My 48 hours Meandering Journey Home

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Hey everyone. I’m back in the USA! Last week, I complained about the long and difficult journey back home. However, it turned out much better than I thought. Today, I’ll share what happened.

Quick recap

Here is a quick recap of the trip.

6:30 am – Drive to Chiang Mai airport and check in (2 hours)

8:30 am – Flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok (1.5 hours)

9 am – 12 hours layover in Bangkok (12 hours)

9 pm – 5 hours Flight from Bangkok to Incheon (5 hours)

4 am – 12 hours layover in Incheon (12.5 hours)

4 pm – 10 hours flight from Incheon to San Francisco (10 hours)

9 am – 2 hours layover in San Francisco (3 hours)

Noon – 1.5 hours flight from SF to Portland (1.5 hours)

2 pm – Drive back home from Portland airport (.5 hours)

Total = about 48 hours

Failure to break up the trip ($30)

After complaining about the trip, I realized I should try to break it up a bit. I booked a flight to Bangkok a day early so I can get a good night of sleep before the long flights. Unfortunately, I screwed up the ticket. At the check-in, the agent told me I booked the wrong month. Jeez, what a dummy! Actually, this often happens whenever I try to change something at the last minute. So I wasted $30 on this flight I’ll never use. At least it wasn’t too expensive.

The long meandering journey home was back on.

Chiangmai to Bangkok ($20)

The trip from Chiangmai to Bangkok was good. I booked this flight months ago. It was super cheap at $20! Back then, flights weren’t operating at full capacity due to the pandemic. Anyway, I have a few tips for you. Thai Smile is the best local operator in Thailand. They have free luggage check-in! Other discount airlines charge around $30 just to check your luggage. Thai Smile also serves complimentary snacks and a drink. I got a great deal for $20.

Oh, the best thing about this flight was I got a window seat in the exit row. The middle seat was empty so I had good space. It was a great portent for the journey home. As it turned out, I got a window seat with the middle seat empty for the rest of the flights home! So lucky.

Bangkok ($81)

We arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport on time and I put my luggage in storage ($3). Then, I took the train to town ($1.50 each way). I went straight to the hotel and checked in early ($40). After that, I went to have lunch with my aunt ($2).

Thai oyster pancake and Pad Thai

After lunch, I went shopping at Terminal 21. I picked up 2 shirts ($15) and a new belt ($13). This shopping mall is great because they have local shops with quality stuff. Then I went back to the hotel and took a long nap. Next, showered, changed, and took the train back to the airport.

Oh, I went out to eat before taking a shower.

Pad Kra Pao is a classic Thai dish. It’s meat stir-fried with chili, seasoning, and basil. Over the last few years, some young chefs have been trying to elevate it. This dish used 4 kinds of chili peppers, 2 types of basils, and topped it off with fried duck egg. You can even order it with 45 days dry-aged beef. I ordered the normal beef and it cost around $5. Normally, you can get it for around $1 at a street food stall. Overall, I really enjoyed this dish. It’s way better than the cheaper version. It’s nice to have more choices.

The hotel room in Bangkok was a great idea. I had a chance to recharge and get ready for the rest of the trip. It was worth $40.

Flight to Incheon (points)

The flight to Incheon was pretty uneventful. They served a meal and I watched Black Adam. The movie was fun, but the Rock was pretty dour. I like Shazam! more. That was more fun.

Korean Airlines bibimbap

After I ate, I took a nap. I also watched a Korean movie “6/45”. It was a pretty good comedy. A South Korean soldier lost a winning lotto ticket. The wind blew it over the DMZ and a North Korean soldier found it. From there, high jinx ensues as they try to work out a deal and redeem the winning.

This flight was pretty good. I was able to nap more than usual. The empty middle seats made a big difference. I was able to move around a bit without having to worry about bumping into another person.

Free Transit Tour in Seoul ($11)

The Incheon airport has a great free transit tour program. If you have enough time, you can join the one of several tours. I learned about this from previous visits to the Incheon airport. So this time, I signed up online and got the K-ETA ahead of time. ($8)

When we landed, I went to the departure area and took a nap in the transit lounge. The tour started at 8 am and we landed around 4:30 am. I had time to lie down for a while. After the nap, I dropped by the Transit tour desk and an agent escorted me back through security to go through immigration. Everything went smoothly and I made it in time to join the tour.

The tour’s max capacity was 16 people, but only 5 travelers went. Other people were interested, but they didn’t get the K-ETA ahead of time. These tours will be a lot more popular once the border opens fully. Oh, this palace had an entrance fee of $3.

Changdeokgung palace

The first stop was Changdeokgung palace. It’s pretty cool. I like their architecture and history. It’s also neat to see the king and queen’s working and living spaces. It’s pretty small! Some McMansions are bigger than this palace. Oh, the Transit tour lent me a jacket. It was 0 degrees out and I didn’t have the right clothes. It was hot and humid in Thailand.

Insadong ($10)

Next was Insadong street.

This is a neat area to eat and find souvenirs. However, I didn’t want to buy anything because my bag was already full. I wanted to eat! The guide recommended beef rib soup at the Gangnam Myeonok Insadong. It was great. I wish we had more time here so I could try more dishes. Next time, we’ll stay for at least a week.

Flight to SF

The flight to SF was uneventful. Again, I had the window seat with an empty middle seat. I watched a few movies, ate, and took naps.

At SF airport, I got through immigration and custom quickly. One agent was really grilling the permanent residences. Each person took almost 10 minutes to get through. It was crazy. I have never seen anything like that. Usually, they just wave everyone through. This agent was asking all sorts of questions. Anyway, I got waved through by an easy agent. Maybe it was a good cop, bad cop act.

I got my luggage and rechecked it.

Flight to Portland

The flight to Portland was short and sweet. Luckily, I had the same seating setup! Wow, I haven’t had an empty seat next to me on a domestic flight for years. It was a nice surprise.

Unfortunately, my luggage didn’t show up at the baggage claim. I went to file a report and Mrs. RB40 took me home.


Whew! It was a long day, but I got through it pretty well. The empty middle seat made a huge difference, IMO. The flights were so much more relaxing when you have just a little more room. My luggage was delivered to the door around 8 pm. Everything turned out well.

Total cost = $152

Alright, that’s it for my long journey home. Next time, we’ll break it up into segments. Have you ever had a long journey like this?

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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