We looked out the window of the plane as it made the final descent to our destination, lowering its vast bulk towards the tarmac.
Acres of green rice fields, wooden shacks & quiet countryside lanes dotted the landscape.
We were here, The Land of Smiles beckoned to us invitingly from down below.
The baggage carousel was calling as soon as we stepped into the airport – time to find Eden.
We were told that animals travelling as excess baggage would come out on the carousel along with the bags. There we were waiting patiently in the bright air conditioned surroundings, to be re united with Eden, for her to appear before us through the fringed magic opening where the luggage emerges.
As we looked for our belongings on the black belt, as well as our beloved animal, full of those feelings, you know the ones…waiting for your bags when you go on holiday, slight nerves, you can’t help but ask yourself, will it be there…have they made it…as everyone else around you takes their bags and starts their journeys…
Irrational thoughts as I started thinking could it be possible they didn’t put them on the plane, could it be possible that somewhere along the airline baggage procedure they delivered my case to the wrong chunk of metal and my belongs were actually waiting for me in Kazakhstan?
Had all our camera equipment been lost to the airport world, never to be seen again?
When we parted with Eden at Heathrow was that the last time we would see her, had she gone off on her own adventure without us?
Just before a small panic arose inside me, our two travel backpacks appeared, a sigh of relief. Followed however by a slight hysteria that had started to creep up on me when there was still no Eden.
The nails went into the mouth, the throat dried up, eyes darting all around, could we have missed her?
It was just us and one lonely brown leather suitcase left turning on the belt.
Everyone else had now disappeared, skipped off happily to start their lovely holidays in Thailand.
We were the last ones left.
What if one of the baggage elves had taken her?
Why is it taking so long? It had only been 15 mins but it felt like at least an hour.
An official looking man appeared, he looked helpful, would he know where our precious Eden was?
Instead he walked up to the carousel, took off the lonesome bag and turned OFF the belt.
Me and Jmayel looked at one another, slightly worried. Where is she!?
Seeing me and J still standing in the now empty baggage claim, he asked us what our bag looked like and he would track it down – I knew he looked helpful –
“No no, were not waiting for a bag, we’re waiting for our dog – a live animal, not bags’’
He looked at us with some confusion before pulling out a walkie talkie from his military style belt.
After a minute of untranslatable conversation with a mystery voice on the other end, he turned to us, smiled and nodded. “dog coming”
I sent a big smile to J as we realised all was well.
Eden was not lost, nor had she decided to ditch us whilst in the baggage hold, she was here.
A quick stop at the quarantine office to check through Eden’s papers ensued, Followed by a visit to Customs. Then that was it, we were out on the streets of Chiang Mai.
The heat hit us first, I was unnecessarily still wearing a scarf, vest and a hoodie jumper, J in a similar attire; Our England clothes.
35 degree heat began clinging to me, clawing at me to remove some layers.
As I peeled away the pink scarf from around my neck, the last remnant of my UK shell, I was surprised how at ease I felt getting into a local songthaew to take us to our home for the next month.
Looking out the window as we drove along the city roads, knowing exactly where we were going - all thanks to the wonders of Google street view – it felt like we were going home.
That we hadn’t just travelled for 16 hours, crossed 10 countries and flew 5583 miles.
I wasn’t arriving in a town I had been in 7 years previously, I was returning to a place I knew, as naturally as I would to my childhood house in Chingford, London.
10 minutes was all it took, the songthaew left us by the side of the road, Jmayel went off to find reinforcements in the shape of Neil, the person who’s house we had rented, to help carry our luggage, I waited with Eden, still in her box and our bags, feeling majorly overdressed in my full length trousers, socks and walking boots.
Once inside the rustic wooden house, it was time to release the pup, J took out his Swiss army knife to cut away the cable ties, sealing her in the plastic kennel.
The door opened and out came Eden, straight onto her back for a belly rub, tail wagging and exuding excitement as if the last day of turmoil for her had never happened. Each stroke wiping away the days ordeal.
The first couple of hours of our new life in Thailand involved drinking coconut water in the garden as we chatted to Neil and Gaelen, finding out Neil was actually born in Harlow, the town we had just lived in for the last 5 years.
After being awake for a full 24 hours and faced with a 6 hour time difference,
All that was left to do now before we could commence ‘Thai Life’ …..
…..was fight the jet lag…..
Sacha El-Haj - 8 Miles from Home
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