Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Being in Bangkok!

From Hotel Grand Hyatt, Bangkok:  I have been to Bangkok several times to attend weddings also site seeing and en route to Australia and other countries in the East. I have lost count as to the number of times I have been at Bangkok during transit. Sometimes for 4 hours and even 20 hours.
I have strong memories linked to Bangkok airport, may it be the old airport or the new one, which intrude my thoughts every time I am here. It was 1995 or 96 and I was in England and there was the plague outbreak in Gujarat. Almost all airlines quarantined and stopped flights to India. At that time I was holding a cheap class Aeroflot airlines ticket to Kolkata via Moscow. As all direct flights to India were stopped, I was in a real fix. I was having the visa for UK and Russia and there was no way out. After putting myself up in the Aeroflot office near Hotel Ritz in London for five days, I was given the option to either fly to Kathmandu via Moscow or to Bangkok via Moscow. I opted for Bangkok hoping to avail a flight from there to Calcutta.
I got a visa for Thailand from the UK Mission which normally did not entertain such requests. Frequent travellers know that they have to apply for visa from the country of origin or from where the passport is issued.
I was ready to take the flight from Moscow to Bangkok via Sharjah but was stopped  at the customs because I was carrying more than 50 US dollars in cash. At that time in Russia the rule was to allow only 50 US dollars on exit unless declared at entry point. So I boarded the flight with only 50 USD for Bangkok via Sharjah. I could not afford any food at Sharjah as I had to save the money for flight to Calcutta from Bangkok.
After landing I came out of the airport I saw Hotel Holiday Inn complimentary shuttle bus. In those days the 5 Star hotels normally did not take any advance or deposit or guarantee during check-ins. My common sense prompted me to opt for the 5 Star hotel. I checked in smoothly in Holiday Inn and had Indian food at the Indian restaurant Tandoor without going to my room. I had seen the board at the hotel reception publicising authentic Indian cuisine.
Meanwhile, the Sethia family with whom I was staying in London informed about me to their Thai acquaintance who was very kind to give me some money in Bangkok to pay for the Hotel and also book a seat in one of the flights to Calcutta.
Last evening I was having dinner with my wife and friends at the restaurant Delii Hatt just opposite Holiday Inn and the whole incident of being in Bangkok with almost no money flashed before my eyes.
ess bee

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