Ollie’s Big Adventure (or, How to Bring a Thai Dog to the United States)

People, myself included, seem to waver somewhere between thinking I was either totally justified or completely crazy to bring little Ollie Pup (official name: Oliver Ollie Pup Oxen Free Goat Fox) with me on the big trip from Thailand to the United States. Looking back, it actually wasn’t that difficult of an affair at all, but it did require a bit of stressful planning on account of the limited and spotty information available out there in English. So I’ve decided it’s pretty much my responsibility to document my own experience to answer all the questions people might have about the process, because believe me, it was totally worth it. Ollie Ollie Ollie!

There were a few sites that I did find helpful. First and foremost there was this one, appropriately titled, “How to Bring a Thai Dog to America, the Story of Dino.” Our stories actually sounded quite similar, and I was able to even contact the author via email to quell certain concerns about the well-being of the dog during transit and layover handling and such. (His most comforting bit of input: “First of all, Thai dogs are extremely tough.  There is no possible way that an 18 hour or even 36 hour flight will harm a Thai dog that’s in a safe cage with food and water.” Turned out to be true!) There’s also good (and still accurate, despite his story taking place a good 6 years ago) contact information for both the Airport Quarantine Station at Suvarnabhumi Airport and for Shamu Shamu Pet Store in Bangkok.

Then there was this site (“Pet Cargo Travel” by pettravel.com) that outlines the specifics of the crate requirements and has other helpful tidbits. Some of them I found to be excessive or untrue, at least for Qatar Airways, such as the need to paste “LIVE ANIMAL” stickers on the crate. Seatmaestro.com has airline-specific information with the different (or often not-so-different) pet policies for each. Of course, speaking to your airline directly and finding out their specifics ends up being necessary as well. I ended up having experience with both Aerosvit Ukrainian Airways and Qatar Airways in this regard, as I had to change my flight. Though Aerosvit doesn’t have the most glowing reviews, their tickets are quite cheap and I favored a layover in Kiev to one in Doha for temperature reasons (despite the reassurance that my dog was a tough one). In both cases, the total trip would have ended up being 23 hours–the shortest I could find anywhere, and no, the dogs are not let out of the crates for the layovers (the doors are cable-tied shut).

I was able to be in contact with representatives from Aerosvit via email (info@aerosvit.com) and was impressed by quick and knowledgable replies (though I’m not thrilled about how withholding they’re being with the refund I was told I could have if I provided the necessary medical documents). Qatar I had to deal with by phone: their numbers can be found here. For Aerosvit it would have cost $250 for him to fly; with Qatar it ended up being $200 (6000 baht paid in cash at the counter… I want to say there may have been an extra 500 baht service charge as well).

The crate. I always tell people that, in the end, it was the getting of the crate that was the most difficult part. Airlines require very specific crates and in a small town like Thung Song they’re just plainly impossible to find in a shop. I considered checking out the offerings in Nakhon Si Thammarat, but ended up deciding it would be easier to order one online. I went to Alibaba.com to find a provider and was successful, though you may recall I was a bit unhappy that circumstances led me to purchase a crate that was so entirely too small for Ollie it was nearly laughable, except for the $70 I lost on account of it not being worth it to send back. Still, I can’t overlook my own hand in the mishap, and was otherwise happy with my experience with the company. Click here for details of the crate, and just be sure to measure the dimensions you’re given against the actual size of your dog. (The first one I bought was the FC-1003; the better one was the FC-1004. Also, in Bangkok it is possible to find the appropriate crates in shops, such as Shamu Shamu, but I think it ends up being cheaper to order, provided you get it right on the first shot.)

this one’s juuuuust right!

wary of it at first…

but it grew on him! snug as a bug.

