Marching to Pretoria (Thailand Day 17 – 21: Mon – Fri: 9 – 13 July 2012)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Monday 27 August 2012: 5 years 11 months on … Advantage CB

And, at 07h00 Monday morning, 9 July 2012, we landed, on time, at JHB – the Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. We are Africans and we were home!

It was noon in Bangkok and Phuket – five hours ahead of us, but, paradoxically, all that was behind us now.

As in Life, all that remains are our pictures, our stories and our memories … the Legacy of Life – the Good in Good-Bye!

Yes, it was early Monday morning and we were back in mid-winter and back in Africa.

We stepped off the plane in our Thai summer clothing and the cold hit us. We could feel the cold Highveld and we knew we were home.

We could see the groups of Airport staff standing around with surly faces, hands in their pockets and no inclination to assist – not even to hold the door open (or to open it properly to remain open) as we stepped into the airport building! We knew we were home. 

We were moved from one carousel to the next to collect our baggage. We knew we were home.

Only five of the twenty passport control booths were manned and the queues of people from three international flights that had just landed started to build up. We knew we were home.

And then the computer system went down … we were most definitely home!

We went through customs quickly – “Nothing to declare”- and took leave of the Bryants, who were leaving later in the day for George Airport and Plettenberg Bay. Our very much smaller tour group – the four Lunnons – were going on to our administrative capital city, Pretoria (or Tshwane, as some would prefer to call it).

We would be taking the Gautrain, our newly built and opened South African showpiece right into Hatfield in the heart of Pretoria. Were we really home, or could this be a tube train in London? Although everything was so similar to a London tube train, the one thing we did not hear was “Mind the Gap!” However, we did hear that we were not to eat chewing gum (which we were all still chewing from our landing into OT Airport!)

Yes, we were really home and, yes, we can be truly proud of this achievement. We left the airport at 09h00 and were at the Hatfield station at 09h45, where we were picked up by our friend Tony Reeler, headmaster of Pretoria Boys High School.

I have written about Tony and Rose, and Michael John and Alexander before – see the blog “Thank you for the Music”.

The next three days we spent on the campus of the school in their lovely home that overlooks the Union Buildings and the Blue Bulls Loftus Versfeld rugby stadium (I’m not sure at which one of the two the seat of South African authority is vested!)

We acclimatised, got rid of the jet lag (which hit me particulalary badly after this trip), visited, chatted, skindered, snoozed, ate, snacked, Amstelled, yes – braaied!, red-wined, toured the school campus, visited Freedom Hill, caught up and generally just did what good friends do … (and the boys went back to Johannesburg on the Gautrain for two days to play golf with Phill’s friend Brad Mackenzie).

On Thursday morning, Tony took us over to Faerie Glen, where we were staying with my good university friends, Marzette and Thomas Moolman. We repeated the previous paragraph (except this time we took the boys ice-skating in Pretoria North)! We also managed to sneak in an afternoon visit to Pera’s friends Guy and Bev Keeling.

It was a week of cooling down, literally and figuratively! And it was great to catch up with good friends.

After brunch on Saturday, Thomas took us back to the OT Airport. Although I had heard on the news that bad weather was expected in the Eastern Cape, a call to the airline confirmed that all was well (or was it?!).

Our British Airways flight departed Johannesburg a few minutes late – headed for the Nelson Mandela Bay and Port Elizabeth.

Our Thai trip was fast coming to its end …  

 

 

Where’s the Good in Goodbye? (Thailand Day 16: Sunday 8 July 2012)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Saturday 25 August 2012: 5 years 11 months on … Advantage CBD

Tomorrow, Sunday, would see us returning to SA. It would be our “goodbye” day and as my ex-pupil, David Aldo (Abbate) sings from Los Angeles – “Where’s the good in goodbye?”

The Hell in Hello is there NOT being a Good in Goodbye!

In life, for every new thing, person, place, event; in fact, for everything that comes into our life and that we say hello to, there comes a time when we have to take leave of it – when we have to say goodbye. And it’s not always that easy to say goodbye …

And so Sunday arrived, and after breakfast, which started in beautiful sunshine and ended in rain, (what else could we expect by now!) we packed and prepared to vacate our rooms by noon.

