many perks, and he was able to set us up in a nice hotel for our two nights in Bangkok! We made the half hour drive to our hotel, threw our luggage on the floor, showered, and tried to sleep as much as we could. It was 2am local time by then (11am Pacific), but we had slept so little on our trip that we were ready for some more rest!
All in all, it took thirty-one hours of traveling to get from our rental house in San Diego to our hotel in Bangkok. But even before we got a chance to explore the city, we knew it would be well worth it.