The train.  Though I searched the forums on Thaivisa.com and such, I found it difficult to determine whether he’d be allowed on a train, how much it would cost, and… how exactly it would work. It ended up being very, very easy (and inexpensive!). After buying our own tickets, we were directed to the Cargo office of the Thung Song train station. We gave him Ollie’s information (size, weight, etc) and our train details and he issued us a ticket for a whopping 90 baht ($3). During the travels he had to stay in the cargo area of the train, in his crate. We were allowed to visit him whenever we liked and the train staff were all really nice. They thought he was so cool, and said he was quiet and well-behaved. They also gave me coffee and mused about him going to America. “He’s going on an airplane?!” “Yes! In three days.” “Wow. I’ve never been on an airplane. I always take the train.” As I mentioned in my previous post, it was a bit of an ordeal to find a taxi to take us from the train station to the airport at a price we considered reasonable, but we finally succeeded (I think he agreed to 500 baht, but we ended up keeping him around for multiple legs of the journey and it ended up being more– 1200 for train station to quarantine to kennel to Khao San Road, including considerable wait times at the quarantine and the kennel. Not bad, really.). It’s worth putting your driver on the phone with the people at the quarantine office so he knows where to take you, because it’s in a different part of the airport from the terminals. Quarantine office information (as found on the “How to Bring a Thai Dog to America” article listed above):
Suvarnabhumi Airport
Animal Quarantine Office.
Free Zone Area, CE-1 Building, 1st Floor
Phone 02-1340731, Fax 02-1340732

In the quarantine office. I checked here to determine what vaccinations were needed to allow Ollie entry to America (note: there’s a photo of an adorable puppy you might be interested in seeing on that site as well). I was surprised (though pleased) to find that the only real requirement is a rabies vaccine administered at least 30 days before the departure. No microchip, no further quarantine time after entering the country (as long as there’s no signs of communicable disease or something like that)… really almost unbelievably easy. The only kind of hangup is the trip to the airport quarantine that’s (allegedly) required exactly three days before the flight date. I say ‘allegedly’ because though I had my dear friend Vallapa call the office in advance to find out and she was very unequivocal in her relaying of their terms– no more and no fewer than three days before departure– I didn’t see anything on the actual documents that specified this, and as a result of the, you know, corpse on the plane I ended up flying four days after the check-up and nothing was mentioned. Still, better safe than sorry: to the best of my knowledge you need to be there three days before.

The check-up itself was almost unsettlingly easy (though for some reason took an hour-and-a-half, mostly idly waiting and talking to the Dutch/Swedish couple who were brining the dog they found on Koh Tao back to Holland. See! It would seem this happens often). I filled out a form with all pertinent information and they took a picture of him with a webcam. Then despite filling out the form with all pertinent information, I had to answer a series of questions from the vet, including, “What sex is your dog?” Which I found to be a bit self-explanatory. Then he filled out his own form with all kinds of more… technical information, like “heart rate” and “hydration level,” even though I’m quite sure the vet never laid a hand on the pup. Then we waited some more, paid 50 baht, and were given all the papers we needed– a certificate of good health and an export license.

Then we had to kennel him for three days because we didn’t want to have to find a place that accepted dogs (though I believe the Dutch/Swedish couple said they were staying happily at the Ibis Riverside hotel with theirs). The quarantine office was able to recommend a nearby place to us that cost 200 baht ($6) a day, so we went with that. On the night that I was supposed to leave we took a 150 baht shuttle from Khao San Road to the airport, and then I was able to get a driver to take me to and from the kennel for 350 baht. It started raining like crazy and the streets on the way there were flooded. Not really relevant but here are two pictures of it. The kennel closed at 8:30 so we were set to wait in the airport for four hours with the dog! Yayyyyy… (in the style of Archer) but he was actually really good. This involved eating, sitting, and listening to screaming girls in waves because K-Pop giants Super Junior were in the airport or something.

(And you thought “Gangnam Style” was good.)

Then we went to check in and there was the whole, you know, corpse on the plane thing.

Important note: dogs and human remains cannot occupy the same cargo hold of a plane. For temperature reasons. And the human remains will win, even if you’ve done everything right.

puppy with super junior fans

on the way to the hotel

So they put us in the Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel, which was nice. So nice, in fact, that Ollie wasn’t allowed in our room and got to hang out with the security guys. They didn’t seem to mind.

