Not quite back to normal but back overseas after more than 2 years

JohnK

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This will be my first trip report.

I didn't think the time was right to head back to Thailand for at least another 12 months but my wife was keen to go back as she was very homesick. We got back from Thailand on 09/Mar/2020 and stuck here since.

We started planning trip for wife and daughter in November/December and were waiting to hear stories from people that went back.

Too many hoops and too many bad stories so we waited and decided March 2022 was first real opportunity. We decided coughet sandbox for wife and daughter in case things went wrong and it was going to be cheaper than BKK test and go.

Sometime in January I was jealous and thought stuff it time for me to go as well.

We are building a humble little house in Chiang Mai so wife and daughter will be there until October/November. My daughter started prep this year and it will be sad she'll miss most of the year but is really the last opportunity for her to go before starting year 1.

I'll be going back twice.

- first trip in 2 days
- second trip end August and hopefully house is ready then

I will be there the maximum 30 days without visa extensions each time which will be by far my longest trips to Thailand as previous longest trip was 16 days.

I've got fingers crossed. I don't want to be a Covid statistic. I've done well so far.
 

JohnK

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Off to Melbourne today. The weather in Brisbane awful.

Luckily I'd booked the 3:15pm BNE-MEL flight and not a later one. When I got to airport noticed the 5:15pm BNE-MEL flight cancelled. Dodged a bullet there.

We bought a car in Brisbane in March 2021 mainly to take my daughter swimming, parks etc but it comes in handy travelling too. I don't want to lug luggage and golf clubs around on public transport. Airport long term car parks have been great for me.

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Don't forget the golf clubs

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In less than 10 minutes I was at the airport. And someone kindly left some trolleys at drop off.

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Think luggage is going to have some issues on JQ tomorrow

Luggage 23.5kg
Golf bag 19.4kgs
Carry-on 8.9kg (although I do have some food for tonight)

Business class check-in was fast but security was slow.

Got a page in the lounge and started to get excited but it was just a request to change seats. I was in aisle seat with 2 kids next to me and dad was in row behind. I was offered the window seat with blocked middle seat. Too easy.

Flight OK but I much prefer aisle seat as the windows seat is too cramped for me.

Landing around 20m-30m late but still plenty of time for bus to Ibis Fawkner.
 

JohnK

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I take it you are planning to retire to Chiang Mai as soon as you can ?
Not quite. The house is basically for wife and daughter.

I have 2 stumbling blocks

- daughter just started prep so more than likely 12+ years of school in Australia
- arthritis medication requires special approval and I wouldn't want to pay for it out of my own pocket every 8 weeks

At some point I will apply for Thai marriage visa which allows me to stay In Thailand up to 12 months without visa runs.

If I could go to Thailand twice a year for 4-6 weeks each trip that would be a good outcome.
 

JohnK

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We arrived in MEL a little late and luggage took forever to come out.

I'd checked some options prior to arrival on how to get to Ibis Budget Fawkner and it was a no brainer decision

- taxi quoted online as $29
- User app yesterday quoting between $30-$40

I'll stick with plan to get bus. Found machine to buy Myki at end T2 arrivals.

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The 901 bus departs end of T4 near the parking. Nice casual walk.

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Bus departs every 15 minutes. Need to change from 901 bus to 902 bus at Broadmeadows and that was easy enough.

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JohnK

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I can sleep on a park bench and money spent on expensive hotels is wasted money.

Arrived at Ibis Budget Fawkner in 40 minutes from the time I got on 901 at MEL T4. The cost was $3.10 which was less than expected.

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Ibis Budget is as the name suggests. I'd paid $60 for the night after a kind AFFer offered JQ hotel voucher.

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Room is small and bathroom even smaller than a closet but bed is very comfortable for me. I'd slept 5+ hours and woke 3:00am feeling refreshed.

I'll grab a couple hours more sleep and head back to T2 with the bus.
 

Scarlett

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How do you get 19Kg into a golf bag John?
I’ve played a couple of courses in Cyprus and Turkey this past fortnight and mine consistently weighs in at 12.5Kg at the airports.
 

