Trip Report: Run-around Thailand

Discussion in 'Trip Reports and Trip Photos' started by N860CR, Apr 24, 2007.

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  1. N860CR

    N860CR Established Member

    Nov 30, 2004
    Brisbane & Sydney
    Recently returned from my long overdue holiday in Thailand, so I thought I'd just put together a very brief trip report.

    Wed 11 April 2007
    Flight: Qantas QF1
    Aircraft: B747-400
    Route: SYD-BKK
    ETD: 1700
    ATD: 1700
    Seat: 23B (Business)

    My fellow travel partners were flying SYD-HKT on the JQ flight at 1400, so we all went to the airport together at about 1100. I made the assumption that I'd be able to checkin early (hey, if you can do it in SIN shouldn't you be able to in SYD?!) but alas, no. I asked at the QC checkin line and was promptly told to bugger off until not a minute before 1400. Fortunately, after finding a slightly more accommodating member of QF staff I was informed the flight should be opened at about 1300. So off my travel partners went to the QC while I settled in to watch Desperate Housewives on my laptop in the checkin area. Yes, those seats get very uncomfortable after a while! Come 1300 I headed back to the QF checkin lines to see the line almost out the door. At this stage I was still in economy so was to be stuck in the economy queue. Great, I thought, as I lined up and settled in for another long weight. As it turns out, about half way up the line someone was checking people’s tickets. I saw a lot of unhappy faces who were told to go back and wait for a while, even after having already lined up for what was probably a fairly long time.
    "Where are you going?"
    "Ok go through"
    So finally I'm in the next part of the line (still about the 100th person). However luck was with me. Someone came up, opened the rope and lead me and a few others to the First checkin counter. Quick confirmation of my seat (still up the back) and I was on my way to passport control.
    Passport control line was fairly short and I was lucky enough to have one of a very small number of friendly customs agents.
    "Hello, ah off to Bangkok. Just for a holiday?"
    "Yep, a well overdue one"
    Then came one of my blonde moments...
    "So you're not flying today?"
    "Umm... yeah I am"
    "Oh ok, but not this one?" as she held up my boarding pass.
    Took me a minute to realise that, of course, my departure form had my occupation written on it! No, fortunately I was not flying QF1 that day, rather being flown on it!
    So that aside (I blame all the waiting!) off to the security checkpoint. Explosive screened yet again, although they were friendly enough. A little too friendly when patting me down perhaps....
    Quickly processed my laptop at the TRS. Just the regular unfriendly customs agent there. Got a good lecture about having to declare it when I returned (over $900 limit).
    Then, finally, after having already spent what felt like a lifetime in SYD, I entered the QC. As soon as I walked in I was offered a cocktail. I asked for a Vodka Cranberry and one was quickly whipped up. The very helpful waitress gave me a quick talk about the new Absolut Black (50%) and suggested I throw in some Cointreau as well. What the hell, I'd earned it!
    I had about two and a half hours until boarding so I took the chance to make some last minute phone calls, organise my schedule for when I return and eat/drink myself sufficiently.

    My upgrade had been sorted so I boarded and made my way to 23B, first row of business. I was surprised this seat wasn't already taken. Seat was clean and comfortable. Shortly after takeoff the crew came around offering toiletries. The pack was somewhat tacky, a plastic box with a few face products, some socks and a whole two mints. The magazine described it as "industrial". I guess that's one word.... Shaving kits, combs etc were offered separately. I'm guessing this cuts out the need to give everyone everything. PJ's weren't offered, I'd assume available on request.
    Can't fault the inflight service. Excellent CSM, good FA's. Food was very good and drink service generous. IFE worked fine throughout the flight which was a nice surprise.
    About an hour prior to landing an FA asked if I'd like something to eat and quickly whipped up a hot beef sandwich. It really was huge and a bit much for me to handle at 10pm local (1am SYD time)!
    Flight landed and was at the gate a bit ahead of schedule. I walked off the flight feeling relaxed and not at all tired, impressive considering the long day I'd already had.
    The walk from the gate to passport control did a good job at wearing me out though! Took a good 20 minutes. Spent another 20 minutes waiting for my bad. The new BKK is an impressive structure, but I think it still needs a little fine tuning. All in all, time from bums off seats in the AC to bums on seats in the taxi was just on an hour. Fine for me (I was on holidays), but unacceptable for a business traveler, especially when you consider how well SIN does it in a similar political/security climate.

