It was two days after our wedding that we had our bags packed and beginning our long trip to our honeymoon in Thailand. This would be my (Kyle’s) first time in Asia. For years, I had heard Lisa’s stories of living abroad in China and Thailand, and I was excited to see firsthand what had been such a large part of Lisa’s life.
It is quite the experience traveling from Atlanta to Bangkok. This was my first flight over eleven hours, and my first flight to a completely foreign place. I had been to Europe, which at the time seemed somewhat exotic and culturally eye opening. Europe is amazing, and still one of our favorite places. This was different.
It began as we boarded and began the initial leg of our redeye flight to Seoul, South Korea. We were among only a few American passengers, and the flight began with what may be the greatest safety video of all time. The video featured a super-group K-Pop band. Picture yourself in our shoes as you hit play on this cinematic masterpiece. We were just beginning the runway taxi in Atlanta when this video really hit home that we were starting our trek to somewhere different. Somewhere you hear stories about. Somewhere you watch your favorite food travel show host gorge themselves on street food while watching in envy and wanderlust. This video was the perfect hit-them-over-the-head introduction to our Asian trip:
The first leg of our trip was around 14 hours, from Atlanta to Seoul. Korean Air did not operate at the standard that we were accustomed to with travel to Europe. There was nothing unforgivable, but service is just not at the same level. Rather than the once-every-hour round of drinks and snacks offered on transatlantic flights, we were offered water once or twice outside of meal service. This was a long flight, and that (free) glass of wine or two from our latest trip to Italy would have been a nice way to celebrate the excitement. That being said, the flight was uneventful, other than the constant flatulence that permeated the air around us for the entirety of the flight. Whatever, we were on our way to Thailand!
We landed in Seoul in what must have been the middle of the night. We were exhausted, but excited. Although only an airport, this was my first time in Asia, and this was the first experience. Our first order of business was getting something to eat that did not remind of the aforementioned flatulence. Lisa scouted and returned with something mostly likely common, but something I had never tried: a bean-filled bun. It was ok, but mostly flamed our excitement that we were here. Although this was a layover with a remaining 6 hours of travel, we were on the other side of the globe in a completely foreign land. Did I mention that we were exhausted?
There was one thing to note from the first flight that we found interesting, if not annoying. I have always really liked maps. I am one of those people that opens the flight tracker every hour or so and plots along on the path, where we’re passing over and where the general trajectory is going. The flight from Atlanta to Seoul passes over Canada, through Alaska, and down over China. There is one diversion though that seems to add unneeded flight time. The path has an additional arch around North Korea. The idea that we were detouring around a rouge country you only hear about in the news only added to the feeling that this was different than a normal trip down to Mexico or over to Europe.
The next leg of our trip would take us from Seoul to Bangkok. Although we were both in a state of semi-unconsciousness from sleep deprivation, knowing that we were only six hours away from our time in Thailand was exhilarating.
It was late when we finally arrived in Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok’s larger and international airport. We had finally arrived. I thought I knew something about long flights before. I knew nothing.
Flying into Bangkok in the direction we approached is not the most exciting event. I was half expecting a Laguardia-like approach. A view of a massive metropolitan area with a view of skyscrapers and grids of lights. We approached from the southern end, along the Bay of Bangkok. There wasn’t much to see, but it was exciting nonetheless.
We planned our trip with portability in mind, since we would be hopping around from location to location around the country. So, we did what most people do when traveling to Southeast Asia: We packed entirely in backpacks. This had it’s advantages and disadvantages, but it was nice to not wait around for baggage after 24+ hours of travel.
Suvarnabhumi Airport is not particularly close to Bangkok’s city center. The taxi ride was 20-30 minutes by highway, even at the time we arrived (after 11pm local time). After 24 hours of travel, this was nothing though. Once we had checked in and gotten acquainted with our room, the first order of business was getting some real food. What better place to be at the end of a day of subpar airplane food than one of the street food capitals of the World? The only caveat? It was late, on a weekday. Most street markets had been closed for hours. After consulting with the hotel staff, we decided to catch a taxi to the closest area still alive: Nana Plaza. The area is known for being a bit seedy, but we were ready to hit the streets and see the city.
Our food was good, but what really grabbed my attention was dessert: mango sticky rice. In almost forty years, I had somehow never had this signature Thai dish. This became our go-to sweet dish, and has remained so to this day. Creamy mango, sticky glutinous rice, topped with a sweet coconut sauce. What’s not to love?
It was late… really late. After returning to the hotel, we immediately crashed. Even with all of the excitement of traveling somewhere completely new. Somewhere completely foreign, it was a long trip. It had been close to 30 hours since we had left Atlanta. Probably over 40 since we had last slept. I don’t know how business travelers do it, but we weren’t business travelers. We were at the start of our much anticipated and planned honeymoon to the land of smiles.