Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Flight Of The Wheelchairs

Map picture

When we travel I try to find things that are unique or unusual to write about. Sometimes doing that is a little more difficult than others, and this is one of those times.

Let’s cut to the chase – we made it to Thailand, and we are safe and sound preparing to board our ship this afternoon in Phuket. For whatever reason, getting here felt like one of our longest journeys ever. I have already mentioned in my last email about what we expected to encounter, and every bit of that turned out to be true--and then some! Upon reaching Dallas, we had to claim our luggage and transfer to the International Terminal where we had to check in again. Once reaching Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, we spent 11 hours in a hotel only to return to the airport and go through security again. In fact, as I look back on the flights, we went through security no less than four times. There was a point at which I openly joked that it might be easier if we all just traveled in the nude – at least it would be more interesting.

We were both very excited about getting to fly on Emirates Air because it had the reputation of being the most luxurious air travel in the world. Sadly in our case, the reality did not match the hype. When our flights were booked, we were set to travel on the huge Airbus 380, but in the interim, our aircraft was downgraded to a Boeing 777. That would have been fine, except for the way that Emirates organizes their business-class cabin. In most airlines when you travel business-class, there are six seats across, to 2 x 2 x 2. On these aircraft, they had placed seven seats across, thus resulting in someone having to sit in a center seat for a 14 hour flight, and because of the extra seat, all of them were relatively small and very uncomfortable. Well guess who got the center seat? Lisa of course!

I truly believe that the airport in Dubai may well be the largest terminal in the world. We landed at one end, and departed from the other. I gamely tried to walk the entire distance only to end up having to throw my hands in the air and flagging down a passing cart. Perhaps the most amazing thing that we saw occurred when we reached the counter to check in for our flight from Dubai to Thailand. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the scene at the boarding gate where for a large flight there is general pandemonium, and at the front of the line there are usually a couple of individuals in wheelchairs waiting to board first. As we approached our counter, I simply could not believe my eyes. But before me stretched a line of wheelchairs as far as the eye could see. It was not just a line of single chairs either, but a double row of chairs side-by-side stretching off into the distance. Lisa tells me that I should not try to estimate how many chairs were there, but temporarily I am going to ignore her advice, and say that in my opinion it was just short of 100. When it came time to board, the procession of the wheelchairs was a sight to behold. To the credit of the airline, they had a well-organized choreography, and while it did take a long time it could have been worse. I noticed that almost everyone in the wheelchairs appeared to be from India. A gentleman that I was standing next to said that the elderly family members in India tried to travel to the US to visit their families over the Thanksgiving holidays, and we were simply seeing part of their return home.

When we arrived into Thailand, unfortunately I was quite ill. I only vaguely remember the one hour drive to our beachfront hotel. Neither Lisa nor I could keep ourselves awake, and as hard as we tried to adjust to the time change effortlessly, we just couldn’t do it. The next day dawned bright and sunny, but we spent most of it in bed trying to let our bodies figure out where we were. Feeling better yesterday we decided to rent a cab and go to a nearby Buddhist temple. It was very colorful and well worth the visit, but in the dark moisture laden atmosphere, my photographs turned out rather blah.


Speaking of photographs, I used to post pictures as we travel on our photo album located on Picasa. Picasa was a free service offered by Google, but they have since decided to discontinue that webpage. So, I’ve quietly been working on an alternative, and this will be my first attempt to see if in fact, I can get it to work. You may see this new internet album at

That really is all that we have to share this point. We are to put our bags out shortly, and should travel to meet our ship by around 1 PM today. As many of you know, these expedition cruises can become quite hectic at times, but I will do my best to keep up with sharing the adventure in the photographs. Please note that we are thinking of you all – and hang on for more to come.


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