    Bangkok: 4 nights at Regent Silom
    I selected a fairly cheap hotel on Silom Rd. I've spent enough time in Thailand to know that a flashy hotel isn't required, and this place was new and clean and offered good value rooms (about $40 twin with breakfast). That said, only bothered with breakfast once! The hotel was located literally right below Sala Daeng station which was good, however unfortunately all the Son Kran festivities seemed to occur in this exact spot so leaving/coming from the hotel was impossible after about 1500 without getting wet and floured. The wet I can handle, the flour though is a pain. Fun for a while, but gets old very quickly!

    Sun 15 April 2007
    Flight: Bangkok Airways PG199
    Aircraft: B717-200
    Route: BKK-USM (Koh Samui)
    ETD: 2100
    ATD: 2100
    Seat: 5C

    I'd booked a 2100 departure from BKK for two reasons. One, to maximize my last day in BKK, and secondly as PG's cheaper promo fare was only available on the 0600 or 2100 flight (takes a lot to get me up early!). Unfortunately, I hadn't factored in Son Kran. We were left with two options. Leave for the airport that night and get soaked and floured (and our luggage wrecked in the process), or head to the airport early. Ended up leaving the hotel at 1130, heading to MBK, dumping one unfortunate soul with our luggage in McDonald's and shopping for a few hours! Made our way to BKK at about 1400. No dramas checking in early (and no queue). Without the weight of our bags we were able to proceed to the PG lounge (yes, again one hell of a walk). The new PG lounge at BKK is very impressive. It's large, comfortable and easily challenges many airlines business class lounges. There is a nice food and drink range (the hot popcorn is a nice touch), free broadband internet and plenty of lounges for relaxing on. Only thing missing is a bar, however this is hardly expected!

    The time passed fairly quickly and before long we boarded the B712 for the flight to USM (flying time of just 40 minutes). The 717 is a nice aircraft to travel on, good legroom and a nice 2-3 configuration. The PG inflight service is always good. Were served a cold meat roll with a pastry, plus orange juice and coffee/tea. The crew were friendly and professional as always and good in dealing with a few sleazy Australian men who were sitting in front of me. Unfortunately this is an all too common sight in Thailand. Two of the guys behaved in such inappropriate ways that they'd have no doubt been arrested on a flight in Australia. Luckily they settled down after being served their meal.
    Arrival in USM was not so spectacular at night. As we deboarded the aircraft we were ushered onto little open-air mini-busses which drove us to the main terminal. It's quite a sweet little arrangement, very classically Thai. Huts with thatched roofs and all open-air. Cute, but the baggage arrangement was slow (HBA DJ style) and, while it was pleasant in the evening, it would have been bloody hot during the day!

    Koh Samui: 4 nights at Seascape Beach Resort
    Right down the far end of Chewang beach. This meant it was quieter and the beach itself is much nicer that the northern end (less weed, water isn't so stale). Resort itself was quite nice for the price ($120 per night for 4 person bungalow). A little dated, but room was clean and tidy, air con worked well. Only complaint was the shower which was absolutely terrible. Ended up running into the beach with conditioner still in my hair! Breakfast this time buffet, but is the usual Thai deal which consists of odd tasting eggs, odd tasting bacon, odd tasting toast.... well odd is the key word.
    Days were beautiful. The hotel has deck chairs along the beach and, unlike many others, doesn't make you pay for them. Pool was small, but the ocean was so nice there was no need to use it. Samui really is a whole notch above Phuket. My travel partners were heading to HKT after USM while I headed home, although really I didn't feel too upset that I'd be missing much.
    On our last night we had dinner on the beach. The resort restaurant each night had a beautiful setting right on the beach with LED lighting and comfortable outside tables (or "Picnic on pillow" style if you wanted). We each had the 499THB ($17ish) seafood platter which consisted of "Rock Lobster" (which turned out to be a Balmain Bug!), prawns and the most beautiful crab I’d ever had (along with a glass of wine, which wasn't worth writing home about - thank god for the 99THB cocktails!).
    That night I took my last walk through the streets of USM, a place I would definitely miss. I also felt a hint of sadness, realising this would probably be the last time I'd visit Thailand (my one true love!) for quite some time. For the next few years work in Australia will be hectic and I don't like my chances of getting away for a while.
    Off to bed, preparing for my 4am wake up for the long, long trip home!

