Zurich-Bangkok Bangkok-Dusseldorf

After nearly one hour, finally, they lead us to the underground offices of customs. A half dozen immigration officers keep us waiting again. Our hunger becomes unbearable, and we start fantasizing about a grand feast. I ask questions, but nobody wants to answer. They all say it’s not their decision, claiming that the chief officer has determined our expulsion.

I request to see him, but they say it will be possible later. It doesn’t take long for me to realize they’re just trying to shut me up… We are escorted to an airport restaurant.

A third compatriot, an Israeli dressed in a business style with a large suitcase and a hearty figure, joins us. He, too, is under the watchful eye of immigration.

We eat while our guard never takes their eyes off us.

Two more immigration agents arrive, and they take away our new companion, who managed to finish his meal. They leave his suitcase behind. My new Belgian friend and I discuss the situation, taking our time to finish eating, while another agent comes to collect the Israeli man’s suitcase, informing us that he is going to prison. The reason? He made a mistake, perhaps intentionally, by showing an expired passport instead of a valid one.

Not knowing why they’re detaining us only adds to our anxiety.

We are taken back to the basement office. I need to use the restroom, and the guard follows me, waiting a short distance away.

I take my time, freshen up a bit, and wash my hands after nearly 20 hours since leaving my Swiss campsite…

As I exit, two more officers are waiting just outside the restroom. They ask for my passport, but I haven’t seen it since their colleagues took it. At first, they don’t understand and become a bit agitated. Eventually, they calm down and comprehend the situation. They let me go and I rejoin my guard. Thailand, the land of smiles, the land where you’re treated like a criminal for no reason! In the office, I notice a sheet of paper passing by, all written in Thai.

I ask for a translation, and they read it to me. Among other things, it states that they suspect I am working illegally in Thailand since I visit so often. Indeed, my first visit was in 2003, and it took until 2019 to encounter my first problem… I respond that they could also suspect I’m a killer and should be thrown into prison immediately… I ask them which rule I have broken to be treated like a criminal, but they provide no answer. I am furious, exhausted. My past back fracture starts to ache. I tell them I can’t endure another 12-hour flight due to my back, showing them written proof of my condition. Their response?

If I don’t want to fly that same evening, I can sit in their office for another day! Thailand, the land of smiles, perhaps, but a place with people lacking any compassion in immigration!

We land in Dusseldorf.

The airline staff informs us that we have to wait. The plane is now empty, and they come to fetch us.

We are escorted by a tall German police officer who asks my Belgian colleague of suffering and me what we have done. We tell him that we simply wanted to go to Thailand as we do every year but were denied entry. He smiles, as if finding it amusing.

They take us to his office, and as I see him behind his computer screen, I imagine him checking if we’re not on any criminal lists. Finally, he returns our passports. I ask him if Dusseldorf is my final destination… He answers with a resounding “Yes!!!” I think back to my outbound flight. While chatting with my Thai seatmate, I was already picturing myself enjoying the warmth and magic of Thailand again, but here I am in Germany. I look out the window, and it’s raining, with miserable weather all around.

Now, what on earth am I supposed to do???
I’m exhausted from this back-and-forth journey and the 8-hour wait at Bangkok airport. My brain is functioning at a snail’s pace. But I need to get my act together. What to do? The cold weather is here, and I’ve packed up and closed my trusty camping car that serves as my Swiss home base.
I fire up SkyScanner, thinking about where to go. Fly back to Southeast Asia? I look into Malaysia, but nah, it’s too far. I need some rest. Deep down, I feel a pull from the other side, the Americas. Brazil, where I traveled for three weeks in the northern region near Fortaleza. It was my first time in Brazil, and it was pure bliss… The warmth of the people there, so friendly and welcoming, not always found in Asia. But with hot temperatures persons it comes too a higher level of safety concerns and more crimes!
It’s the same story, too many hours of flying…
After hours of contemplation, research, and multiple cups of coffee, I stumble upon an offer for Lisbon by pure chance. Eureka! I book it! The flight is in 6 hours. I find a little corner to lie down on the floor, setting my alarm just in case. I search for my socks because it’s chilly. Well, who cares, I put them on even though I only have flip flops. Just imagine the style… 🙂

My alarm proved useless; it’s not easy to get a good night’s sleep with all the ambient noise, even when you’re utterly exhausted… It’s time to go; I’m in zombie mode. I shuffle my way towards security. It seems like they all got the memo. My bag gets opened, and the few belongings I meticulously packed are scrutinized. They even give me the once-over from head to toe… pffff, sometimes traveling makes you feel like a criminal! Finally, I manage to pass through…

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