Here is an article by Andy Harris, long time visitor to Thailand and one of the board members of the Gallipeau-Harris Foundation.
For many of us, relaxing on the couch for a Sunday — watching golf or football — is one of life’s simple pleasures, on we enjoy all too infrequently.
We would gladly sit there for 8, 10 even 12 hours, so long as we were periodically replenished with suitable liquids and sustenance. The idea that our wives or children would serve us the beer and chips without our ever leaving our couches nearly pushes this whole idea into the realm of fantasy.
Yet when I tell my golfing buddies I’m off to golf in Thailand, one of the first questions I invariably get is, “How long is the flying time?” Well, depending whether you are coming from the UK or US, the answer is “it’s long” — anywhere from 10 to 20 hours in the air. I immediately add “really, it’s not that bad” and it’s not. More important, once you land the hassle of the flight is more than worth it – so much so that I have made the trip a dozen times in the last 7 years.
Because there is anxiety about the distance and the length of these flights, I would like to share a few simple measures that take the hassle out of the airplane ride and make it more comfortable, even enjoyable.
1. Have a good state of mind: Think of the plane ride as time for you to relax, catch-up on some reading, watch a few movies in your own private space and sleep a little. Just like being on your couch over the weekend. Put your watch away. Checking it only makes the time drag.
2. Prepare properly: Make the experience as comfortable as possible. I carry on my own blanket, neck pillow and slippers. Also, take your iPod and a set of noise-reducing head phones (a priceless investment). Bring a change of clothes just for the ride – after the first meal I change into sweats for the remainder of the flight.
3. Upgrade: These are ideal flights to finally use those miles you have saved up over the years. While this may not be possible all the time (and it’s getting harder), a great option is to get into the Economy plus programs of the airlines. I find that good seats are always available and frequently there is plenty of space to spread out, in addition to the extra legroom. The couple of hundred of $’s for the upgrade, or the year membership (depending on the airline), is well worth it.
4. Join the Club: Similarly, if you can, join the airline club. Some airlines now allow you to join just for the day at very reasonable cost. If your trip involves a stop somewhere (and from the U.S. it usually does), get to the lounge and take advantage of the facilities. United’s lounge in Narita Airport (Tokyo) has a free full service shower and this is a great way to unwind and break up the trip.
5. Sleep: For those who find it easy to sleep on planes, get your shut-eye early in the flight. This helps with the time adjustment once you land, and eliminating a big chunk of fly time, right off the bat, is good for the state of mind. If you have trouble sleeping on planes, try a couple Ambien or the like. My preferred regimen is to read, relax and have the first meal, with a single glass of wine. Then I pop two pills and read myself to sleep. The time passes quickly and, again, it helps with the jet lag on the other end.
Once the plane ride is over and you land refreshed (after your nap and shower), you are ready for Bangkok. Your private driver (courtesy of Golfasian) will meet you and whisk you to the hotel. After a couple of brews and a 1 hour oil massage, the trip is but a distant memory.