    Thursday 19 April 2007 - USM-SYD, the long way
    Unfortunately, I'd been unable to get myself a flight from BKK-SYD. The only options were SIN-BNE-SYD, or HKT-SYD on JQ. Not wishing to give the JQ option a shot I booked SIN-BNE-SYD, planning to then travel USM-SIN to meet it. After a bit of thinking, I decided the 1 1/2 hour's between the USM-SIN and SIN-BNE flights was pushing it too much, so I booked USM-BKK and BKK-SIN arriving much earlier for about the same price.

    Flight: Bangkok Air PG100
    Aircraft: B717-200
    Route: USM-BKK
    ETD: 0600
    ATD: 0605
    Seat: 8C

    Early pickup (4:45) to be at the airport at 5am. It was still dark (and fortunately fairly cool). Checkin was easy and I took a seat to wait for the flight. There was food and drink available, but I didn't dig in too much - can't ever bring myself to eat in the morning. The flight was called and I boarded the minibus to go to the aircraft. Spent about 5mins sitting on it before it got moving. By this stage the sun was beginning to rise and it was warming up, again glad I wasn't sitting in the same spot during the day.
    Flight departed 5 mins late. Service inflight was again efficient, however unfortunately the meal wasn't quite up to PG standards. It was two pastries and some fruit with coffee and juice. Most was ok, but the pastries were dry as a nu.... they were very dry.
    Flight landed on schedule and, after the long walk and wait to get my bags I proceeded upstairs to checkin for my next flight.

    Flight: Air Asia FD3503
    Aircraft: B737-300
    Route: BKK-SIN
    ETD: 1140
    ATD: 1145/1215
    Seat: 15D

    I arrived in the departures area at about 0730. I had figured FD checkin opened 3 hours before departure so I found a seat to wait until 0840. This time came... nothing opened. Must be 2 1/2 hours. Come 0910, still nothing. At 0930 a queue formed on an empty checkin counter so I joined assuming this was for my flight. At 0950, less than two hours before the flight departed, the counters opened. FD has a 15kg baggage limit so I was careful to pack my suitcase light and keep the rest in my cabin bag. On the scales my bag goes, 16.3kg
    "Sir you take something out, 15kg limit"
    Fair enough, I take out a plastic bag and throw some clothes in it. At 15.9kg I'm given the ok. So now I'm carrying on 2 cabin bags and a plastic bag with my dirty clothes in it. If someone can explain how this saves them money I'd really like to hear it!
    At the gate the queue was forming a good 15mins prior to boarding (free seating). There was a large Chinese tour group on the flight and none of them seemed to speak English so calls from ground staff to sit down were ignored. Luckily I'd figured out that to board the flight we must first travel on a bus, so first in queue = first on bus = last off bus = last on plane. I ended up being near the bus door, however in the rush to get off the bus was almost pushed over so I didn't stress too much about getting out in a hurry!
    Eventually I planted myself in an aisle seat just behind the exit row. Leg room was ok and I was banking on having the row to myself. Just before departure, someone climbed over me and took the window. The seats weren't too bad. DJ style leather, although the leg room was tighter, I'd say 30" (still better than JQ).
    The next event was a little interesting; the AC pushed back from its parking spot, taxied to the holding point for the runway, entered the runway and exited right away, returned to the parking spot and shut down. Oddly no one else seemed at all fussed by this. 10 mins later, the AC was pushed back again, restarted and began to taxi. I noted out the window a truck with a large nitrogen (?) tank on the back following us and the driver was paying close attention to the landing gear. I'm assuming a flat tyre was noted when lining up. There was no explanation from the cabin or flight deck crew.
    Once airbourne, flight was trouble free. Food service was ok. I got a cup of noodles, a tuna sandwich and a can of Pepsi for 190THB (just over $6) so one can't complain. Arrival in SIN was about half an hour late.
    The next shock was the massive immigration queue. SIN is usually very efficient, but it dropped to SYD standards. Spent a good 20 minutes waiting in line.
    Back upstairs to checkin for the next flight.