JohnK

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How do you get 19Kg into a golf bag John?
I’ve played a couple of courses in Cyprus and Turkey this past fortnight and mine consistently weighs in at 12.5Kg at the airports.
I need to find a sturdy golf bag that can travel without a golf travel cover bag.

I think my golf bag weighs 12-13kg with 12 steel irons + graphite driver and rescue + heavy umbrella and ball retriever + a dozen golf balls.

I'd say the golf cover bag is 3-4kg. Pair of golf shoes 500g and I have 2 tins x 900g baby formula.

I'll try to get golf bag to 20.8kg with some other things from luggage.
 

JohnK

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Woke up early Saturday morning feeling refreshed.

The plan was to put on my usual bets for a Saturday and head to airport to arrive around 9:15am in time for JQ check-in to open.

I took too long putting on the bets and then when I went outside it was raining. Not heavy but enough to be a worry. I did have a big umbrella in golf bag but not easy to use umbrella pulling golf bag with one hand and luggage with the other as well as heavy backpack.

Starting walking to 902 bus stop which was only ~400 metres but navigating the footpaths around the freeway/motorway wasn't easy and I was getting wet.

Stopped in shelter about half way there and checked Uber options. Cheapest was $29. No thanks. At this point I see the 902 bus leaving towards Broadmeadows. Next one is 30 minutes. Oh well.

Made my way to bus stop and waited for the bus at the bus stop shelter. It took only ~30 minutes to airport and only cost $3. Longish walk from T4 Carpark to T2 departures.

Found JQ check-in and I was all done by about 10:30am.

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Note luggage was ~20.1kg.

Golf bag was ~20.8kg but was not even weighed and she came out and put luggage tag on the bag.

Carry on was ~8kg and that was not weighed either with just a tag put on it.
 

JohnK

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MEL Airport on Saturday 14 May was not busy at all. Made my way through immigration and security and the long walk through duty free.

Qantas First Lounge is quite a distance away from check-in.

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I'd ordered eggs Benedict and a glass of champagne. The champagne arrived first.

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It had been 2y2m6d since I had any alcohol. Since we were pretty much locked away and couldn't travel anywhere I wanted to see how long I could go with that achievement.

For anyone that knows me I've been borderline alcoholic at various stages of my life and I'm proud of that achievement.

Then the eggs Benedict with salmon arrived along with another glass of champagne.

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I love poached eggs. The last time I had poached eggs would have been a week or so before I stopped drinking alcohol after returning from Thailand.

I ordered a second lot of eggs Benedict along with a Vodka and orange but didn't realise it was now close to midday and I could have ordered salt and pepper squid. Oh well. Too late now I'm full.

Went and sat near the departures board waiting for flight to be called.

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I'd also grabbed a beer to complete my wish of champagne, Vodka and beer for my first day back drinking.

I was sitting right near reception and the first lot of people for QF9 started to arrive only to be met with news of 4+ hour delay.

They called JQ29 and it was now time to go to the gate.
 

JohnK

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Made my way out to the gate.

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No no that's the wrong airline. Need to make sure I find the right gate.

Oh here we are.

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I thought I'd timed it perfectly but it would appear they have not started boarding. Didn't even look like they were ready to start boarding.

The gate was packed. This was clearly a full flight. Could have stayed in the lounge another 20-30 minutes. Not sure why they announced boarding when they were not yet ready to board.

Found an empty spot away from the gate to pass the time.

One thing I have to say is that boarding was very efficient. Have to hand it to JQ. They may not be popular but they do get some things right.

I ensure that I am one of the last to board as is customary in my travels.
 

JohnK

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I'm not sure why these photos have the blue filter on them. I must have done something with the setting? Anyway here is the JQ 787 at the gate.

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I was sitting in the front section of economy as I had the max fare. My row was full. 2 rows behind was empty and asked if I can move but was told it was crew rest. Only 1 person sitting in exit row in front.

About an hour after take-off the Thai person sitting next to me moved to the exit row. I guess that's a benefit of an all Thai crew. Good for me as I now had a vacant seat next to me. Another person in middle section also moved.

What I did notice was someone sitting in the crew rest. Must have asked more sweetly than me.

The meal service is slow. I had pre-ordered a meal but that was going to be served prior to arrival. I had a $15 voucher to use for first meal service but had to wait until they handed out all ordered meals. Took a while to be able to order something to eat.

