Transfers, titbits and tailends
24.02.2015 - 26.02.2015 32 °C
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport
I don't like airports. I particularly dislike Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. It's glitzy and modern and the checking-in and security systems are always slick, but once you go through to airside, if you are flying cattle class, there are no decent lounges and nowhere to sit. Instead you are supposed to walk up and down, looking at duty free shop after duty free shop where everything is more expensive that it would have been if you'd bought it from your local mall in the city. Nobody buys anything, it's just looking. If I was in charge I would put all of the economy passengers in lounges and make the first class high flyers walk around the shops as they, presumably, are the ones who can afford the inflated prices!
Doha airport (architect's CGI image)
Our flight from Bangkok to Doha was punctual and uneventful so I'm still a fan of Qatar. Once at Doha we went to find the departure gate for our onward flight to Manchester. The terminal building is shaped rather like an inverted T and our gate was right at the end of one of the short arms. I say' short' but it still took us a while to reach it, even using the moving pavement things. Once again, no seats by our gate so we set off to find a handy 'quiet room' which was quite a distance away, so not really that 'handy'. These are soundproofed rooms, sadly lacking in most airports, which are filled with rows of recliner seats occupied by snoozing travellers. There are no announcements and everyone is expected to be quiet. As we settled back into our chairs, I asked Keith, What time is our flight?' '2.35', he whispered. I looked at my watch, it was 12.15am so I reckoned that we could have a quiet hour then mosey on down to the gate to await the boarding call. Keith was soon snoring, I dozed but didn't really settle. I'd worn flip flops thus far and pulled on my freebie aeroplane socks intending to put my proper shoes on before we got on the next plane. Next thing I knew, it was 1.10am so I nudged Keith awake, 'We've got another five minutes yet', he mumbled. At 1.15am I said 'Come on, we should go...' At which point Keith glanced at his watch and said 'We've missed the flight!' 'What do you mean?' I asked, ' We've got over an hour, you said 2.35'.
'No, we had a 2.35 stopover, the flight's at 1.35 and the gate closes 20 minutes before!'
Doha airport "quiet room"
We ran through the airport, me slipping and sliding on the polished floors in my woolly socks but with no time to put shoes on and arrived, breathless, at the now deserted gate. A member of staff looked at our boarding passes and said 'Ooh, sorry, you've missed it...' Our faces fell, we turned to walk away, feeling really stupid, then he laughed and said, 'You'll be OK'. We assumed he meant that he'd put us on another flight but no, a phone call was made and we were sent through, straight along the snorkel, onto the plane and the door was closed after us. We'd been called and paged but of course, we were in the 'quiet' room. Never again! Mind you, we did get boarded ever so quickly, no blocked aisles..... Even so, the moral of this story is that if your body clock says it's 4.00am and you have a flight to catch, it's probably not a good idea to lie down in a quiet room.
We arrived back here in sunshine, the neighbour said it was the best day since we'd left five weeks earlier. Now we've unpacked and most of the laundry is done. We had a great time and keep asking ourselves if we'd do anything differently in retrospect. Apart from making sure I arrived at Koh Ngai on a nice calm day so that I could be ferried to the pier and avoid the nightmare climb over the mountain, we think we got it about right.
Wheelie holdall (nicer in pink!)
Next year I will not take a suitcase.... I should never have been persuaded away from the rucksack, and I will take fewer clothes. I say that every time, but even after five weeks, both of us brought some things home unworn and others were worn and washed over and over. I wore makeup only once, so that wasn't worth taking and heaven knows why I took any hair styling products and tools when I scrunched my hair up in clips and bands all the time. Even in Bangkok, let alone on the beaches and islands, dress is very casual and flip flops go everywhere apart from swanky restaurants and the Royal Palace. Loose, lightweight clothing, probably stuff you'd never wear at home, is perfect.
Bangkok pedestrian crossover bridge
Every time I visit Bangkok, I am amazed to see some young girls wearing vertiginously high heels when the pavements are all uneven and the kerbs either high or broken. And the steps! So many steps, everywhere, but particularly to access the Skytrain stations, talk about Stairway to Heaven? It's nothing to climb 60 steep steps from street to station then another 30 or 40 to platform level. The main roads are so wide and busy, that to cross it's steps up, over a bridge and down again. Of course the best way to cross the city is on the riverboat as long as you are happy to jump on and off a bouncing ferry. Flats, comfortable shoes... forget stylish, go for practical!
Typical Bangkok Skytrain station (note all the steps!)
This is my first visit to Thailand when I haven't lost weight on a healthy diet of fish, vegetables and rice. I know I've been drinking gin and 'full fat' tonic ( the limes are thinning....) but it seems that Thai portion sizes have gotten bigger... maybe they are catering to tourist demands, but we've shared meals and not gone hungry which hasn't happened before. More street food is the answer, but it's so tempting to sit in an air conditioned or breezy riverside restaurant in the very hottest part of the day.
Bangkok street food
All of the plans and arrangements we'd made in advance worked well, no flight delays and turning up to closed hotels like last year and despite the Koh Ngai arrival and the near missed flight, everything worked out well. We had spectacular weather, glorious sunshine, bearable humidity levels and only two rainstorms which were during the night anyway. We may revisit Khao Lak but not Koh Ngai as there are so many more islands to go to. Koh Sukorn will never be the same again without Dick and Dee at the Bungalows, or without Thup, but we might well go just to see the changes and visit old friends.
Next time it's looking like Koh Bulone and Koh Yao.... I've a yearning for a Koh Lipe reprise too.... Keith fancies Sukkothai or Chiang Rai and of course I still want cocktails at the top of the Bayoke Sky Tower...and flying longhaul First Class (or maybe I'll settle for just Business Class)...
And since we got back we have caught up with "Bangkok Airport", broadcast by the BBC, featuring my favourite airport...