    Flight: Qantas QF52
    Aircraft: A330-300
    Route: SIN-BNE
    ETD: 2120
    ATD: 2135
    Seat: 29G

    Checked in about 6 hours early without problem. I threw my cabin bags and plastic bag back into my suitcase and exceeded the limit by about 9kg but this wasn't even questioned (a nice advantage of QF over JQ).
    Quickly I'm back through immigration and started to wander around SIN. Duty-free alcohol prices weren't as cheap as last time I was there, however I picked up a carton (200) of Dunhill smokes for $SG18.80. This was about the same price as BKK, but a lot cheaper than SIN. No they're not for me!

    SIN QC was nice, big and roomy with a better food selection than SYD. No Tia Maria though, damn. Shower was nice and refreshing (I think I still had conditioner in my hair from USM) but damn, those razors, never again! I thought I'd pass out from blood loss! I noticed QF has nice shaving stuff on board the AC, how about some in the QC as well. Also noticed no deodorant or moisturiser, both of which would have come in handy especially now we aren't able to carry our own (easily anyway).

    Back in economy for this one, and it hurt. Seat next to me was vacant but sleeping was near on impossible. Once airbourne I'd been traveling for over 12 hours and the sleep would have done me good, but it wasn't to be. In flight service was acceptable. Food was pretty good (sweet and sour fish), however the salad with the main tasted like it was all vinegar with a hint of salad. Bread roll was also dry. IFE worked without fault, but those screens are so small. I also found while the movie selection was pretty good, there was a lack of "TV" programming. It doesn't take long to watch 2 episodes of Two and a Half Men and Little Britain, so something more would have been nice. Arrival in BNE was just behind schedule. About a 5 minute wait at passport control, another 10 for the bags and about another 15 lining for quarantine. I had a few wooden things to declare, so once that was done I was let out without having my bags x-rayed (always the case when I have something to declare).

    Quick transfer to the domestic terminal on the train. I was surprised at how warm it was for an April morning. I guess the Queenslanders do have something going for them!

    Flight: Qantas QF513
    Aircraft: B767-300
    Route: BNE-SYD
    ETD: 0915
    ATD: 0915
    Seat: 48A

    Finally, over 24 hours since I'd left my resort in USM I was ready for the last flight. By the time I got to the gate it was only about 45mins til boarding. I took the opportunity to call the better half to announce my return - no answer, its nice to feel loved!

    Boarding took a little while. A 763 is a big plane so there are a lot of people to checkin I guess. Aircraft looked tired and ready to die. Seats were showing wear, many overhead lockers had "faulty" stickers on them and my tray table was stuffed. Pushback and takeoff on time.

    0915 departure so missed breakfast by 15mins. Quite a let down as the "meal" service consisted of one muffin being handed out of a basket. It was so dense I couldn't even eat it. One drink was offered (I took a coke to dissolve the muffin!) Nine News was on the main screen, but I had no chance of seeing it from my rear window seat. Crew made their way around collecting rubbish shortly before descent. Not one of them uttered a word to me at anytime during the flight. This flight really affirmed for me my loyalty to DJ for domestic services. The QF domestic product is tired and, in my view, inferior to DJ's. I'd much rather have a comfortable seat on a new plane with a good choice of food, even if I have to pay for it. It's also nice to have crews with a little personality! Landing in SYD was on time. Sitting over the wing I was able to get a good look at the wing flaps shaking and vibrating as the reversers were engaged. Let's hurry up the A380/B787 and get these 767's into the desert!

