Posted by Gary Herman on Jul 31, 2019
.... or why 36 hour multi-leg airline trips through PRC to North America from Thailand may not really be a bargain

What a trip…. should have known it would be interesting.

So, OK I started out going to The Kitchen Seven for breakfast; Joe the owner had volunteered to take me to the airport. I grabbed my old suitcase and left the duffel, given to me by fellow Rotarian PP Jerry, in the apartment to pick up later.  While walking to the restaurant I stepped behind a parked Toyota and while waiting for the kamikaze motorcycles to clear, the Toyota started to back into me, knocking me down.  There was no real harm but a harbinger of things to come, I think.  I had breakfast with CP Roger and went to pick up the duffel. 

The wheels started to disintegrate as I was hauling it out of the apartment.  While I was picking up plastic and rubber pieces for about twenty yards, the wheels somehow continued to work.  But, as we were putting it in the trunk of the car something inside the top back duffel broke. (more on that later) Got lucky at the airport because somebody was just finishing unloading a cart at the curb so I didn’t have to use the faulty wheels anymore.     

Had fun with luggage and TSA (whatever they are called in Chiang Mai and China) everywhere.  When I got to the airport I must have been behind about four busloads of Chinese tourists, so going through the initial scan took a while but they only wanted my computers removed.

I had checked on the airline's website and it said the weight limit was 32 kilos so I had both bags at a little over 27 kilos to be sure.  But when I went to the ticket counter the clerk said 23 kilos or a 2500 baht extra cost for each.  So I scrambled around and found what is a new bag for Maggie my dog at the gift shop because my backpack was already overloaded and I just started grabbing stuff and shoving it in Maggie's bag. (pictured right, looking unimpressed with her gift)

Once I got under the limit, I ran off to international boarding to join the end of a long snaking line.  Finished that and went to the security check where I was asked to pull all the electronics out of my carry-on which was a bunch because that had been the quickest way to reduce weight from my checked bags.  Plus they decided my multivitamins were probably drugs I was smuggling because I had put them in a plastic bag to save size and weight.  I told them they were just Centrum Silver and if it was really a problem just keep them.  But no they took them away to test.  And I had also packed three tubes of Crest 3D white and they said they were over 10 oz. so they did keep those.  Anyway after they finished, I needed to repack, so I was probably close to the last person on the plane but I did make it. 

At Guangzhou, as I pretty much expected, the Chinese security people pulled everything out of my backpack and bag and dropped them in bins. Both ways, you have to go through security arriving and leaving. By this time I have no clue what is in which bag.

So after getting to Los Angeles, I went through immigration, finding it a relative breeze.  You go to a machine and put your passport in, answer the declarations and it prints a receipt.  Since I was a returning citizen, I took the receipt to a guy who barely even looked at me and asked if I had anything to declare, then stamped it and I went to pick up my checked luggage for inspection.  They just did the same thing, asked me if I had anything to declare then sent me to another station to forward my checked baggage to Alaska Airlines, which was good because I would have really have had trouble getting both bags to the Alaska Airlines terminal by myself.

But when I got to the Alaska Airlines terminal I had to go through TSA and they did pretty much the same routine with my carry on as the Chinese, demanding that I not only show all my electronics where always before it was only laptops, but I needed to take the lens off my SLR and prove both were working items.  And they almost confiscated my spare SLR battery.  In addition, they of had me take off my belt so when I was in the x-ray machine where you have to hold your hands over your head they told me to pull up my pants.  Oops!

So I get to Portland with no American money (I didn’t have time in CM to go to the exchange) and by this time the duffel is totally broken, no wheels, no straps and the backplane is shattered top to bottom.  At the luggage go round I picked up my bags and the looked at the cart rack.  They wanted $5 to rent a cart.  So I started for the front but there were a couple abandoned carts so I commandeered one.  Pictured, at left is what I found when I unloaded the bag at home.  

The black pieces are part of the backplane that is completely shattered. 

After this long and probably boring story, I thank you Jerry, the bag did it’s job but is useless from now on.

Editors note:  Jerry reports that he has another big duffel exactly like the one he gave to Gary in his Chiang Mai storage room if anyone needs it.  Like the one Gary used to move "home" from Chiang Mai, it's at least ten years old and has been stored in a room without aircon, so you can expect to have an adventure like Gary's if you travel halfway across the world with it.