- An airy tale -

12th May '17

I booked my flight back to England.

And if that's the opening line of the first blog I've written in two weeks, it should give you a good idea about how exciting my life's been and how much I have to write about. But if you're going to write a blog well... I suppose that you have to write something sometime.

And what a journey booking a flight can be.

I'd promised myself that I wouldn't turn this into the weeks-long process that it normally is, just to save what is ultimately a few pennies.

Normally I'd spend weeks monitoring prices and searching various websites, only to settle on a flight to find out that the actual price is far higher than that I'd been quoted, so I'd start all over again.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that booking a flight can take me weeks. Months sometimes. And I'd promised that I wouldn't let that happen again this time but... damn the airline industry likes to make your life difficult.

I was also willing and hoping to fly direct to London this year because one, fuck India, and two, I'm not as young as I used to be.

I remember a few years ago opting for something like a thirteen hour layover instead of three, to save a paltry amount of money like £15 or £20.

I guess that when backpacking at the time, that made sense to me, but the person who types this blog today is very different to the one that typed this blog back then. Nowadays I have a bit more of an appreciation for things like time and comfort and... well a twelve-hour direct flight seems a lot more appealing than a twenty hour flight with a transfer in India, which in itself is always a harrowing experience.

I think for the last three years, from both China and Thailand, I've flown with the same budget Indian airline, in both directions. And the airline itself has been, a couple of hiccups withstanding, very good.

I've always liked it because Indians do good vegetarian food.

To contrast that though, holy fuck transferring planes in India is a bigger shit-show than you can imagine.

Why you have to go through yet another security check, I'm not sure, seeing as you're only transferring planes and don't ever leave the airport. But my God India knows how to fuck-up even the simplest things.

Going through security there has the organisation of a riot, and every year I'll see passengers absolutely irate at the way they're being treated.

I've never been one of them thankfully, but I can also sympathise why they react like that having just stepped-off one long flight, late to transfer to another, and then you get to Indian security.

I also hold a personal grudge against them because a year or two ago, I bought two overpriced bottles of water at Heathrow, knowing that I'd be spending the night in this Indian airport without the ability to buy anything, such would be the huge charges from my bank to withdraw money.

At the security check, these morons took my bottles of water off me for safety reasons, yet thirty seconds after going through security, I was walking through duty free, being encouraged to buy all kinds of perfumes, alcohol and other flammable liquids.

After something like a ten hour flight, I then had I think thirteen hours in the airport, wholly dehydrated before my next flight, having only the foul-tasting water fountains in the airport to drink from.

I've never forgiven India for that.

People think of Thailand as a cheap country, and it is so far as basic living is concerned. Rent is cheap here, and local Thai food is cheap. Trying to buy anything remotely luxurious though, and you have to pay through the ass for it.

Everything from cosmetics to PlayStations to bread machines are significantly cheaper in the UK, so my annual trip home is also to stock-up on items that are either cheaper or more easily available in England, one of which is the Hugo Boss cologne that I wear to work everyday.

Last year I actually bought enough to last me a couple of years, so I might not even need any more this year. But I still haven't forgotten that last year, by far the cheapest place to buy it, was Heathrow airport duty free. I knew that, I'd looked up prices online long before I ever flew home. But I wasn't going to make the same mistake of trying to take liquids through my transfer in India, so ended up paying significantly more, to buy these from Boots online days before my flight so that I could put them into my checked luggage.

But in that way, simply having a flight that connected in India, cost me money compared to flying directly, so I went into this process open to paying more for a direct flight but... damn the airline industry don't make it easy for you to buy flights.

I'm trying to give you money, this shouldn't be such a challenge.

At first I was put-off by how much more expensive flights were this year compared to last, although I think in pounds, and booked my flights last year pre-Brexit vote, so a plummeting pound has a lot to do with that.

The cheapest flights as always, were with Malaysia Airlines, but as always, fuck Malaysia.

But apart from them, to my delight and dismay, prices with layovers weren't actually that different to prices of direct flights; of which there are only three airlines that fly direct from London to Bangkok.

Unless Google's lying to me.

I always figured there'd be more than that seeing as they're the two most touristy cities in the world, but shows what I know.

