My U-Tapao experience
by Dennis Tan
After some 5 days of high anxiety and frustration, we are finally on our way back to Singapore via U-Tapao Airport on 1 December. The drive to the airport was uneventful, but we were greeted by a long queue of passenger and commercial vehicles when we got to the airport gate about 5 hours before the scheduled flight.
Our taxi driver somehow managed to worm his way through the queue and once in the airport compound, we were speechless when we saw lots of people all over the place, either under the hot sun or seeking cover below tentage, waiting for their flights (or check-in).
We waited in line for SIA's counter to start processing the passengers, but the waiting time and hot conditions were very trying.
Amidst all these frustrations and difficult conditions, a group of local artistes started serenading the stranded travellers (mostly foreigners) with Thai numbers, and gave performances (including a transvestite show) at regular intervals, to help liven up the atmosphere and made the waiting time less tiring.
Meanwhile the Thai Red Cross Society was busily distributing free meals and mineral water to all at the airport, whilst there are some local and commercial groups trying to capitalize on the opportunity by offering food, drinks (including beer) and foot reflexology services to help take away the weary woes.
Topping it all was a booth selling prepaid SIM cards and top-up cards as well as a mobile repair service station. Guess it is the Thais' way of making foreigners feel more at home.
The setting sun made the atmosphere even more warm and soothing and somehow the frustration and anxiety that was built up over the past few days were left behind.
I guess I now truly understand the meaning of "Amazing Thailand", something which I could not relate to previously when I was travelling more regularly to the country.
We are now safely at home and I pray that those who have been stranded will be able to re-unite with their loved ones soon, and also peace and order will return to the country soon.
Footnote by webmaster
U-Tapao, about 150 km from Bangkok not far from the beach resort of Pataya, was a former US B 52 bomber base during the Vietnam War. Currently under the Royal Thai Navy, it was converted for commercial flights during the closure of Suvarnbhumi.