The suitcases, not surprisingly, were more and fuller than those with which we had arrived!

Everything went into a holding room, and we were able to use a holding room ourselves, in order to rest and shower before we were collected at 18h00 for our return trip to the Phuket International Airport.

The scooters were returned, driver’s licence returned, last pictures taken, last take-away’s, last walk-arounds, last Thai TV, last naps … but it was not the last rain. The rain rained … and the brightly multi-coloured ponchos, which had served us so well, were scrunched up into little balls and left behind. All we would take with us was the cheap dye of the ponchos that remained on our hands.

We would have no further use for the ponchos – imagine us all driving around Port Elizabeth or Plettenberg Bay with brightly coloured ponchos on scooters in the pouring rain! That would be so infra dig!

One of the nice things of holidaying is that one can do things, and does things, that one would never dream of doing at home! What goes on holiday stays on holiday! All that remains there … and all that remains here are memories …

So, we remember

  •          the arrival at Phuket International Airport
  •          the wrapping of our cases and the checking-in procedures
  •          the wait
  •          the coffee spilt on Phill’s trousers
  •          the washing and drying of his trousers in the ladies and gents restrooms and the well-crafted logistics of this operation by Pera and Sean and Phill
  •          the late departure
  •          the rush through Bangkok International to catch our departing plane to Johannesburg
  •          the efficiency with which that rush was handled by the Thai ground staff
  •          our late departure from BKK at 02h00 Monday morning (Thai time) – 21h00 Sunday evening JHB Time
  •          the terrible trip back (squashed seat, no TV, storms, bumping, no sleep)

And, at 07h00 Monday morning, 9 July 2012, we landed, on time, at JHB – the Oliver Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa. We are Africans and we were home!

It was noon in Bangkok and Phuket – five hours ahead of us, but, paradoxically, all that was behind us now.

As in Life, all that remains are our pictures, our stories and our memories … the Legacy of Life – the Good in Good-Bye!

Going East (Thailand Day 3: Monday 25 June 2012)

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Written on Tuesday 24 July 2012: 5 years 10 months on … Advantage ED

Monday morning was an early wake-up and then we were dropped off by Samantha at the Oliver Tambo airport round about 09h00. The journey was about to begin!

First, we had to find Terminal B and the Bryants. We would be travelling together with Alison and Nick, and Sean’s friend and schoolmate David, his girlfriend Victoria and Phillip’s hostel mate Richard.

Finding Terminal B was not easy. In the process we found Tony Reeler with whom we would be staying on our return to Pretoria. He and his Pretoria Boys High rugby team were heading off to Zimbabwe on a rugby tour.

Then we found the Bryants, checked in, passed through passport control, declared our equipment and ended up in the duty-free shopping area. The shopping began with a few bottles of red wine, Amarula and whiskey! (We had been advised that this was expensive in Thailand and our alcohol allowance was 1 litre per person.)

Thai Airways International Flight TG992, a Boeing 777-200/300, was slightly late but when boarding began, per my arrangements with the airlines, we were allowed to board first at 12h45.

At 13h40 we took off – headed east from Johannesburg to Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) over Madagascar and the Indian Ocean.

We were scheduled to land at BKK at 06h00 their time and in the process we would lose 5 hours of the day. When we landed it would be only 1am in Johannesburg – just about time to go to sleep. But I did not sleep a wink.

After lunch, I settled in and watched Brave Heart and The Iron Lady. That took up some four hours of the 11 hour flight. Sleep was out of the question, and I spent a great deal of time watching our progress on the map in front of me.

I had boarded with my leg-brace on and was sitting on the aisle with my leg in the passage (this despite having arranged with the airline to seat me in a row with extra legroom!). Needless to say, everyone passing by bumped into me and the trolleys carrying the meals and the SINGHA beer had very little room to manoeuvre. So I had taken my leg-brace off some few hours into the flight and stowed it away in the overhead locker.

Then it was breakfast time and time to “embrace”!

 It was dark when we saw the lights of Bangkok appear below us – extending in all directions.

At 06h00 local time on Tuesday morning 26 June we disembarked and entered the ultra-modern Suvarnabhumi International Airport – straight into customs control and what would be our sauna for the next two weeks.