And my usual Indian airline was actually more expensive that the direct flights, so I was glad to be robbed of the temptation to fly with them again.

It took a few days, but eventually I came to peace with the idea of paying extra money to take a direct flight, but the next hurdle I came across, was that airlines; or at least these airlines, only allow you to pay in the currency of your departure country.

I never knew that before. I guess I've always found the cheapest prices with 3rd party agents who accept any currency. When you're going through the airline directly though, and that was who was offering the best prices this time, they only allow you to pay in Thai baht. The fuck?

My flight is probably the single biggest purchase that I make each year, especially in a year when I don't buy a new iPhone.

It costs me more to fly home than an Apple Watch and a PS4 combined.

As such, I always buy my flights with my UK savings, with my UK debit card but... well I'll be damned if I'm buying something this expensive in a foreign currency. My bank will give me a shitty rate and charge me through the ass for the privilege.

It was only very recently, thanks to having to figure-out how to buy PS4 games from the online PlayStation store with my Thai debit card, that I jumped through the hoops necessary to make online purchases here. And it's not as easy as it sounds, because first you have to unlock your debit card for online purchases, and that part of the website is only in Thai. Then you have to connect a phone number; that's banking security in Thailand.

Whenever I transfer/spend money online, a confirmation code is sent by text message.

So I'd just never bothered before having a PS4, but I could buy things online in Thai baht now, and it took a couple more days of deliberation and research to become at peace with buying this ticket through my Thai debit card instead.

It's surprisingly hard to find information on why airlines only charge you in the currency of the departing country. That's something for Google to work on.

But eventually I was at peace with paying a higher airfare in order to fly direct. And eventually I was at peace with paying for it out of my Thai savings. So now I've just got to buy it.

And it took long enough to go through the various pages of the EVA Air website, entering my information, selecting a vegetarian meal etc. And when I tried to pay, I got a confirmation code texted to my iPhone, which I entered and... error. There was a problem with your purchase. Please try again.

Oh for fuck's sake.

My phone soon quacked with another text message (my text message ringtone is a duck), saying that this purchase was 'above my daily withdrawal limit', and to raise the limit I had to go to one of their ATMs.

Oh for fuck's sake.

So I put on some clothes, and went down to the ATM at 7-11, which asked me for my passport number in order to do this. Luckily I could remember it. And then I was able to update my daily withdrawal limit to any amount up to 200,000 baht.

Are you kidding me? That's £4,465. Can you imagine going to an ATM and withdrawing £4,000?

Well apparently in Thailand you can.

Of course, by the time that I made it upstairs again, everything had timed-out, so I had to start all over again.

Look up the flight, enter my details, select a meal...

And it worked. That was surpise enough in itself.

It might not feel it, seeing as I just wasted the last five minutes of your life describing it to you, but this was actually quite a short process; just a few days.

Seeing as I normally drag this out for weeks, I was pretty chuffed to get it done so quickly.

I'm trying to keep my mind as clear and as stress-free as possible nowadays, so it seemed worth spending a few extra pennies in order to get it done quickly.

And it was kind of ironic that I bought this expensive flight out of my Thai savings, at the end of my first weekend in a long, long time where I only had one class to teach.

And that sucks for my bank balance, but I'm absolutely loving how much free time I have this term.

On the first Saturday of the term, my day was I got up, went to work for about three hours, came home, went running, uploaded the last blog, then watched Game of Thrones and played Battlefield.

On the first Sunday I got up, went to work for about three hours, came home, watched Game of Thrones, meditated, went swimming, booked my flight, and played Battlefield.

And it was similar on the Monday and the Tuesday...

I guess what you could say I'd done was break my life into four key areas:

Work, exercise, meditation and relaxation.

That obviously omits some important things like sleeping, eating and running the various errands that I do. But those things are automatic. I don't ever compromise on how much I sleep or how well I eat.

For the rest of it, my schedule had dictated to me that I had one class per day, six days per week. And so on every working day, I worked no more than a reasonable amount.

And with the rest of my time what I was trying to do, was mix in the other three things in various forms and in moderate amounts, with never consecutive days without any of them.