    Exited the AC quickly and bag was off quickly enough. One good thing about T3 over T2 in SYD is that it's much quieter. I was the only person standing on the footpath waiting to be collected.


    So that does it, my well earned (and last one for a while) holiday. In summary, my love of Thailand was reaffirmed on this trip! The Qantas Intl product is, in my view, good. Business is good to excellent, economy just good. Still doesn't rate with the Asian carriers, but its a big improvement and they'll continue to receive my business. As for domestic flights, I'll remain a Virgin. Bangkok Air, excellent as always. While I don't give Skytrax much cred, they are right in naming them the Best Regional Airline. Air Asia.... well they're Air Asia. Expect nothing and you won't be disappointed!

    So that brings to an end my first TR. I waffled on a bit, but I hope its some help to anyone heading off to SE Asia.


  2. JohnK

    JohnK Veteran Member

    Mar 22, 2005
    BNE, SYD and CNX
    Very good trip report Daniel. Glad to read you enjoyed LOS.

    We were on the same flights SIN-BNE-SYD and interesting to see how status offers slightly better seats. I had 23A on QF52 SIN-BNE while you had 29G and I had 27G on QF513 BNE-SYD while you had 48A. I could not be bothered with the refreshment and was able to sleep on the BNE-SYD flight.

    I must remember to declare something next time when arriving from LOS as I was given the good old Aussie welcome, without bags xrayed first, on arrival to BNE and only just made it for QF513 with a minute to spare.

    The female customs officer looked really disappointed when she realised that she was not going to find anything illegal in my possession.
  3. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    Every time you write LOS for Thailand I keep having to remind myself you don't mean Lagos Nigeria.

    If immigration has pre-selected you for searching it doesn't matter a jot whether you declare something or not - you will get searched. What declaring something saves (sometimes) is queuing for the xray, and also getting a free clean of your boots.
  4. JohnK

    JohnK Veteran Member

    Mar 22, 2005
    BNE, SYD and CNX
    So I just got lucky this time?
  5. oz_mark

    oz_mark Enthusiast

    Jun 30, 2002
    Flight Map:
    View my flight map
    Glad its not just me that has to have a stop and think :)

    I may be up there later this year, early next, so enjoyed the trip. Although JQi is something I will consider depending on where I am living at the time!
  6. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    I wouldn't say that. I get checked on arrival back in NZ at least half the time. Makes it hard to plan for connections, being picked up etc as time to get landside can vary anywhere between 5 minutes and over 90.
  7. BlacKnox

    BlacKnox Active Member

    Jan 29, 2005
    Nice TR danielribo. I was in BKK for the Songkran festival last year and understand your frustration with the water/ flour. With the Bangkok humidity, I found my shirt always dried pretty quick from the water attacks, yet agree the flour is a pain.
  8. JohnK

    JohnK Veteran Member

    Mar 22, 2005
    BNE, SYD and CNX
    I have spent 2 Songkrans in Thailand now and never again. The first I wanted to see what the novelty was all about, the second was an absolute mistake. A lesson quickly learnt is to stay indoors between 12:00 noon and 7:30pm during the Songkran festival.

    The Thais are generally OK it is the lowlife falangs that spoil it and intentianally go out of their way to hurt others. What sort of person would spray someone on a moving motorcycle, in heavy traffic, with a high pressure water cannon, that supposedly has been banned by the government but still on sale on the streets in open view of the police? The death toll from these type of deaths is astounding and would be totally unacceptable in any other part of the world.
  9. N860CR

    N860CR Established Member

    Nov 30, 2004
    Brisbane & Sydney
    Yes it is interesting. I'd actually preselected 29G because I'd noted it had a vacant seat next to it, so I wonder where I'd have ended up had I not chosen that.