The photos don't do it justice but I ordered Butter chicken.

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You can't quite see the Butter chicken in the brochure but there's lot of chunky pieces in the brochure photo with some rice.

The reality was that the meal was rice with butter chicken flavour as an additive. I struggled to find anything resembling chicken. They sell this for $12? Rip off. Bring your own sandwich.

Luckily the person sitting next to me had paid for entertainment and this was transferred to his new seat but they also left his old seat active. I tried watching the new Matrix but struggled to keep up. Perhaps another time.

Other than that this was one of the longest flights I have flown. Maybe it was due to not flying for 2 years but it was boring. I'll do everything to avoid JQ unless price is an issue but with luggage and golf clubs the price is not that much cheaper.
 

drron

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I'm not sure why these photos have the blue filter on them. I must have done something with the setting? Anyway here is the JQ 787 at the gate.

View attachment 283216

I was sitting in the front section of economy as I had the max fare. My row was full. 2 rows behind was empty and asked if I can move but was told it was crew rest. Only 1 person sitting in exit row in front.

About an hour after take-off the Thai person sitting next to me moved to the exit row. I guess that's a benefit of an all Thai crew. Good for me as I now had a vacant seat next to me. Another person in middle section also moved.

What I did notice was someone sitting in the crew rest. Must have asked more sweetly than me.

The meal service is slow. I had pre-ordered a meal but that was going to be served prior to arrival. I had a $15 voucher to use for first meal service but had to wait until they handed out all ordered meals. Took a while to be able to order something to eat.

The photos don't do it justice but I ordered Butter chicken.

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You can't quite see the Butter chicken in the brochure but there's lot of chunky pieces in the brochure photo with some rice.

The reality was that the meal was rice with butter chicken flavour as an additive. I struggled to find anything resembling chicken. They sell this for $12? Rip off. Bring your own sandwich.

Luckily the person sitting next to me had paid for entertainment and this was transferred to his new seat but they also left his old seat active. I tried watching the new Matrix but struggled to keep up. Perhaps another time.

Other than that this was one of the longest flights I have flown. Maybe it was due to not flying for 2 years but it was boring. I'll do everything to avoid JQ unless price is an issue but with luggage and golf clubs the price is not that much cheaper.
Yes when you add the bundles JQ really isn't cheap. March 2024 we are starting a cruise in Bali. I researched possible flights first. Only a couple of airlines do a direct BNE-DPS. Excluded Malindo. JQ with Max bundle was $934. VA J was $976. I think that it is just possible that VA is the better deal.
 

JohnK

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Arrival into BKK on a Saturday night was about the easiest I've experienced other than again being deposited at the furthest gate and long walk to immigration.

Hardly any flights landing at same time.

I was already prepared with Thailand Pass and vaccination history. It was a breeze through immigration.

Luggage took quite a while to come out. Then after 100 bags stopped and another long wait. Perhaps they've been short staffed. Golf clubs still weren't available at oversize so another longish wait

Bought a bottle of Absolut Vodka and headed out to look for the driver of the private car I booked.

I did purchase a new AIS Thai sim card as the old one expired after not being used for more than 12 months.

I also purchased an internet package. They only had expensive options for sale at the airport. 600 baht for 30 days no limit internet of which 7GB or 8GB were at max speed and the remainder at normal speed.

Big mistake. I'm not sure what I did but did not take too much notice and I used up the allowance of Max speed in 9 days. Let's just say that normal speed internet is not usable for anything other than maps. Awful. Websites don't load. Cannot refresh. Had to use WiFi where possible as I did not want to pay extra.

I now know that next time I'm there I will be purchasing the 99 baht 7 day internet package and let that renew each 7 days.

So off we head to Pattaya. Feels strange to be back after an absence of more than 2 years. Didn't think it would be this soon.
 

JohnK

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Arrived at Maytara hotel on Soi 11 Beach Road but is actually right on corner of Second Road and Soi 11. Trip time was roughly 90 minutes and that was sitting on 100-120/kmh on Motorway. Longest time is getting out of airport and into Pattaya.

