Sunday, July 01, 2007

Missssterrr, you wan massage?

We arrive at the new airport in Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi, famous because of the problems that have plagued it during construction and since opening. Of course, with AirAsia we don’t dock straight to the terminal, instead the plane drives 10 minutes more to some deserted tarmac, and we have to bus it in.

The first confusion for me with this new airport is with the moving walkways. Coming into the main building, there’s an arrow to the right saying immigration, and a moving walkway thing starting there going in that direction. Must be a fair walk, I think, and hop on the walkway. Only to watch the immigration booth a couple of metres on glide by as I am taken miles down the building without the opportunity to hop off! How ridiculous!

Next there’s a Visa on Arrival section. It’s packed full of people, without any information or official people to help. Do I need a visa for Thailand? Surely not? Perhaps the stamp you get from the immigration officers is a “visa” and with the new airport they’ve changed the rules? I hover for a few moments indecisive, then decide to just go to immigration, best case I don’t need to queue here too, worst case I’ll be sent back.

As it happens, it’s fine, and they don’t demand to see my onwards ticket that I don’t have (I was gearing up to show them my RTW ticket with its next flight from HK to Mumbai). Then I’m out, and after a twenty minute walk to one end of the terminal to find an ATM, it’s time to head into town. I ignore taxis and go straight for a bus, though they put me on the wrong one, and frankly the taxis are so cheap here, plus I need one to rectify the bus error at the other end, I really should have just cabbed it.

If everything globally were priced in pounds, I suspect I’d be a lot more rational about decisions than I am. If a board said “taxi 4 pounds, bus 1.30” I’d just take the cab, but because the boards say things like “taxi 14,300, bus 4400” I just tend to always go for the cheapest option, usually putting myself through a lot of pain in the process.

Only in Thailand

I’m staying in the Dynasty Inn, apparently in the heart of the red light district, just off Sukhumvit Road. It’s fantastic to see the hundreds of girls standing around on the road, in every bar, frequently with a fat old western chap chatting to her over drinks, or pulling her back to his room. It’s so sleazy yet quite fun – I’ve never really been exposed to this on previous visits! Lots of the girls are gorgeous, though of course there is always the suspicion that some will be Seamus’ lady boys! There’s lots of street food available around the hotel too, but I don’t chance any of it this time.

Leo and I meet up in the Bed Breakfast Club, a ten minute walk away. It’s a swanky proper dance club packed full of beautiful people. No entry fee, but not the place to have a quiet beer and catch up as I had hoped! So we head back to my area and drink there, with only Pon (I accidentally say goodbye to “Poon” as we leave, she doesn’t look happy”) hassling us. We have a great spot for people watching though, right next to the street and across the road from what seems to be the main congregation point for the ladies! It’s not a late night though, as I need sleep!

Next day, I walk in the toasty humidity to the Burmese Embassy. Turns out to be almost across the road from Leo’s hotel, the Metropolitan, so I pop in and leave a message. On coming out, the weather suddenly changes. A very strong wind picks up, and seconds later torrential rain starts to fall. I’m running along the street as the trees above me drop branches, and find shelter in a security guard’s little office. It doesn’t completely protect me though, as the winds keep swinging round, blowing the rain under the roof. I’m so wet it almost doesn’t matter any more, so when the rain gets lighter, I walk on.

The Burmese embassy is a high-walled compound, not especially inviting, but there’s a good queue inside. Not many Westerners – I assume most here will be Thai business men going to trade in Burma. I pick up the forms and leave, noting the 48 hour turnaround required. Not enough time for me this time. The International Red Cross have just condemned the regime in Myanmar, which is something they last did 10 years ago in Rwanda, i.e. not a light undertaking, which adds to the “perhaps shouldn’t go there” camp. Watch this space.

Next I’m meeting up with Supi, and she’s suggested the Lard Prao shopping centre, easy for her to get to. For me, however, I need to take a BTS skytrain from Nana near my hotel one stop along, then an MTR underground train the rest of the way. I buy a day pass at Nana, only to find that it only works for BTS, i.e. a total waste of money (worse still, I don’t use it again that evening). I could have cabbed it straight to the shopping centre for less!

The Sooopster

Supi and I enjoy Korean food (my suggestion, after missing out in Bangsar a couple of nights before), then Starbucks and another café as we look through photos. She shows me popular romantic novels written by Purdi, another Thai girl who was at IC! Anyway, an enjoyable evening, luckily not marred by a motorcyclist almost going into Supi’s car door as I opened it to get out (combination of blame involved, but mostly my fault!).

Purdi’s books

Next it’s MTR down to meet Leo at Lumphini Market, but beforehand I bump into his parents! It’s been a while – I last saw his mother in Vancouver, and father not since HK in ’96! Anyway, we tuk tuk (his desire) back to Leo’s hotel, he dumps his bag then we go out bar hunting again, this time starting at the Syn Bar in Swissotel, which for a swanky hotel is incredibly dead. There were two other people at the bar, and not another soul about in the entire hotel it would seem. Spooky.

I ordered a glass of the Thai red wine, but the waitress advises me that it’s really not very nice, but offers to let me try it first. She’s right, dammit, it’s terrible. Reminds me of port if anything. So switch to an good old WA wine, Tony and Marce will be proud!

Following day is sorting out flights day. I find out that my Fly12go flight has been cancelled, so I need to rebook. I’m sticking with them though, as they have a 20kg limit, unlike AirAsia who have 15kg (for a similarly priced ticket, too). Also AirAsia do their usual sneaky thing of leaving out all the hidden costs until the last moment of booking, whereas they’re all in with the other airlines. So I walk over to the airline office as their website doesn’t work properly (of course), and it’s all relatively painless, popping into an English pub on the way back which doesn’t appear to have any decent beers sadly.

My favourite café in the area of the hotel is just round the corner, and if one spends 3 pounds on food, you get an hour’s free internet too. Good deal. Food’s good too.


To catch my flight, I have to go to the old airport, Don Muang, which they’ve reopened whilst trying to sort out the new one. After checking the website, it would appear the way is to take an airport shuttle from round the corner in front of the Landmark Hotel. Easy. So at Nana station I wait a while. No obvious airport bus passing, so I walk up into the skytrain station and ask there. Old or new? I’m quite clear – old – Don Muang Airport. She tells me to take the Skytrain to On Nut station, then take a 552 bus from there.

From the map, my instincts tell me it’s not right. I’m sure Don Muang is north of the centre, but she’s sending me east. Oh well, she must know better than me. It takes a while, and on the way I remember thinking “good job I left plenty of time”. Arrive with only an hour and 20m to go, in to the airport building, and.. hey.. this looks familiar! Oh my god, it’s the new bloody airport!!! And only an hour to go. I’ll miss the flight!

Fortunately the clock on the bus was wrong, so I had a bit of leeway. Information tell me a taxi will cost 2,400 baht (40 quid) to the other airport, which I think is pretty steep till it turns out to be only 400. It’s worth abandoning cost-saving principles sometimes, i.e. like now not trying to take the bus – I’ve done this before, then you miss the flight and pay 5 times what a cab would have cost for another flight. Some economies just don’t add up. Still, more expensive than it would have been to just cab from my hotel straight to the damn airport in the first place! To add insult, the taxi just drives straight back into central Bangkok, almost passing my hotel on the way! Grrrrr!


Chris Fisher said...

I think you have to bite the bullet and pay for sex, in the name of research of course, your readers demand it!

Chris Fisher said...

best to keep your shoes on as the floors are very sticky

Anonymous said...

how much is a Seamus lady boy?