One day off exercise is fine, but never two. One day without meditating is fine, but never two.

I was trying to exercise enough to be healthy, but not so much I was tired. Enough meditation that I felt relaxed, but not so much I didn't enjoy it. Enough relaxing to be happy, but not so much I was a couch potato.

It kind of became the theme that I set for this term. To go with my moderate schedule, everything else should be in moderation too, and this first weekend was a perfect example.

Unfortunately living with such common sense can't go on indefinitely, and now a couple of weeks removed from that initial weekend, I seem to have dropped-off a bit, but I am still doing some of each thing, despite God's best efforts.

Sometimes I feel like he wants me to be unhealthy. I mean, why else would he give me a PS4?

Wednesday this week was a very rare non-Friday during term time where I had a day-off thanks to a public holiday. And so I took that opportunity to clean my apartment, and I made it sparkly as fuck.

After about five hours of cleaning on my day off, I was fine to just relax for the rest of the day. I didn't want to force myself to exercise; I can exercise on Thursday instead.

And so Thursday (yesterday), I had to do a bit of class prep in the morning, but I was soon in my running clothes, going through my usual pre-run routine, the last thing of which is to chug a 1.5L bottle of water to help combat the dehydration of running in Bangkok at midday.

I'd been feeling a bit nauseous before that, but that's normal for me. I have a nauseatingly strong cup of green tea every morning; I'm not sure why exactly. It's a habit I got into in China.

I remember hearing on a podcast back then how three cups of green tea per day is good for you, and back when I was in China, that's what I had.

Nowadays I only really have time for one, so I just make it strong as fuck to compensate. My body's used to that though. It can usually keep it down.

I'd also eaten a somewhat unripened banana that morning.

It was almost yellow on the outside, so I figured fuck it, it might be ok to eat.

Turns out that it wasn't ripe at all, but I forced it down anyway, so maybe that was the culprit.

Whatever it was though, I went through my usual running ritual, the last thing of which before I leave my apartment is to chug 1.5L of water. But as soon as I did I was all... fuck.

I ran into the bathroom in two minds about whether to vomit in the sink or the toilet, and ultimately ended up vomiting in the space between them.

Up came 1.5L of water, a cup of green tea, and the fruit and other goodness that I'd eaten that morning.

Well... I guess I'm not going running today then. Instead I had to re-clean the bathroom that I'd cleaned just twenty-four hours earlier, that was now covered in vomit.

So I didn't exercise yesterday, then today, my normal day off, I had a load of other things to do and it was pissing with rain all day, which ruled-out running and swimming; the two things that I seem to be doing the most.

See what I mean, God just doesn't want me to be healthy, so my lifestyle of healthy moderation that I started this term with has fallen by the wayside somewhat in recent days but... well the desire's still there at least.

The other challenge of all of this rain was that the first thing on my list for today was getting a hair cut, and so getting to the barbers with a dry head was a challenge. I sort of made it though, but it was on leaving the barbers that my wrist vibrated with an email from the big boss at work with the title 'Registration'.

Or so I thought as I glanced at my watch as I was walking along.

Numbers at my school are so low right now that most of the small number of emails that I receive from work are something to do with registration.

It wasn't until I was down on the platform of the MRT that I looked properly and realised that it said 'Resignation'.

Oh damn, that's news.

I'm one of the few to actually quite like this guy.

We rarely exchange more than pleasantries, but he seems a nice enough person. I steer clear of the politics of my job as much as possible, and without that he seems alright.

Although I'll be honest and say that my first thought was... no more retard surveys?

That's the one black mark that I do hold against him. He's the instigator of these surveys and so... do we not have to do them anymore?

It was early this afternoon that I got that email, and I haven't been into work or spoken to anyone from work yet, so it's hard for me to gage how much of a big deal this is. I mean, he basically runs everything. He's the highest-ranking non-Thai at the school, and I think those above him are directors who don't really do anything.

Who's going to do his job now? Are they going to start changing things?

Why is it the more that you want things to stay the same, the more that they become different?

I guess that I'm going to have another new manager to look forward to soon then. Hopefully one that doesn't do retard surveys.