For what it's worth the SUV cost 1500 baht including tolls which I find good value. We've been using the same bloke since 2018 and he has a good selection of drivers he uses. No issues so far.

There was uncertainty on restrictions in place for this trip so I am in Pattaya alone with the girls in Chiang Mai.

I booked this hotel as I wanted to stay away from the popular Soi 7 and Soi 8 areas. Most bars in the Sois now closed and Sois can be very dark with questionable people hanging around in dark spaces and jumping out when you least expect.

Eastiny Place closed down and Sunshine Hotel & Residences & Sunbeam Hotel favoured by overseas tour operators justifies my decision to stay away. In fact stay away from any hotel favoured by overseas tour operators. You will not enjoy your stay unless you are prepared to cope with tourists loitering around hotel all day.

Maytara Hotel cost me $220 for 8 nights or just on $28/night. Basic hotel, rooms are nice and comfortable and they also have breakfast but I wasn't happy with the price they were charging so opted out. Rooms can be currently had for $35/night for August.

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The bed was comfortable, Thai style bathroom more than adequate and in room safe. There's also a small table I can use for the 2 days I am working from home.

The hotel is longish and the one and only lift is on the opposite side to reception so a fairly long walk from reception.

Hotel is right next to Tipp Plaza where I used to visit regularly for my Western style Sirloin steak fix. Most shops now closed. Also close to Made in Thailand markets and Central Festival. And less than 10 minutes walk from the restaurant that organises golf each day.

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As you can see almost touching distance from my favourite hotel in Pattaya, the Hilton.

I was just thinking I paid $220 for 8 nights at Maytara and @drron and @mrs.dr.ron pay that much as a minimum for 1 night. LOL.
 

drron

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Arrived at Maytara hotel on Soi 11 Beach Road but is actually right on corner of Second Road and Soi 11. Trip time was roughly 90 minutes and that was sitting on 100-120/kmh on Motorway. Longest time is getting out of airport and into Pattaya.

For what it's worth the SUV cost 1500 baht including tolls which I find good value. We've been using the same bloke since 2018 and he has a good selection of drivers he uses. No issues so far.

There was uncertainty on restrictions in place for this trip so I am in Pattaya alone with the girls in Chiang Mai.

I booked this hotel as I wanted to stay away from the popular Soi 7 and Soi 8 areas. Most bars in the Sois now closed and Sois can be very dark with questionable people hanging around in dark spaces and jumping out when you least expect.

Eastiny Place closed down and Sunshine Hotel & Residences & Sunbeam Hotel favoured by overseas tour operators justifies my decision to stay away. In fact stay away from any hotel favoured by overseas tour operators. You will not enjoy your stay unless you are prepared to cope with tourists loitering around hotel all day.

Maytara Hotel cost me $220 for 8 nights or just on $28/night. Basic hotel, rooms are nice and comfortable and they also have breakfast but I wasn't happy with the price they were charging so opted out. Rooms can be currently had for $35/night for August.

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The bed was comfortable, Thai style bathroom more than adequate and in room safe. There's also a small table I can use for the 2 days I am working from home.

The hotel is longish and the one and only lift is on the opposite side to reception so a fairly long walk from reception.

Hotel is right next to Tipp Plaza where I used to visit regularly for my Western style Sirloin steak fix. Most shops now closed. Also close to Made in Thailand markets and Central Festival. And less than 10 minutes walk from the restaurant that organises golf each day.

View attachment 283292

As you can see almost touching distance from my favourite hotel in Pattaya, the Hilton.

I was just thinking I paid $220 for 8 nights at Maytara and @drron and @mrs.dr.ron pay that much as a minimum for 1 night. LOL.
Not at present. That pays for 2 nights at the SGS and with that we have breakfast and each of us can go through a bottle of wine a night. Plus listening to jazz every night. To each his own. We would go stir crazy in the Maytara.
 

JohnK

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Not at present. That pays for 2 nights at the SGS and with that we have breakfast and each of us can go through a bottle of wine a night. Plus listening to jazz every night. To each his own. We would go stir crazy in the Maytara.
LOL. I know you'd both go crazy at the Maytara. I wanted to try another hotel. I/we don't spend much time in room so something cheap is much better. I never realised that costs for 3 people are remarkably higher than 1 person. I'll have to start looking for 1 bedroom suites soon with daughter growing up fast. Maybe even 2 cheap rooms.