    Yeah ditto, won't be going back for it (shame it coincides with our Easter, ie: easiest time of the year to get time off!) I found where I was it started mildly at about 12, was building up by 3 and come 6-early morning it was impossible to go anyway. The night I arrived it hadn't started, second night was the quiet one so I managed to walk around Patpong markets staying fairly dry (as mentioned, wet is ok, flour is not!) third night I'd been on a dinner cruise and got absolutley wrecked. By this stage it was 11 so I didn't bother going back out. Last night I was there, into the hotel at 4, dinner in the room and watched BBC all night!

    Unfortunatley correct. Especially around Silom, appears to be a bogan magnet. I read in the paper while I was there that in 06 almost 500 people died in Songkran related accidents (mostly road accidents). Quite an astounding figure.
  10. JohnK

    JohnK Veteran Member

    Mar 22, 2005
    BNE, SYD and CNX
    Songkran doesn't always coincide with our Easter Daniel. Songkran runs from April 13-19 in various parts of the country. Bangkok celebrates Songkran between 13-15 April and in Pattaya from 13-19 April. Other parts of the country celebrate at various times through this period.

    Next year Easter Sunday is 23 March so if all is OK financially I will be in Thailand around this time and miss the Songkran festival.
  11. roego

    roego Junior Member

    Aug 2, 2006
    Well I almot thought I was reading a travel agents report.
    line up on Qantas. Well why fly with them.It happens every day of the week and most people can't go to "QC".

    As for Thailand te airport is a catastrophy. Long walking distances everywhere, slow and at times unfriendly immigration and most things at the airport severely overpriced.
    It is extremely quiet there at this moment with a lower than low "low season"
    Never mind sticking your nose up in the air aboutvthe farang aussie men, just as many women from all over, not just Oz, running round with their Thai boys and getting drunk in the bars.
    Thailand is getting more expensive and westerners are being chraged double and more at attractions. Personally I would say give Thailand a miss now and try Cambodia or Vietnam for better value.

    And as for someone flying all over with every letter of the alphabet. Thai Airlines flys Bangkok-Sydney direct, Mas via KL, Singapore via Singapore all at good prices ad without having to put yourself through the pain of flying Air Asia. Seat pitch there is 28 inch and service does not come into the Air Asia dictionary.
    Ps. The new airbus they are flying on the Australia route has something lke a board that slides forward instead of seat really going back. Very uncomfortable.
    And just like Qantarse do not complain. Absolute waste of your time.
  12. Batesy

    Batesy Active Member

    Quote "At this stage I was still in economy so was to be stuck in the economy queue. Great, I thought, as I lined up and settled in for another long weight. As it turns out, about half way up the line someone was checking people’s tickets. I saw a lot of unhappy faces who were told to go back and wait for a while, even after having already lined up for what was probably a fairly long time.
    "Where are you going?"

    "Ok go through"
    So finally I'm in the next part of the line (still about the 100th person). However luck was with me. Someone came up, opened the rope and lead me and a few others to the First checkin counter. Quick confirmation of my seat (still up the back) and I was on my way to passport control."

    I am confused as to why you thought you had to be in the economy queue?? If you had QP access I assume you are QP or above with QF status. You could have queued in the J or QP lines for check in. Also how did you get upgraded to J if you checked in as Y?
  13. JohnK

    JohnK Veteran Member

    Mar 22, 2005
    BNE, SYD and CNX
    He got turned away from the Qantas Club line and told not to come back until 14:00 but then another staff member mentioned that they may open check-in at 13:00. Perhaps they were going to open WHY check-in only early.

    When he checked in he was given a boarding pass for his seat down the back and finally got to go to the Qantas Lounge. My interpretation is danielribo somehow got a points upgrade to business class at the Qantas Lounge.
  14. drron

    drron Enthusiast

    Jul 4, 2002
    Sunshine Coast
    Roego I agree entirely about AirAsia having just completed my first 2 and only sectors on this airline.The whole time they are boasting about being voted Skytrax best budget airline in the world although you have just had your flight postponed by over an hour and you wait 10 minutes for a bus to take you to the terminal when parked at a remote pad at BKK.
    One good tip though-if you dont want to have the person in front recline just do a few coughs.The Asians are paranoid about the Schweine grippe.The Germans also respond quickly to this term!

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