‘just helping keep the hotel safe guys!’

with his office mate

But finally it was time to finally go, and he had to say goodbye to Daddy. 😦

‘i love you dad! i miss you!’

And though he’d been soooo good the whole time, when it was finally time to get checked in he’d had about enough. Also, though I was sure I’d read somewhere that food must be attached to the outside of the crate for employees to use during the layover, they made me put the food inside the crate with him, which left even less space… poor guy. 😦

‘i do not like this anymore guys.’ (too bad pup, you got over 23 hours left…)

locked in there

The layover. During my layover in Doha I found myself getting very worried. Will he get left on the hot tarmac somewhere for two hours? Is he being fed and watered? Are they being nice to him? And I made myself busy trying to find someone who knew anything about the cargo area, specifically if passengers were allowed there, specifically if they had a dog there who they were really eager to see. Finally I found someone who did, and the answer was ‘no,’ but he assured me my dog would be taken very good care of. And when I finally got him, this sticker was on his crate so that would seem to be the case.

In DC. I expected to have to at least go to a quarantine office to pick him up, but instead was told he’d be wheeled right out to me. And he was! I can’t even describe how happy and relieved I was to look into his little face, alive and well, no worse for the wear in spite of his hours in the crate. (To answer the question I know you’re all asking, he’d peed just a little in there. That’s it.)

(Of course, then the next biggest challenge was getting Moose to fall for him… which was a work in progress, but I hear they’ve come a long way.)

bffs

So that’s the not-very-brief (do you know me?) story of how to bring a dog to America. Feel free to contact me if you find yourself in similar straits and are unclear on anything.

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Last Trek to Bangkok (for a while…)

The flight out of Thailand I’d originally booked was for September 27– three days before my visa expired. On account of bringing the mangy pup along with me (the process for this will get its own post, also jokes about my disparaging tone, I love that little pup  and miss him like crazy right now!), I had to be in Bangkok three days before my flight to get him checked out at airport quarantine. So we were alllll set to leave on the night of Sunday, the 23rd and… then that itty bitty accident happened and we postponed by a week. Meaning I was going to end up overstaying my visa by four days, at 500 baht (nearly $20) a day, but no matter. Priorities!

So instead, the evening of the 30th Wayne and I were hopping our train (in quite a frenzy, I might add) with help from lots of friends and neighbors to figure out which train to get on and how to get there (who knew Thung Song had two platforms?) and how to get Ollie situated and then… before we knew it we were in Bangkok. First order of business was to get Ollie in and out of quarantine and kenneled (and again, I’ll do a more detailed post on this later). We found one cab driver who would help us run all our errands; a very nice man with an interesting name.

(and his last name actually means ‘nice’)

Mister Bandit did the whole circuit (including the hour+ long wait at quarantine and another long wait at the kennel) for 1200 baht, $40, which I don’t suppose is too bad a deal.

First order of business on Khao San Road, as always, was lunch at Ethos. This involved a veggie burger, a tempeh burger, and one of the loveliest pots of chai tea I ever did see.

It started raining so we ended up booking a room in the very inexpensive guesthouse next door. Wayne napped and I worked on my accident essay, and then I think we walked around Khao San a bit. Our plans for the evening involved grabbing a pizza (also very standard travel practice for us) and then catching The Dark Knight Rises— on Imax at the Siam Paragon shopping center. It was a really cool movie to watch on Imax but plot-wise I must admit I wasn’t blown away. I’ve accepted that a more recent viewing of Batman Begins might have improved my viewing experience (I was all, “League of what?”) but in any case we had fun.

how could we have turned down such clearly authentic mexican food?! there’s a dancing, guitar-playing cactus and everything.

ran into this guy at siam paragon

siam paragon

The next day we– surprise!– walked around Khao San. In fact, the next few days were pretty much a blur of walking around Khao San, shopping on Khao San, getting massages on Khao San, eating sushi on Khao San, and making one hectic trip to a pet store to get Ollie some special dishes that clipped to the door of his kennel.

at taketei sushi, a place that didn’t get the greatest reviews but that we enjoyed considerably. (bonus! lady-in-wineglass)

sated

last reggae bar stop-in, last leo beer!

walking around on the last day, saw a little hedgehog in a bucket on the street.

