This trip, unlike any of my other travels around the world, was not without some rather anxious moments. I’m glad to be home. I think.
I read in CNN this morning that Thailand has declared a state of emergency after the protesters stormed parliament yesterday. While I was in Bangkok, the protests were peaceful. I really have no idea what their internal politics are all about and wasn’t even aware of the current political unrest when I went to Thailand.
I left Bangkok on March 31st to spend about a week in Vietnam. (I still haven’t had time to post pictures from my time in Bangkok. I was busy working. But I found the people in Bangkok to be so incredibly gracious and friendly.)
While in Vietnam, the mood of the people there was also hospitable. However, I felt the people were a little bit more rigid—not at all in the way they treated me, but just in their general approach to life. Life in Vietnam seemed more difficult for common people.
Their food is amazing. They smile easily. They have very, very different customs and culture. Their driving is frightening. Maybe I was infusing some of my own guilt for what the United States did in Vietnam into my perceptions of my time there. Maybe it was just the constant horn honking…
When I began to leave Da Nang to return home via Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok and Narita, I was stopped by a woman working for the airport. She said my carry on bag was too large if it didn’t fit in this little “size thing.” When it did fit, as I knew it would, she then said it was too heavy. It was. It contains my expensive camera equipment. She insisted I check it. I refused.*
Vietnam Airlines is in the process of becoming a member of the SkyTeam Alliance. With my being a charter member of the Diamond Club with SkyTeam, which means I travel way too much, Delta allows free oversized and overweight bags. Not Vietnam Airlines–yet, anyway. After some ridiculous wrangling I got my stuff on board without having to check it.
So the return already was getting off to a bad start. Upon arriving in Bangkok, I was staying at Novatel, the very nice hotel at the airport. A shuttle picks everyone up and takes you to the hotel as it is not easily accessed by walking, and Bangkok is hotter than hell anyway.
We had to go through a security check point to enter the hotel property. The Mercedes in front of us was thoroughly inspected for explosives. I could immediately tell things were much more serious. In my room in this modern, gorgeous hotel, the air conditioning wasn’t working well! I didn’t sleep well.
When we were all boarding the airplane in Narita, the gate agent told us that everyone had to be weighed by order of the United States Federal Aviation Administration. They brought out 5 scales or so and everyone had to be weighed and our weights recorded. What I weigh is none of the US governments damned business!
I don’t sleep well on planes either. After spending virtually two days on airplanes, I was dead dog tired and very irritable. I was glad to land at LAX. So I thought. US Immigration asked me an unusual number of questions. What was that all about?! I was soon to find out.
Apparently I am now, like millions of other law abiding Americans I’ve read about in the news, being confused with some idiot from another state who must be in some kind of trouble with the government. I had to go through additional screening. I was so irritated. To make matters worse, their is no due process. They will not tell you anything about why this is being done. This is the American way?!
I must say that the customs agent was very professional, even cordial. Thank God! My shoulder was hurting terribly; I hadn’t slept for two days; I was in a really bad mood. I won’t go into any details about the extra screening so I won’t be arrested, as was the journalist (or photographer, I don’t recall now) who blogged about a similar experience with Immigration through Seattle a few months ago.
I was given a web site to use to redress this issue, but, according to the news, this rarely even works. I have to travel out of the country again next week. Will I be able to get out? Will I be able to get back in? This is so absurd.
Our world is getting uglier and uglier. Freedom in the US died with the Patriot Act. We sold our national birthright for fear. Soon, our children will never have know the US I was born in as it will never have existed in their lifetime. Weird how things change.
I worry that, as the divide between the super wealthy and the poor widens and the number of poor continue to grow, we will see very bad times ahead. I guess this is nothing new. What will be new is how technology will be wielded in this conflict of interests.
At any rate, I hate traveling now. It’s just so terribly unpleasant: badly behaving children, cramming too many people into too little space, and now airlines want to start charging to use the overhead storage and to use the bathrooms?! One airline will be reducing the number of toilets on board so they can cram even more seats on the plane. What the hell?!!!
* I’ve had international “security” go through and steal things from my checked luggage in the past and, since we can’t lock our checked bags, will not allow my expensive items to be checked ever again.
Click here for a list of all of the posts from my trip to Vietnam.