Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Travel Agent

Yesterday, I made my reservations and paid for my tickets (almost) for a scheduled home visit in February 2009. The process was not exactly problem free though as one would expect in Thailand.

Several months ago while were were riding around checkout the various businesses in our new home town we spotted a travel agency on one of the back streets. We elected to keep our business at home and gave them a shot at making a few baht.

Our first visit to their office was on Monday morning. I had written down everything that I wanted to do, you know, preferred times, airlines and dates. I even included all the airport codes thinking that he would at least be familiarly with these if not the American cities. First off he could not read English. Words like departure and return threw him along with the words February and March. So with the note of little use, Mee had to explain everything to him, line by line several times.

After about an hour he provides me with a schedule on which I only noted one problem. On the return portion he had me arriving in Dallas, Texas with only 45 minutes to changes planes at a different terminal and then a 6 hour wait in Los Angeles for my flight back to Bangkok. Forty Five minutes is probably enough time for me to change flights if all goes according to Hoyle but I have no faith what so ever of the airline to transfer baggage in that time frame. So I asked for a change to a later flight out of Dallas. This would give me a chance to change terminals without a rush, eat breakfast and besides I would rather wait several hours in Dallas rather than Los Angles. After an extensive look again he informs me that that's not possible. There were no other flights.

Taking his word I agree to the provided schedule and ask how much which is the typical next question. Again after much waiting he lets us know that the reservations are made but he will have to call us back with the fare. So off to the house we go to wait. Guess he needed time to figure how much to stick it to the farang.

When I arrive at home I decided to look up the American Airlines website and see for myself the flights leaving Dallas for Los Angles as things just didn't seem right to me. There it was plain as day a flight leaving Dallas two hour after my arrival rather than the one he scheduled for 45 minutes later.

Of course he was closed on Tuesday for Mothers day, so on Wednesday, armed with the different flight information that I desired, the cash money to pay for the ticket (he did finally call with the fare) we headed back of the travel agency.

After waiting an hour for him to make reservations for some lady to travel to Japan and selling one round trip ticket to Bangkok it was my turn.

Again had written down the change that I wanted to make which included the new flight number and the departure and arrivals times. Well he gets on his little computer and screws around for a good 15 minutes and finally just showing me the schedule and I already had and wants to know if that OK. Again we point out that I want to cancel flight 7 on the current itinerary (which was circled) and reschedule with the information I have written down. This my wife has to explain to him about 3 times as he just kept saying he didn't understand and then that there was no such flight.

Low and behold he finally catches on as to how to change a flight number and a new itinerary emerges. He then has to get back on the phone and gets the fare information. It came to 52,000 baht the same as the old schedule. We then paid and were told to wait for the tickets.

At this point we moved away from the counter to another sitting area so that other customers could be served. After about 30 minutes of waiting he ask my wife do we want to go shopping or something and come back later for the tickets. No, we are comfortable and will wait right here.

During this time I am starting to walk around the office and look things over. No where do I see a printer which I think capable of printing multiple part airline tickets. But what do I know.

Again 30 minutes later he now informs us that the ticket must be sent up from Bangkok and will not be here until Monday. WTF. I have been watching him, he has not spoken to anyone on the phone so how did he just out of the blue discover that the ticket would not arrive until Monday and why does the ticket have to come to Bangkok? This is all a mystery to me. I got my payment back, reminded him of our phone number and said call when the tickets arrive. I wonder if he will or is he still confused.

Side Note: During the several hours that we were to spend with this gentlemen he must have asked us four time why did I want to make my reservations six months in advance. Well, my number one reply is that it's really not any business of his but his demonstrated performance is the major reason why. Also, because airline tickets will only continue to rise, the cheap seats will be sold up and most importantly I don't like leaving anything the chance. I believe his opinion is why am I doing work today that can be done later.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mother's Day

Today is a National Holiday. Mother's Day which is also the Queen's Birthday. That makes it easy to remember when it's a holiday sponsored by the government.

At least the Thai's get a day off work here and not just a Sunday to take mother her card, flowers and possibly a dinner at Denney's as is the practice in the west. If her birthday falls on Saturday or Sunday, they then celebrate on the following Monday.

They do, do a lot of the going to dinner bit but again nothing like in the west. There is also not much taking place regarding the presentation of cards and flowers. If that ever catches on over here there will be a fortune to be made. They do go so see mother though and spend the day with her and give her a gift or at least my Thai family does it that way.

Last night the Queen have her annual birthday address during the prime time television viewing part of the evening. By my estimate it lasted a good two hours or so after all the ceremonies associated with it were completed. Not a soul complain except a few of us farang's who missed out on some of the coverage of the Olympics. There were even more ceremonies this morning between nine and eleven which also cut into the Olympic viewing time. Oh, well. They will show highlights later this evening.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Down and Out

For the first time in a long time I have been down and out for over a week. When I lived in Bangkok it was referred to as "Bangkok Belly". Now that I have moved up country I guess the name should be changed to "Thailand Tummy". In any case, it has kicked my ass and left me as weak as a kitten. I have not fully recovered but did manage to pull my sorry ass out the door today and take my morning walk, th0ugh at a somewhat slower pace.

The Olympics start tomorrow and that is somewhat exciting except for the fact that it is only offered on Thai T.V. and as I understand it they will rotate the daily coverage from channel to channel so that all stations get a shot. I sure hope they do a better job that their 2004 coverage which was somewhat limited. My first complaint is that even though all stations have dual language capabilities that feature wasn't used 4 years ago. The regularly broadcast were talked over in Thai thus not understandable for us Farang's. The second big problems was the event coverage. Naturally, they covered the sports of interest to Thai's like table tennis, tennis, badminton, ladies weight lifting and of course the ever popular football. Not much aired in the way of athletics, basketball or gymnastics which I enjoy. They did get in a good bit of swimming if I recall correctly.

During my down period I did manage to read one book. Farang written by Dr. Iain Corness which is advertised as "Thailand through the eyes of an ex-pat". On a scale of 1 through 10 I rate it at about a 4 in my humble opinion but remember that is a review by an ex-pat that has been here for sometime. Someone new in country or with no prior experience may find it more revealing. I will get around to doing a full book review in the future.

Yesterday was another birthday, 64 of those suckers so far. Cake with the family last night and their good wished for a healthy future. Also, received a phone call from Pia the teacher that I worked with for so many years during my school teaching gig. Was nice to be remembered. Thanks Pia.