Thailand Journal 2016-2017 by Alexis
Everyone awoke wrapped in the comfort of the Fortuna Hotel’s clean sheets in Bangkok. While we were all looking forward to heading home, we weren’t about to waste a minute of our time in the heart of Thailand. Everyone met for breakfast promptly at 8 am in the hotel dining area. Able to choose from a variety of Thai soups and noodles to eggs and French toast, almost everyone gravitated immediately towards the eggs and French toast, likely due to the lack of American food we ate over the past three weeks! Shortly after finishing up breakfast, most of us gathered to talk with Pai and Pichi about our plans. We decided we would take the sky train to JJ’s Market as a group for a few hours to start off the day. JJ’s Market was unlike anything we had ever seen. The closest thing we as Minnesotan’s could relate it to was the Minnesota State Fair, but even that can’t entirely describe it. It was like being on the state fair grounds, but every shop was set up literally right next to each other. Other than paths to walk on, no space was wasted, and vendors covered every available square inch. They were selling clothes, decorations, pottery, food, and so much more. Since everyone had their own agendas for what they wanted to look at and/or buy, we split into 3 or 4 small groups and went our own ways. Maggie, Megan, Jeff and I stayed with Pai while we went from shop to shop, eventually meeting up with Pichi along the way. Just a few of our purchases included scented soaps, elephant journals, a tiger sweatshirt, a dragon scroll, and coconut ice cream served inside a coconut (which was as amazing as it sounds). At noon, everyone tried to meet for lunch, but some people couldn’t find the meeting spot, and everyone that could didn’t feel like eating anyway. So we all just decided to keep shopping for another hour. At 1pm, we reconvened, but the same people were still missing. We later found out that there was a miscommunication as to where exactly the meeting spot was, and they had already made it safely back to the hotel. For those of us still at JJ’s, some decided to head back to the hotel while others chose to go to a museum. The few of us that chose to stay at the hotel were unanimous in deciding that Domino’s pizza was going to be ordered for dinner. After a long day of exploring the city, everyone took a couple hours to rest up a bit. As the night crept up and late night shops flicked on their neon lights, almost everyone got dressed up for a night on the town. As a group, we explored the nightlife that Bangkok had to offer and were overall pleasantly surprised with the entertainment we found. It was the perfect final celebration of our trip together before heading back to the states. Since we had to leave the hotel at 4 am the next morning, a handful of us decided to make the most of the night by not sleeping. The rest of us, though, hit the bed hard after a long, final day in Bangkok. 4 am came too soon for some of us and not soon enough for the rest of us who were eager to get home. We all met in the lobby of the hotel and packed into our vans, some of us groggy and some of us wide awake. Here, we said our thanks and good-byes to Dave and Francie. It was bittersweet. While we all wanted to get home, we were also all leaving a small part of ourselves there in Bangkok, where we had unforgettable experiences with some of the best professors we could have ever asked for.
We waved to Dave and Francie as the vans pulled away, and we were on our way to the airport. We arrived with more than enough time to spare, which turned out to be a blessing. As we were checking in with Japan Airlines to get our boarding passes, we saw looks of concern fall over the faces of a few of our peers. Those of us who had gotten our boarding passes and were waiting for the rest of the group, watched in panic as 7 members of our 16-person group got pulled to the side. Realizing something was obviously very wrong, we went up to them to see what the problem was. It had turned out that our travel agency had made some kind of mistake, and their boarding passes were back with American Airlines when they should have already been transferred to Japan Airlines. Those pulled to the side began calling American Airlines and Dave and Francie to attempt to solve the issue. The rest of us, unable to help, proceeded through security and waited at the gate, hoping the remaining 7 would join us in time. Luckily, thanks to Jeff and Maggie’s calm and collected attitude during the whole situation, the situation was figured out for everyone and we all made it to the gate before boarding! We flew from Bangkok to Tokyo, and then Tokyo to LAX, where we had a very long 8 hour layover. Beyond tired, many of us set up camp in the waiting area of our gate, unrolling sleeping bags and blankets to sleep on the floor. After some food and a long nap, we were finally able to get on our final flight to Minneapolis. We landed in MSP before we knew it, and all rushed to baggage claim where we knew our loved ones would be waiting for us. It felt crazy that 3 weeks ago, many of us had never met each other, and now we were saying melancholy good-byes as each one of us left, one-by-one with our families.