I was going to try Page 10 hotel which is one Soi closer to Central Festival but that one is going up in price. The Bay view which is next to Central Festival has gone from ~$50/night to ~$75/night and it won't be long before it's back up over $100/night.

Next trip we'll stay in LK Royal Suites at the top of Soi Buakhao with 4 nights in Standard room and 4 nights in 1 bedroom suite.

Last week before coming back we'll stay in Areca Lodge including breakfast. I stayed there 15 years ago and it was a new hotel at the time but became very popular with Russian tourists and I need to stay away from them at all costs otherwise I'll get in trouble.
 

JohnK

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Saturday night and I was a little tired but just wanted to go out for a walk. It was now close to midnight.

I'd forgotten that bars and agogos were restricted to 11:00pm closing and it was only recently that was extended to 12:00am.

I went for a walk along Soi Diana to soi LK Metro to Soi Buakhao and back again.

Pattaya feels very eerie. This is not the Pattaya I knew since 2003. Many shop fronts bolted up. Small malls closed. Where there were vacant lots and a cluster of small shops they have new condo skyscrapers. Who is going fill these condos? Preparing for the invasion?

Many hotels closed. 24 hour 7-Elevens and Family Marts taking turns to close at 11:00pm.

My wife's cousin is a chef in Chiang Mai and his wife a housekeeper. They used to find work in hotels but those hotels are now closed and they have to find something else to do. Looks the same in Pattaya.

Anyway not much to do this Saturday night. I sat in front of Areca Lodge next to fountain and finished my last beer. I stupidly left it late and alcohol sales finish midnight.

I did meet this character who would not stop barking at me.

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My daughter has had a beagle stuffy since she was 12 months old and he is still part of the family and goes everywhere with us.

I bought some lychee juice and head back to the room. Tomorrow was going to be Vodka and lychee juice ala JohnK.

Sunday was very quiet. Went for a walk and put my name down for golf the next day.

Oh golf. The last decent game was March 2020 where on the same day I crushed a 280 yard drive to win longest drive and a t-shirt that will go to brother in law.

Golf has been very poor. It's like I've never played the game.

Hopefully golf will improve again.
 

JohnK

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Monday 16 May

I managed to wake up 8:00am. Get ready and then 10 minute walk taking golf clubs and bag to golf bar.

Im hungry. Cost of golf today 2,300 baht including breakfast, transport, green fee, caddy fee, prizes and a beer on return.

Today we are off to Greenwood. 27 holes. Used to be called Noble Place.

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Unless you pre-book a regular caddie you enter the caddie lottery. There's my caddie today.

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We had group of 8 players go to golf today.

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After the 5th hole on the 'B' nine which was our front 9 holes there was this torrential downpour.

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We rushed back to the little shelter between the 4th green and 5th tee. What shelter? Open on all sides and 4 golfers from our group, 2 golfers from another group and 6 caddies all trying to take shelter from the torrential downpour.

Finally the skies opened up after about 60 minutes and we headed back to 6th tee. For the next 2 holes I was literally hitting the ball a few metres along the ground. I was almost crying. There was nothing I could do.

I had to get a beer at next drink stop. This was depressing. It was then that I realised my whole body tightened up during the 60 minute rain delay and when we went back out to play my body was so stiff it was impossible to swing the golf club.

Aaahhhh....

We met this character out on the course

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And I made a total meal of my drive on this hole. Topped into the water just off the tee.

Oh boy this was now past depressing getting close to suicidal.

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We had a side bet on the par 3's where the caddie of the person nearest to pin gets 20 baht from the other 3 players. We didn't hit many greens and first 3 par 3's were over and on the last par 3 no one on the green and I got closest for 2 so my caddie ended up with 60 baht to go on top of my customary 400 baht tip.

Handicap 10. Points 21. Strokes 96. GIR 11%. Putts 1.9 avg. What an awful start. Not one par. From memory this was my first ever game in Thailand in 16 years where I did not get a par/birdie during the round.

Never mind beer can be very medicinal and with this crowd I'm sure there will be a few beers back at the bar.
 
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