So then Wednesday night rolled around, and it was time to head back to the airport. Though my flight wasn’t until 2:40 on Thursday morning, Ollie’s kennel closed at 8:30 pm so we just had to accept we’d be spending a good few hours in the airport that night. It’s worth mentioning that people from Qatar Airways knew that we were in the airport, and that the dog was with us. So it was a bit of a shock and a bit disappointment to be approached as soon as we entered the check-in line, at midnight, and told, “Oh… you are taking your dog?”
“Yes, and I’ve spoken with representatives in your Bangkok office numerous times over the past week. I have all his paperwork here.”
“Yes, well, there is a problem. We didn’t know but… there are human remains on this plane and… dog and human remains cannot fly together. Do you have to fly today?”
“Well, yes… I’m already overstaying my visa…”

Well, as many of you already know, human remains take precedence over dogs and I did not, in fact, fly that day. I had to work a little harder than I think I should have had to to get my hotel comped that evening (initially they were essentially telling me to sort myself out and keep my receipts and then maybe I’d be covered… I finally had to be like, “No. What I want is for you to find a hotel where my boyfriend and I can sleep tonight, and where my dog can stay tonight, because this is your mistake, not mine– well, I mean, not specifically yours, but… you know, your company’s– and because it’s midnight and I’ve been here four hours already and am tired, and then I want to be put on the next available flight to Washington because I haven’t been home in a year and a half.” “…okay. Let me see what I can do.”), but they ended up setting us up in the airport hotel (heralded by the airport shuttle as the “Fifth Best Airport Hotel in the World!”) and gave Ollie a nice little spot in the security office and let me eat free from the buffet the whole next day so. In the end not a big deal I guess. Wayne and I got one more lazy day together.

view from our window

ooooooh

ahhhhh

final family pic. in retrospect we probably should have chosen a different photographer

As it turned out it was Wayne leaving me, as he had to depart from the hotel to catch a train before it was finally time for me to really check-in. The airport experience wasn’t that fantastic… Ollie, who’d been just so good the whole trip, was finally getting freaked out by the whole experience and started barking and growling like crazy as he was being checked in, the stupid security people took my brand new thing of body butter Wayne’s mom gave me for my birthday (total First World Problem, I know, but it was an emotional time…), and I got charged in full for my visa overstay, including the extra day that was in no way my fault and which Qatar Airways also claimed was not their responsibility. But hey, water under the bridge at this point I suppose.

big ol’ ticket from the overstay office

And thus ended my time in Thailand! Shed a few tears as the plane was taking off for sure and still don’t think I’ve fully processed that that chapter has closed, but I know endings just make way for new beginnings and I’m excited for the next adventure (and have definitely enjoyed my time at home so far, reconnecting with old friends and family).

Getting To and Around Koh Tao

You may have noticed that one little Ray of Sunshine from the Calonder clan has been conspicuously absent from the Family Vacation posts thus far. Yes, dear little Nate-y was all tied up flying remote controlled airplanes for his summer internship and was only able to secure a week of leave, but in Blog-time the first week of the trip has elapsed and it’s high time Nate made his appearance!

Of course, there is the whole problem with the trains in Thailand always being late. Not necessarily leaving late (learned almost the hard way as we had to run to our train out of Chiang Mai as it made to roll out of the station promptly at 5 o’clock), but definitely arriving an hour or two behind schedule. Which was almost problematic because we should have arrived in Bangkok just in time for a cab to whisk us off to the airport so we could give Nate a heartfelt welcome at the gate. And instead we were still about an hour outside of Bangkok at the time Nate’s plane was landing.

