That is how I felt after collapsing into
Far more worthy of note was this new, creeping sensation: unfamiliarity. Suvarnabhumi was largely dominating by throngs of Thai or other people of Asian ethnicity, shuttling from location to location, chattering and jabbering away in their native tongues. This was novel. It was almost certainly the first time in my life that I had been surrounded by an ethnicity I was not a part of. My years spent in an international school in The Netherlands were comparable, but not similar; the only language spoken there was English, whereas now I felt totally isolated and alone. Any sighting of a light-skinned person was, I am loathe to admit, welcome.
After waiting, twitching, in the passport queue and nervously observing the abundance of anti-bacterial, swine-flu prevention masks sported by many, I was informed that domestic flight with Air Asia Airlines to Phuket had been delayed by 2 hours, pushing back boarding until 21:30. Bloody marvellous, I thought happily, another 2 bloody hours to explore
Moderately happier, I set off and found an internet room, paying 50 of my crisp Baht notes in return for 30 minutes of contact with the outside world.
I found my gate and was greeted there with the news that my flight had been delayed for a further hour, thanks to the fierce storm battering the walls and windows of the airport. Needless to say, I was buoyant with undiluted joy to learn this.
I huddled into what felt like the hardest, coldest seat in the building and watched Indiana
Delirious with fatigue, caked with dried sweat, and pretty damned miserable, I was finally ushered onto the plane at about 23:00. The pilot then announced that 3 passengers had failed to materialise, and so their luggage would be offloaded, eating up a further 15 minutes. My young Indian neighbour cast me an alarmed glance as I slammed my head repeatedly on the seat tray.
Finally, finally, finally we landed in Phuket and, breaking all promises to myself of setting a good impression of English etiquette, I threw myself into the baggage claim, forcing an old man to lurch out of the way sending a tiny Thai lady spinning.
After stumbling out of airport and being hit by a choking wall of humidity, I began to look for a means of transport. The answer came quickly and loudly. Ahhh, the taxi. Quite an experience, it’s fair to say. A young Thai man leapt at me, screaming the word “Taxi!!” his voice shrill and his eyes bulging; I almost felt morally obliged to go with him. Once he had lugged my case across the car park and dumped it unceremoniously into the boot of his silver Renault.
Once inside the taxi and after demanding the address of my hotel in Patong (which required me telling him at least 4 times and having to exasperatedly resort to scribbling it down for him to read) he became perfectly affable, and we chatted about a variety of topics, ranging from his adoration of and devotion to Michael Jackson and how he had seen him play Bangkok in 2005, to his ambitious plans to travel around Europe. I enthusiastically encouraged him with the latter, although I am dubious about his understanding of my support, as he excitedly replied by listing his favourite Patong bars. Over Michael Jackson, I gave a few mumbled grunts, but didn’t mention that Jacko hadn’t performed a concert since 1997 before his untimely demise. His driving was sensible and steady, barring a few necessary swerves to avoid overtaking motorbikes (more about those later) and he safely delivered me to the hotel, outside of which Nick (who I was immensely relieved to see) was reliably waiting, though he barely recognised me due to my shorn cranium.
After a very short walk which barely allowed me to take in the surrounding Patong area, because of drooping eyelids and desperation for a bed, the room welcomed me; small, basic, but comfortable, I collapsed into my mattress, a deep sleep claiming me instantaneously.