Luckily we had a certain “Wayne Dog” on our side, who was able to page Nate at the airport, update him as to our situation, and give him instructions on getting a cab to the train station. (Of course, given our family history of pranks, Nate later told us he was sure we were all hiding from him and having a laugh as he tried not to look concerned while making his way through the Arrivals section.) So the heartfelt welcome instead happened in between platforms at Bangkok’s Hualamphong Station. And then we waited four more hours to get on the train to Chumphon.

bangkok’s hualamphong station, as seen from the café where mom and i grabbed a cappuccino during another hours-long wait. it’s no exaggeration to say we spent more time waiting in the train station in bangkok than we spent doing ANYthing else

as it should be

This train ride proved to be a bit of a different experience, since we only were traveling by day and therefore opted for a 2nd-class seat option. It was hot and the train did leave at least an hour late (though we boarded on time), and then took another hour just to get outside of Bangkok, but once we were on the open road (figuratively speaking) it was smooth sailing (also figuratively speaking…). Before long we were all in the dining car sharing some Leos, having a bite, and watching the scenery (and some very random monkeys, which instantly put Mom’s trip into the ‘Worth It’ category) go by.

As night fell Ryan saw fit to introduce me to Archer (an introduction for which I’m very grateful!), and after about three false alarms from the nice Thai man whose seat I jacked in order to watch TV with Ryan, we were finally in Chumphon.

And this part should have been easy, right? Just a month previous I’d taken a train to Chumphon, then (half-dazed and at the complete mercy of Wayne’s coordinating, admittedly) found myself on the back of a motorbike that took us to the pier where we got our night boat to Koh Tao, right? A night boat that, while lacking in the nicest of linens, seemed completely legitimate and was full of proper bunk beds and whatnot, right? But somewhere, somehow, things went terribly wrong…

haha, i think ryan’s expression says it all.

We were herded into a songtao and the price quoted ended up being a bit different than I remembered; I decided this must be inflation-related and gave it no more thought. And then we pulled into an unfamiliar pier and I started having my doubts. Next thing we knew we were stepping onto a much smaller boat than I remembered, and stepping around belongings and boxes that were obviously being shipped… a bicycle, a huge crate of coconuts, and lots of backpacks. The whole time I was still trying to convince (read: delude) myself that upstairs there would still be the bunk beds I was expecting…

staying positive…

We followed the people ahead of us up a ladder into what definitely seemed like the hold of a human trafficking endeavor (perhaps my naïveté– and tendency to exaggerate– is showing… I don’t suppose victims of human trafficking are treated even to mats and pillows on the floor, and I suspect there would have been more chains involved, but at the time these seemed like minor details). We clearly weren’t the only ones surprised by walking into a room chock-full of inch-thick, foot-and-a-half-wide mats on the floor, based on the looks on the faces of those around us. One girl mused, as our heads poked through the ladder opening, “Bet you didn’t realize you were coming to a pajama party!”

I was feeling kind of bad for apparently not doing the proper research to make sure my 50-year-old parents didn’t end up sleeping on a floor (for more than 2 nights of the vacation anyway, as they already had done so twice during our Chiang Mai trek!); called Wayne up to see if he knew the name of the pier we’d gone from before; asked my companions if they wanted to attempt to return our tickets and get on the other boat. But they were real champs! They grinned and bore it (wow that sounds better in the present tense…); Mom curled right up in a little ball and, perhaps due to the swaying of the boat, had the best night’s sleep of the vacation so far; the boys and I played Hearts until 1 am, and then I too fell into a nice deep sleep. In fact, we all enjoyed the experience so much, we practically replicated it on our exit trip from Koh Tao as well! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

the pajama party.

Of course, the silver lining to the whole experience was that in the morning we’d be on Koh Tao! I’ve issued a lot of discourse concerning Koh Tao over the past two years, so I think I’ll leave most of my Koh Tao-related commentary to photo captions. There’s a dive-related post to come (let’s just say we’ve got a few more certified divers in the family!), and I guess maybe it goes without saying at this point that we had another motorbike incident, but without such a happy ending (or… at least “retrospectively-‘meh’-inducing” ending) as before. In fact, the story still kind of breaks my heart to a degree that I don’t really care to retell the whole thing, but let’s just say we were all lucky that before coming, Ryan could often be heard proclaiming that his “pockets overfloweth.” And that he learned the hard way to be careful when giving an unfamiliar bike that initial burst of gas…

Anyway. Onto happier subjects!

we stayed at ko tao resort, on chalok ban kao, and they had what they called the ‘paradise zone’ at the top of the nearby mountain. such an amazing view… if only i’d taken my photos on one of the clear days!

Ko Tao Resort

ryan taking over poi duties at babaloo bar our first night. kid’s got skills! (and probably a few still-raw fingers from the steel handles… whoops.)

there’s that blue sky!

crossing the shallow chalok ban kao

on sairee beach with momma

back in the paradise zone

A few days into the trip we also had the happy turn of fate that Wayne was able to meet up with us, accompanied by Collette, Eugene, Jean, Chris, and Michelle, who were all there to do a bit of diving as well.

it was dad’s turn to gift a hat

during our motorbike excursion. we drove out to the northern tip and got a drink at the dusit buncha resort. from there we could see nang yuan island.

Dusit Buncha Resort

amazing menu at dusit buncha.

next stop on our motorbike tour: some point that was up a steep and gravelly hill that finally warranted this exchange: me: “i just don’t have a good feeling about these bikes anymore.” dad: “why not?” me: “well we’ve already crashed one and i just drove off the road. i think i’d just rather go home.” so we did, only stopping at mae haad first to buy ferry tickets. (also, my driving off the road was because the anonymous person ahead of me wobbled and cut me off!)

got a pancake at mae haad waiting for the sketchball ticket dealer to drive dad to the potential ticket buying locale.

haha, i showed my students my pictures and when i got to this one they all just said, ‘oooh teacher, sabai sabai!’

“Sabai sabai” review

full moon setting on our last morning

this is what a banana sandwich looks like. what did you expect when the waiter himself laughed at you?!

lazing on our final afternoon

unbelievable sunset from the paradise zone as we had our last meal before setting out for another night ferry. (thanks dad for this shot!)

pineapple-fried-rice IN a pineapple– way better than a banana sandwich!

The Damnoensaduak Floating Market

My family arrived late on Sunday, the 22nd, and our train to Chiang Mai didn’t leave until Monday evening, giving us almost a full day in Bangkok to do whatever. I’d recommended the Grand Palace, having enjoyed it when Laura and I visited almost 2 years ago now, but interest seemed moderate at best. When I mentioned a floating market, however, the proverbial ears perked up.

Though I’d seen them advertised in just about any taxi I’d been in in Bangkok, I realized I knew quite little about the floating markets, as became apparent as soon as we sauntered to the hotel lobby at around 10:30 am. “Oh… floating market… maybe better to go tomorrow, at 8 or 9 in the morning,” the friendly clerk, Biggy, informed us.

“Well, we leave this evening so we’d need to go today.”
“Oh… well the market closes at around 12 o’clock… sometimes 1… but, okay, I think no problem for you.”

We were a bit dubious but he organized a (fairly expensive, in retrospect) taxi to take us there and then directly to the train station and assured us entry to the market would be no more than 1000 baht per person. An hour-and-a-half later we were at the floating market, which did indeed seem to be in its final stages, with some parts already closed down. Also, they were requesting 2500 baht per person at the desk, which we were able to bargain down to 1000 eventually, but still left us a bit unsettled about the whole experience.

In the end, I will say I’m glad we did it. I got to introduce my family to some typical Thai foods (mango and sticky rice, fresh coconut, som tam, noodle soup) and it was a neat ambiance (though we didn’t end up buying anything other than food). Was it way too expensive? Yes. (With the taxi, it ended up being exactly the same as our 3-day-trek, which included food, guide, and accommodation, in Chiang Mai!) Was the water an awful shade of “cesspool greenish-brownish-grey”? Yes. (And crawling with crocodile-esque monitor lizards. Though that didn’t stop us from seeing a number of Thai men chest-deep in the canals fixing up boats or doing Lord knows what else.) But a good experience nonetheless.

didn’t notice until well after the picture’d been taking that someone had taken it upon themselves to mark-up the face of the candidate on the poster. brilliant!

favorite

me too, zombie mickey. me too.

In the process of talking down our ticket price we said we’d forgo going to the temple that was meant to be included at the end of the market tour. Then the driver ended up taking us there anyway.

in what i found to be an unprecedented temple experience, we were handed little bits of gold leaf to adhere to the buddha figures. i know that people do this, not only in temples but their homes and shops, but i’d never had the opportunity to get involved!

Then we got to sit in the Bangkok train station for over three hours waiting for our train!

Family Vacation Part 1: Getting To and Spending a Day in Bangkok

Well, a 2+ week hiatus has found me and my family floating through septic waters under the guise of a market; wandering the charming streets and balmy jungles of Chiang Mai; spending countless hours on trains, buses, and boats (whose real purposes– innocuous nighttime transport or human trafficking?– were not readily clear); catching and observing some rays (of the sun and sting varieties, respectively) on and around Koh Tao; cruising around on motorbikes (to various ends); and meeting tons of wonderful people (and one “wicked witch,” as it so happens). With consumption of the odd coconut and bottle of Leo beer as the thread that held the whole trip together, of course. It was a wonderful whirlwind of a half-month– my first encounter with my family in almost a year-and-a-half! And it will be coming to you in nice, bite-sized chunks because that’s all I’ll really have time or patience for in any giving sitting.

Our first installment is not very family-oriented at all, as it turns out. First I had to get to Bangkok, which I did via my first night train ever in Thailand! Personally I loved the experience. I spent 770 Baht (+/-$25) on an upper berth in a 2nd-class air-conditioned sleeper car that amazingly arrived right on time (trains are notorious for running hours late in Thailand). I’ll admit I wasn’t actually that excited for the unusual punctuality: we were celebrating the departure of our dear Papa Jahan as he headed back to Sweden, potentially only returning after I go back to the States, and I was hoping to have an extra hour or two with him. Still, I got to share a few farewell drinks with the ol’ chap and wish him all the best!

in my head he’s shouting, ‘why you always talking wrong?!’ at henk in this picture.

papa and baby:)

skååååååååååål!

Wayne whisked me off to the station and we walked onto the platform just as the train was arriving. I was directed through the sea of pea-green curtains to my bed, which had already been set up, and wrote in my journal until I fell into a very deep and peaceful sleep.

Despite its arriving on-time somehow the train still managed to make it to Bangkok about an hour-and-a-half late. But that was fine; I spent the morning munching on mangosteen, reading The Jungle, and taking pictures (wondering the whole time, “Why doesn’t this camera have a ‘Train’ mode?!”, as only a few of the pictures actually amounted to anything.

even if the entire trip had been horrendous– which it wasn’t– it would have all been worth it to witness this old buddy in the US ARMY hat drinking his leo through a straw at 9 in the morning. breakfast of champions indeed!

displaying my high fashion. and the beginnings of the bug-bite on my right shin that would turn into a disgusting infected mess that would go on to contaminate various patches of my skin over the course of my travels and ultimately put me on antibiotics. awesome!

pulling in, finally!

I linked up with some other foreigners seated near me to split a cab to Khao San Road. I had a whole day to kill before my family arrived at almost 11 pm, and I figured Khao San was as good a place as any to do it. Grabbed some veggie lasagna at my favorite restaurant in Bangkok, Ethos, did a bit of shopping, got a massage, and then decided it was time to find my way to Sukhumvit. The bus was crowded and un-airconditioned, but I was to discover it was free and did not take the full hour someone had warned me that it would. No complaints this side!

favorite

I spent my afternoon reading by the hotel pool and scoping out some pizza for dinner. Then it was watching crime shows until the hour finally fell to head to the airport. Mom, Dad, and Ryan arrived without a hitch and despite the late hour were insistent on tracking down some street food and trying out their first Leo. Then it was time to get some shut-eye to make ready for their first full day in Thailand.

forgot the name of this place but MAN they whipped up a great funghi pizza! and it came with free bruschetta… talk about heaven…

papa d showing off his new thailand tank. lookin’ good pops!